I'm open to all comments and critiques, so let me hear them. And if you are into graphic t-shirts, here is a code for a Hacker News 20% discount: 4803-7940-0816-5604!
My only problem is that I already have enough of a t-shirt buying habit that spending $25 per shirt isn't going to happen very often, especially when I don't know the quality of the shirts. You might add more detail on the actual shirt quality and fit.
The email collection line on the homepage doesn't make it clear what kinds of emails you'll be sending. If it's a weekly (bi-weekly, whatever) showing of the new shirts I'd say something like 'Sign up for our weekly new shirt email' so it's more specific.
I have some shirt info at http://getnifty.com/shirt/info, but agreed it should be more prominent and detailed.
And pushing out copy change to 'Sign up for weekly sale notifications' as we speak.
What if I purchased the least popular t-shirt multiple times?
Nice going! You will receive a coupon giving you free t-shirts in the same quanity as your purchase of the least popular t-shirt.
Since I'm a small shop going through a third party printer, I am last in line for raw t-shirt supply. Mix in color and size availability, and it gets pretty tricky to rely on one brand. So for now, I am using a few high quality brands to make sure t-shirts get out in a timely manner.
That being said, I'm excited for my minimalist bicycle t-shirt!
It's not the same as responsive design. Graceful degradation implies a sort of hierarchy, where you subtract features on platforms that don't support them. So if you're using an supercool advanced browser feature, like colored text, you don't break the site for older browsers.
The responsive design idea is really more about different use cases than adapting to a more primitive environment.
I'm actually disagreeing with what you are saying: responsive design is such a poor solution to the problem of providing a mobile or tablet site, that it is actually more accurate to refer to it as graceful degradation, rather than as addressing a new use case.
Why would "degrade" be the better way to refer to that idea?
(I'm not sure if the photos/design image distinction is clear or the correct terminology. Let me know if it was not clear)
I had what you could call a t-shirt problem, I purchased over 150 in the space of a year, anyway one common thing I noticed is that a brand (eg: Threadless, Bustedtees) that sold based on merit and not gimmick could sell at a much higher price than somewhere that was relatively unknown or sold based on some sort of gimmick. For example teefury.com is a site that does a sort of similar thing to you with time based sales, they sell at around $10 each but would never do well at $25 each.
My (anecdotal -- myself and friends) understanding of why people aren't comfortable spending $25 on a time-sale t-shirt is that you're selling selling based on 2 things, the t-shirt itself and the idea that it's time-exclusive, this adds pressure. If I purchase a t-shirt from somewhere like Threadless I know it's likely if I wait 2 weeks it's going to be there still, so I don't feel like "I must buy now!" and then I don't feel like I'm paying for something I might not want in a week, whereas if I see a t-shirt on your site with 1 day to go: "That t-shirt is cool! Hmm, but I have to buy it right now... and $25 is a premium t-shirt price... I might not like it in a few days... I'll skip". This behaviour is especially so with the added idea that I'm possibly buying a t-shirt nobody else likes, it makes me think maybe it's just a crappy t-shirt.
Your site is a site that customers would constantly be coming back to, so while you might not make such a good margin on a $12.50 shirt vs. a $25 shirt, it would be made up for in the average customer purchasing 20 shirts a year vs. 5 if they had to be considerate about their purchases.
I'm not sure if I explained that well, if not I can try and re-word it.
With that in mind, I will definitely test price points and appreciate the perspective from a fellow t-shirt buyer.
An idea that might fit with your site would be to offer a shirt of the month deal (bustedtees example: http://www.bustedtees.com/shirtofthemonth).
$200 upfront for 12 months of shirts (works out at about $13/m), every third week of the month you generate a random shirt for me from that weeks shirts and if that shirt matches the least popular I also get a bonus shirt (fits with the theme of the main weekly sale) or maybe if I am a subscriber I get double the chance of a bonus shirt (maybe least popular and most popular or least popular and second least popular) or something.
You could even do it like a loss leader type deal, have a yearly subscription for $100 (which would be ridiculously low and pull lots of people in) and then use the marketing from that (people telling their friends about the cool shirt that just arrived, tweeting about it etc. every month).
Although I guess as you're doing t-shirts on demand there's probably not much financial outlay so cash up front might not be worth potentially losing profits.
If your shirt quality is good (I'm going to order a shirt later to find out) then I'd sign up to that sort of deal ($200, or $100) without a second thought because there's nothing better than getting a surprise t-shirt.
The subscription suggestion is great and might be a better fit for Nifty. I'll have to give some thought.
