When it comes to shopping for new footwear and apparel, we have the world at our fingertips. We are constantly exposed to the newest fashion trends – whether sought out by us or presented to us - and we expect our favorite brands to continuously deliver new, on-trend products. At the same time, both consumers have become more and more focused on sustainability, and more selective in their purchases. More and more of us have been seeking products that are tailored to our specific needs and preferences, (like sustainable contents and process) while keeping up with the latest trends. This dynamic has resulted in brands seeking new solutions for predicting fast-paced trends which itself has led to exciting new technologies. In this article, we will look at how product testing technology and pre-market product testing feedback plays an early role in helping brands decide which trends are worth pursuing.

How Brands Select Product Trends to Invest In

Trends are constantly morphing as the retail footwear and apparel industry is in a ongoing state of evolution. The process of and tools for predicting consumer trends has drastically changed throughout the years, too. The Daily Front Row recently put plainly how fashion trends are predicted, for example, which includes the impacts of fashion and runway shows, media, celebrities and influencers and everyday looks. From a broader point of view and across many categories, the voice of the customer has increased in both accessibility and influence on themselves. In response, brands have been seeking ways to capture this voice of the customer chatter and feedback, and distill the data to a point where that can make more informed decisions about which trends to invest in. Simply put, customers are talking more, and brands are trying to listen, more and more - all through technology.

Increased Technology Impacting Product Trends

Technology has allowed consumer channels to flourish. This has allowed trend prediction to become more accessible to all. For example, take fashion shows, which have always been a staple and inspiration for fashion trends. Through technology and media, these shows are now able to be shared way beyond the runway. This exclusive look into designers’ mind can prompt both brands and consumers alike, to be influenced by their vision.

Not limited to high fashion is the rise of celebrity influence and, later, social influencers. The early 2000s introduced the idea of utilizing social sites to break barriers between casual peer-to-peer connections and move towards building connection between users and content. As technology progressed and social sharing became more accessible, interest in social media content increased. As we got additional channels to peek inside the lives of our favorite celebrities (or deep look at the lives of influencers) the impact of these channels grew in scale and the rate of new trends big and small increasing in speed. One viral social post of a unique product can lead to an entire generation of fans looking to repeat it - for a period of time.

Predicting trends and selecting trends to invest product development in has traditionally been a challenge. However, new ways of listening to consumers through technology are being employed to help brands know what their customers want now and what they might want next.

Retail Technologies and Predicting Product Trends

From PLM to 3D retail technologies, digital solutions continue to be a growing force in indsutries from personal products to footwear and apparel and beyond. Simultaneously, customers' personal lives are becoming increasingly intertwined with the digital world. Brands are continuing to embrace the latest technologies to push the limits of manufacturing, marketing, and product experiences. But how do these technologies directly benefit the customer? One integral process that has been advanced through new technology is customer feedback loops. By utilizing product testing platforms that collect pre-market customer feedback, such as MESH01, brands are working directly with the consumer at an accelerated product development pace which allows brands to infuse their products with their customers’ needs and preferences and deliver on-trend styles faster than ever.

Real Time Feedback On Trends

A particularly effective technology that helps brands predict trends is concept testing. This pre-market voice of the customer solution helps take the guesswork out of the traditional design process, which can often be based too heavily on past sales and competitor shopping. In concept testing, target customers are giving direct feedback on product designs at the beginning of the product creation process. For this reason, pre-market product testing including concept testing is often used to help select materials, colors, and even entire silhouettes. Designers and developers no longer have to wait and hope that their customers are going to love their new styles. They can launch their products with the confidence that comes with including their customer in design and development.

More and more brands are working with real life testers within the product development cycle, too.  As a product tester, you allow designers to see how their products fit and perform on a real person. And with an integrated tester community like MESH01, products are even able to be tested by real people in the right conditions, without having to wait for the perfect season. Further, the testers’ use of activity logs, image uploads, surveys and more mean brands are informed of any changes they need to make when creating the final, polished product.

Staying On-Trend Through Product Testing

Consumers and the retail footwear and apparel industry are becoming more intertwined through technology. As a result, aspects such as product trends are affected. Consumers expect instant access to the latest trends as soon as they are seen on catwalks or as soon as an influencer’s post goes viral. For brands, it can be difficult to keep up. With the help of new purpose-built pre-market feedback technologies, brands can have a more predictive approach to meeting their customers’ expectations, and staying on trend.

2022 was a big year for MESH01. On top of everything, this year, we also have finally gotten to chance to showcase our amazing tester community with the new Tester Spotlight series on our Instagram and Facebook. The series just launched for the first time this year! 11 awesome testers have shared their stories, and we look forward to recognizing more in 2023.

Check out our Tester Spotlights of 2022!

Tracy Linder

Meet Tracy!

Tracy has been a tester with us since 2017. Her favorite activites include hiking, camping, and backpacking. However, her favorite activity is definitely running. Whether she is hitting the trails or running in her neighborhood, Tracy is currently inspired by her own personal goal of keeping up with her daily running streak (over 600 days and counting wow!) but to also maintain her goal of running a minimum of 100 miles each month of 2022.

