KUIU’s customers are engaged. They regularly clamor to preorder product. They’re willing to wait months for purchases to arrive. And yet Jason Hairston, the hunting apparel and gear brand’s CEO, says the company “just couldn’t manage customer feedback in a useful way.”
So Hairston and his partners set out to harness that patience and outspokenness. They launched a new company, GIRU, a product development platform that pulls consumers into the R&D process, asking them to contribute feedback and vote on potential features. After feedback is collected, those who contributed and voted — up to 7,500 people per product — get the first chance to pre-order, at a discount. “It’s crowdfunding for pre-orders,” Hairston says.
GIRU was built to serve KUIU, but Hairston’s team saw broader uses for it. He began signing up other companies — charging brands such as Vans and Kestrel Knives a flat fee plus 5 percent of money raised from pre-orders. “It’s a massive opportunity,” Hairston says. “You can create pent-up demand before something goes to market. No more discounting. No more watching expensive items sit at a clearance sale because no one wanted them from the start.
“So many brands struggle to connect with customers,” he says. “But this is how you do it.”
How customer feedback helped shape KUIU’s new high-end shelter, according to Jason Hairston and GIRU co-founder Dallas Moore.
After customers asked for more muted tones than KUIU’s standard orange shelter, the company tested green and brown options. Customers split evenly between green and the original orange. (Brown was a loser.) So KUIU produced the shelter in two colors.
A lightweight, more technical fabric for the exterior of the shelter faced off with a heavier, more durable option. The lightweight option was the overwhelming choice (despite an added cost), so the company scrapped the heavier one altogether.
“One entrance is standard,” Moore explains. “Having two entrances adds cost. There’s zippers, construction — not to mention additional weight for anyone hauling it.” GIRU participants were willing to pay extra for two. KUIU gave it to them.
“People want to pay for just the pieces they want,” Moore explains. So KUIU gave them modular options. One was a detachable floor, which is a must for hunters looking for a better night’s sleep. It got full support, despite a high price tag.
Another option was the 360-degree bug-proof net that lines the tent’s walls and floor for extra protection. “This was the most expensive option we presented,” Moore says. “Because of that, we weren’t sure people would want it.” They did.
GIRU hadn’t asked about a stove jack, which allows users to operate a small wood-burning stove in the shelter. But after 78 percent of interested customers said they’d skip the tent purchase if it didn’t have one, the company started prototyping options.