Another direction I am thinking of going is more clearly separating the purchase from the pick. So you pick your shirt to buy and then make a separate pick for the least popular. I worry the additional UI may complicate things, but it is probably worth testing.
If you want some additional feedback:
Instead of the gimmicky "you lose I win", I think you need to make it some sort of win-win type gimmick. Like the price goes down the more people buy it, and whoever buys it earlier will get some money back on their next purchase.
You need to make the "game" shorter, I don't have patience to wait a week until I know if I "won".
$25 is something I would pay if the t-shirts were good quality, like American Apparel, but you didn't list the manufacturer.
You need a lot more designs. I was looking for the button for additional designs, but I finally figured out you only have those 5. If I hate all 5 of them, then I won't likely remember your site, and won't come back.
In reality, the concept is very simple. You are buying a shirt, with a chance of getting a shirt for free depending on how the sales go. That's all there is to it. Is it a perfectly designed and executed marketing gimmick? Probably not, but any perceived deception is a result of your personal paranoia.
You may feel that paranoia is too strong of a word, but I find it quite appropriate to describe a fear of "getting ripped off" by purchasing a product at its advertised price.
A few other things. The price is $19 not $25. The brands are listed. The sale is 3 days, not a week. There are no previous sales displayed on the site, so I'm not even sure how you came to the conclusion that there will only ever be 5 designs.
I guess that's the idea, but it's not a very positive experience for me. That's a lot of time thinking about the least appealing design.
The OP has been changing the pricing around, it was $25 earlier :)
In general, retailers discount the product that doesn't move, and raise or maintain the prices on the things that are popular. So, this is something that would appear to try to artificially increase demand on their worst selling product. Again, I'm not saying he that's his intention, but that's the general impression someone could get.
That's why I suggested changing the mechanics to something more win-win. I suggested something like the most popular t-shirt gets a progressive discount, and early adopters get a discount on their next purchase. This feels more win-win, and you have to do less mental calculations to try to figure out if you're getting scammed or not.
The shirt and printing style are of high quality. I need to do a better job on the site emphasizing that.
Sorry you did not like this week's designs. Maybe next week (or not based on your comment =p)
Maybe you need to be more transparent and show the total sales or the ranking. This might help show you're not trying to scam anyone. Then, it turns into something more where people can decide "do I want to buy this t-shirt in a 2-for-1 sale" since they get the next shirt free.
Though in fact, if there was UK shipping I have a feeling I might've bought the Graphic Love T-shirt just because it's clever.
However, it seems to me very much like you really don't find the concept entertaining and thereby end up feeling like it's trying to rip you off rather than entertain you; I don't think the site's owner can solve that without destroying the things that make it potentially interesting to other people.
BUT in the very worst case scenario, you have a fantastic marketing gimmick to drive people to the site, and keep many of them coming back perhaps. I really wish there was a 'control' to compare this to, to see what effect this has on sales- it seems it will be hard to know how much the game is driving sales vs people just liking the tees. My current feeling is the idea might function better slightly tweaked.. eg. offer the shirts at $18 normally, or $20 with the freebie game.. only count the $20 sales toward the totals.. might offer some balance-- for example, the 'better' (popular) one won't currently have a lot of appeal WRT. the game, because most will rightly assume it wouldn't be least popular. Add the tweak and there is an element of double-guessing that might make more people believe they have a chance of 'winning'? Hope that made sense.. it's not a fully worked out idea, but worth thinking about perhaps.
Also, consider following OKcupid and having an onsite blog.
 perhaps not everyone is like me (or us here), though
Second comment: Rather than giving away the least popular shirt, you could apply some type of variable pricing depending on when a user purchased a shirt given its popularity?
A story that comes to my mind is: there was a grocery store in London in the 1950s who didn't have the best of locations. They ran a contest: They would randomly select a half an hour time period (eg: 2.20 to 2.50pm). People who had shopped during that time on the previous day could come back with their time stamped receipts and get cash back.
The store tripled their number of customers per day.
This however worked because people didn't go out of their way to buy new things. They just went out of their way to buy the things they needed at a different store to get a chance to get cash back.
So my suggestion is this: source out the "winning" designs on threadless etc in the past 3 months. And list those t-shirts on your website only. Don't ask your audience to submit their designs.
And announce this fact. Re-assure people that they are buying the same "hot" stuff they would buy on other t-shirt sites. But they could just earn a free t-shirt too.
Take away the neg that comes with the "least popular tshirt" tag.
