Few people know how to foster close relationships with consumers better than Outdoor Voices founder Ty Haney. At its zenith in 2018, the Austin-based activewear company had a valuation of $110 million and legions of fans on social media. When the brand premiered its first bathing suit line that same year, 10,000 people were on the waiting list.
So it's hardly surprising that in her next act, after getting pushed out at Outdoor Voices in 2020, she's attempting to once again forge tight bonds with consumers: This time, however, she wants to help other companies make those connections.
Earlier this month, the 33-year-old entrepreneur launched Try Your Best, a web 3.0 platform designed to help consumer goods brands offer their most loyal customers incentives to share their feedback and preferences. The effort might be the key to successful digital community-building, particularly as the sun sets on third-party cookies.
How it works: Brands sign on to join the platform and pay a flat monthly fee for their membership. It's free for consumers to sign up for the platform, which is currently in beta mode and accepting new users on a rolling basis each week. Once accepted, consumers can follow their favorite brands and engage with them, answering questions and providing feedback about their preferences (for example, they might be asked to vote on their favorite color that an article of clothing might come in). In return for their valuable advice, which is shared directly with brands on a blockchain--which means the information is secure and accessible without the use of a middleman (like a social media platform)--users earn tokens and collectibles that can then be used to redeem benefits like discount codes, exclusive products, and more.
So far, 10 pilot partners have signed up to join Try Your Best, including the New York City-based fashion and home goods brand Hill House Home and the jewelry and eyewear brand Vada, out of Austin. Try Your Best, which is based in Tucson, Arizona, will also incubate and launch brands directly onto its platform; the first one is Joggy, a cannabis-based wellness product line, which will launch in April.
Haney believes that the potential to connect closely with loyal customers is a compelling reason for brands to sign on to Try Your Best. "Investing in community is crucial for brand-building, but it needs redefining and a few new tools," she says. With the proliferation of direct-to-consumer brands, it's become more expensive for businesses to attract new customers through paid advertising on traditional social media platforms, she adds.
What's more, community-building on these platforms presents some challenges. Social platforms give brands the opportunity to connect with customers, allowing them to solicit direct feedback in polls and submission boxes through Instagram stories, for example. Haney points out, however, that Instagram data is hard to measure and organize. "Insights are not actionable that way," she says.
In a world with ever-changing algorithms and a lack of third-party cookies, the chance for companies to directly and easily communicate with customers on a blockchain is very valuable--there's no middleman that can hide or misinterpret data. Try Your Best operates on Avalanche, a carbon-neutral blockchain that uses less energy than both Ethereum and Bitcoin.
Haney sees Try Your Best as a platform for the growth of other brands, but she knows she still has to persuade users to get on board with the business itself. Eventually, as more brands join the platform, they'll be able to recruit new users. In the meantime, she says customer education will be key, as it will take time to get customers to sign up in the first place.
"One hurdle is definitely, 'What the f*ck is an NFT?'" she says.
Haney specifically selected the 10 brands that will pilot on Try Your Best because they already have dedicated communities of followers, which means it should be easier for them to convince loyal fans that the digital tokens associated with their brands have inherent value. They have commercial value, too, which distinguishes Try Your Best from potential competitors like Novel and NFT Pro. But a token on Try Your Best isn't just a badge of honor or a piece of digital art. "Each tokenized experience has utility, so it unlocks access to something or special perks or exclusive product," she says.
Try Your Best currently has 22 employees, many of them Outdoor Voices alums, and the company received a $2 million investment from Castle Island Ventures.
The platform, Haney says, has the potential to dramatically alter how consumer goods companies grow their audiences. Her experience with Outdoor Voices, after all, taught her that community-building is what creates "passionate, engaged fans that buy 20 colors of the Exercise Dress" (one of Outdoor Voices's top-selling items). While the relationship between web 3.0 and physical products is still in its early stages, Haney thinks it's one that can be nothing short of groundbreaking.
"We believe that we can meaningfully shift the way a company grows," she says. "It's exciting to go from creating a brand that was successful and I'm proud of, to an even bigger opportunity to create the playbook and the toolkit that allow brands in any kind of situation to grow and be successful."