It might be an exaggeration to say that Ty Haney has changed the way we work. She didn’t start a store fitness craze; she’s not Jane Fonda. But Outdoor Voices, the sports company she founded in 2014, has helped popularize a fitness model that has more to do with daily movement than the intense body sport advertised by the brands. brand like Nike.
Outdoor Voices has built a following with its color-blocking compression leggings and all-in-one workout skirt that can easily transition from hitting the gym to brunch. On social media, fans brag about buying items in every shade and posting #DoingThings photos of themselves in stunning locales wearing matching sets. They also share feedback on new styles and colors on online forums. It’s a fairy tale about customer loyalty.
While no longer participating in Voices of the Outdoors, Ms. Haney, 33, hopes to bring the tenets of community building and consumer engagement into a new area: a blockchain-based future. of the internet is called web3. She bets that in the next phase of online retail, “founding” will be the new “job”.
Her latest venture, a platform called Try Your Best, will allow brands to collect input from customers in exchange for rewards like digital collectibles (NFTs) and merchant coins. Brands can be used to brag or make purchases. These are assets that can have lasting value, as opposed to one-time coupons and fleeting perks most companies offer loyalists, Haney says.
“The idea is that the brand and the fan are built together and the point is to share the value with the people who create it,” Haney said in an interview.
Consumer-oriented brands often rely on different sources to get feedback from their most engaged customers: Google Docs, Slack base, DM. Try Your Best aims to streamline that process and move marketing money away from Facebook and Instagram, where Haney says rising costs have made it harder for emerging brands to thrive.
The company says that to date, 10 brands have signed up for the Try Your Best pilot program, including Hill House Home, whose “sleeping outfit” became the pinnacle of the sunglasses pandemic and Vada, a jewelry and eyewear company. But at first, the only brand on the platform will be Joggy, a new brand led by Ms. Haney that sells products containing CBD and THCV.
She says that Try Your Best hopes to reach “Parade customers, JuneShine customers, Glossier customers – those Generation Z audiences of this generation”.
Target users are “people who buy a brand because they love it and post about it on Instagram,” said Sean Judge, a general partner at Castle Island Ventures, which specializes in blockchain-related investments. . – a modest number compared to the amount raised by Outdoor Voices. “This is a way for them to connect with others in that community and also have a direct relationship with the brands to provide real-time feedback on new product ideas and where brands should be.” towards.”
Ms. Haney says that involving consumers in design decisions has helped drive the success behind some of Outdoor Voices’ most popular products. “The way we get people to buy every color – 25 colors – of a workout dress is to take them upstream in the product creation process, but” there really isn’t a centralized tool for this type of interaction, she says. “.
Casey Lewis, a trend researcher who writes about youth culture in her Substack newsletter, After School, is intrigued by the idea of brands rethinking customer loyalty but still concerned worried about the appeal of digital assets.
“Anytime a brand can successfully build a community, it’s a huge win for them. But as it is, it’s very difficult to produce or create that success,” Ms. Lewis said. “The biggest question is: Are people interested in NFT, and is that enough to get them engaged and excited?”
Web3 has been billed, often in vague and utopian terms, as an online ecosystem where users will wrest power from the tech giants that dominate the current stage of the Internet, Web 2.0.
Kevin Werbach, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and author of “Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust,” said that while “granting powerful ownership directly to users” could potentially be ability to change the balance of power, but not the promises of web3 are guaranteed.
“There’s a web3 out there that’s amazing and is trying to make the world a better place, but just by labeling web3 something doesn’t mean the dynamics will magically reverse, “Professor Werbach said.
Ms. Haney is particularly interested in bringing women into web3. “We’re seeing a mostly male demo on Reddit and Discords, telling each other about all these opportunities,” she said. “By bringing brands with large female audiences into crypto, that is a really big opportunity.”
Try Your Best runs on the Avalanche blockchain, which Haney said she chose in part because its transactions use significantly less energy than Bitcoin or Ethereum. (However, even supposedly “green” mining operations consume more energy than other financial transactions.)
Try your best plans to monetize by collecting monthly fees from brands and potentially a revenue share when tokens are used to drive sales.
Mr. Judge, the investor, has previously worked with a range of direct-to-consumer companies, and has heard repeatedly from them about the rising costs of advertising to clients on Facebook and Instagram. ladder. Ms. Haney “has experienced these pain points first-hand,” he said.
Outdoor Voices has been a huge success. Haney and company were the subject of a glowing feature in The New Yorker comparing Outdoor Voices to Lululemon, and it raised more than $50 million in venture capital. It also caught the attention of Mickey Drexler, the retail legend who spearheaded the conversions at Gap and J. Crew. He became the chairman of the board of directors and attracted investors to the brand.
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But just before the pandemic hit the United States, Haney’s successful run at Outdoor Voices came to a halt as investors questioned her leadership. A split broke out between the young founder and Mr. Drexler, costly store openings were delayed and a slew of experienced retail executives left the company, which struggled with transitions. to Austin, Texas, from New York. The internal troubles were detailed in articles in The New York Times and BuzzFeed News.
Haney recalls thinking at the time, “My life is coming to an end.”
But as the news cycle continues, so does she. “It sucks but it doesn’t kill me, and it gives me more energy to rebuild and shows I can set vision and execute against it,” she said. “It is good to take full responsibility.”
Ms. Haney stepped down from the brand to a stir among investors in February 2020 and returned two months later to the title founder position. In January 2021, she left the company and board to pursue projects including Try Your Best. She still holds a stake in Outdoor Voices.
Mr. Judge didn’t care that Haney got into trouble with investors at Outdoor Voices, and saw it as a vote of confidence that some of the company’s former employees joined her at Try Your Best.
“There are challenges with every type of business and some are more public than others,” said Mr. Judge. “I think Ty learned a lot of amazing things about building a business.”
Ms. Haney says her startup is coming at a time when the traditional direct-to-consumer marketing model – which has built businesses like Warby Parker, Everlane and Glossier – is “disrupting”. after years of over-compliance with social marketing.
At one point, she says, Outdoor Voices spent about 30% of its total funding on customer acquisition on Facebook and Instagram. She hopes Try Your Best can help brands reduce those costs.
Particularly, since young people may be less willing to exchange their thoughts and time for free, Try Your Best offers an answer to the question of how to pay them back.
“The one thing with Gen Z is that they want to be rewarded for their input and advice,” Ms. Lewis said. “This is not a generation that is willing to do everything for its bad.”