I think there's a lot of space to apply game theory / gamification in e-commerce. Still need to get a clear understanding on the regulatory framework for this.
Also, which fulfillment service are you using?
First, some simplifications:
* an infinite number of players
* everyone agrees on the ordering (quality, utility, etc) of shirts
* only look for symmetric equilibria (where everyone plays the same strategy)
Let there be N shirts (N=5 for this application). Order the shirts by their utility (that everyone agrees on). x1 < x2 < ... < xN. Let the utility from the bonus shirt be z, where z > xN.
The most simple strategy is for everyone to randomize and put equal probability on each shirt. If everyone plays according to that strategy, then the expected payoff for any given player is avg(x1, ... , xN) + z/N. But this can't be a Nash equilibrium because an individual player could deviate and choose xN with probability 1 and get payoff xN + z/N.
The (maybe not the only) Nash equilibrium is probabilities p1, p2, ..., pN such that sum(p1, p2, ..., pN)=1 and x1+p1z = x2+p2z = ... = xN+pNz. These probabilities make a player indifferent between choosing each shirt with certainty.
I haven't spent the time to see if there is a nice formula for the probabilities, but for the case of N=2, you get
p1=(x2-x1+z)/2z and p2=1-(x2-x1+z)/2z
This doesn't take into account that people have different tastes, or the sequential information that the star creates. The game gets very complicated with these added in.
As for the language specifically, firstly, 'least popular' is functional. It tells me exactly what you are talking about. If i read 'most unique' i would have no idea how you were measuring that, and would probably feel uneasy about it-- like you were using the phrase as cover to pick whatever you wanted to. (Which is funny, since 'least popular' is already the best financial option for yous!). Secondly, it doesn't seem too negative to me (compare 'least awesome' vs 'worst'). That is for the landing page (and if any commiseration email), anyway. As far as congratulatory email, I would probably agree to frame it as 'most unique'.
Hope that helps!.. I know how difficult it can be to get basic perspective when you are too involved with something.
I'll admit i had a think about which it might be, but then i think if i was going to put $20 down on buying one, I would just buy the one i wanted, and take any freebies as a bonus.
FWIW, my money is on #2. I only just realised they were all from photoshop, and i've used it quite a bit. It's also far too long for a 'geek humour' t-shirt- no one would read the whole thing, let alone understand it. Add to that a 'lovers' connotation which would limit the appeal even further.
But coming back to your point; I don't think i'd want it. So, IMO, for this to have value for me, I would need to like all the t-shirts. (FWIW, i like 1/3/5).
e: also, yes.. needs bigger images.. can't even read the whole thing on the modelled PS tee image, not good!
I am very curious to find out if people will take buying the least popular t-shirt as a positive 'i'm unique' or negative 'i suck'.
0S 0M 0L 0XL
If everyone was a big-chooser, you get into a dangerous situation because rolls are being emptied at roughly the same rate.
Similarly, I am led to wonder what percentage of your users will be making their choice based solely on the coupon (i.e. least popular shirt at the moment). If it's a high percentage, then each shirt should approach 20% of sales. Hardly unique at all.
By the way, "Virgin" is an awesome design. Reminds me of Dali. I can't imagine opting for any of the other shirts in order to try to win a coupon.
When checking out my cart, it didn't allow me to choose another country than US, and I'm in Europe. Too bad for me (and for her) (and also for you, who lost a sale ;) )
Great post, great idea, though ! Keep it up !
I would really really like to ship to Europe (and everywhere), but as a 1 man show right now, I can't logistically make that happen for some time.
Curious if there are any t-shirt sites that sell on Nike dri-fit, Under Armour style shirts. You know the kind, moisture wicking etc. They tend to be polyester or even bamboo.
My favorite at the moment is this one I got from Lids. It is AWESOME. http://www.lids.com/NCAA/Hawaii-Warriors/20304981
I just wish I could find more! Anyone know of any sites like that? And I of course I know I'd pay a premium for that, so no worries there.
I've been wearing the same seven solid black polyester tees for the past year or so and I'm sold on them.
People who have the disposition to wear a lot of graphic tees seem like the same people who would spend $25 on some generic tees just for the game aspect. Personally, id rather bargain hunt on Gilt or something for some high quality, well designed t-shirts, but im not your target audience.
On another note -- would really like to be able to pull up some much larger images of the shirts.
edit: set self destruct code: kirk0001 <-- lol at complexity.
I just went to buy a really cool shirt but can't - USA shipping only :(
Pity! I doubt I'll ever come back to this site.