Read more about Tracy here.

Fredrika Paulig

Meet Fredrika!

Fredrika has been a tester with us since 2020. Her hobbies include revolve very much around sports. With running being her favorite activity, at the same time she's a total gym rat! Whether its working with her personal trainer, attending fitness and boxing classes or completing obstacle course races such as Spartan or Savage races - Fredrika is always on the move!

Read more about Fredrike here.

Andre Stone

Meet Andre!

Andre has been a tester with us since 2013! His favorite activities include Calisthenics, running (road, trail), soccer, and trying new things! Andre is a dedicated tester who loves being able to test out new products and help companies explore their concepts. He's the guy who is super excited about the updates when a company launches a new model, and is constantly thinking about how my gear could be better - or raving about it if it's pure awesome! Being able to be part of that process of exploring what works and what might need to be tweaked is something he loves doing.

Read more about Andre here.

Christine Hsieh

Meet Christine!

She has been a tester with us since 2014. Christine enjoys weight training, playing golf, and touch rugby. Her biggest accomplishment is having played for the US in a Touch World Cup! (Picture is of Christine representing USA at the Touch World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.)

Read more about Christine here.

Chad Rietze

Meet Chad!

Chad has been a tester with us since 2014. His favorite activity is soccer. He played at the College of Idaho before transferring & playing at The University of Utah. In his free time, and depending on the season, he also enjoys snowboarding, trail running, mountain biking and backpacking. Chad loves participating as a tester as it gives him the motivation to get outside or engage in whatever activity the product is tailored to.

Read more about Chad here.

Janet Thompson

Meet Janet!

Janet has been a tester with us since 2016. Some of her favorite activities include hiking, mountain biking, trail running, fly fishing, skiing (backcountry touring, alpine and cross-country), kayaking, kayak/canoe camping, backpacking, photography, and anything fitness related (strength training, training clients, TRX, etc.). She works full time as a full time in marketing and tech/ecommerce. She is also a personal trainer and nutrition coach, a photographer, and ambassador.

Read more about Janet here.

Brandon Bennet

Meet Brandon!

Brandon has been a tester with us since 2020. He enjoys and grew up playing soccer. He currently refs soccer at all levels, including youth, high school, college, and adult leagues. After years of soccer, just simple running was getting hard on his knees, so he looked into other fitness avenues and have gained appreciation for cycling, swimming and hiking. Beyond that he also loves to hunt and explore the woods with his kids as often as possible.

Read more about Brandon here.

Harry McSween

Meet Harry!

Harry has been a tester with us since 2020. He enjoys running and rock climbing. He averages running 4-5 days a week and go rock climbing as often as he can. His biggest motivations a getting outside.and not having to think about anything but just being able to go and do. Also, his kids! Who are now able to accompany Harry on his outside adventures and testing experiences - which makes that much more fun!

Read more about Harry here.

Chris Miller

Meet Chris!

Chris has been a tester with us since 2016. Chris really enjoys being part of the MESH01 test as it gives him motivation to stay active. Some of Chris's favorite activiteis include backpacking, trail and distance running. As well as participating in triatholons and other races.

Read more about Chris here.

Cindy Shoer

Meet Cindy!

Cindy enjoys being outdoors and pursuing physical activity. She loves the challenge and the peace as well as new adventures. Even the smallest of things such as, new trails and new sports to try.

Read more about Cindy here.

Welcome 2023!

There are a lot of people who are willing to give an online review for a free sample. Our community has proved to be different, you are responsible for helping brands create exceptional products and exceeding the typical 'standard panel'. Thank you to our qualified, reliable product testing community - we cannot wait for what 2023 has in store.

2022 was a big year for MESH01 – not only for our team, but also for our dedicated and reliable MESH01 Product Tester Community. Thank you testers for being such a valuable and valued part of our community. Through your diligent concept and product testing you have helped improve thousands of future products that the world will soon experience and enjoy.

While we couldn’t be more excited for 2023, let’s take a look at back some of your product testing highlights from 2022. From helping brands increase their raving product reviews online to helping brands further their sustainability efforts, we weren’t too sure were to start! Here are some of our favorite product testing moments from this year.

MESH01 Parent Product Tester Community Helps a World-Famous Brand Launch Their First Children’s Apparel Line

Helping brands bring new products to the market has always been our thing. This year we were able to engage our parent testers and MESH01 families to a whole new level. Through your insights and feedback, a world-famous apparel brand was able to successfully launch their first children’s apparel line. This year alone your contributions to this brand's initiative included:

  • Gathering real feedback from 962 MESH01 kids testers
  • Giving detailed feedback on 19 number of children's apparel tests
  • Giving the MESH01 parent seal of approval for 19 products

As any parent knows, shopping for your child can sometimes be stressful as we always want the best for our kids! Because of our amazing MESH01 parent product testers, our customers can confidently create new children’s apparel lines and ensure that their products already have met parents’ expectations before going to market.

MESH01 Product Tester Community Help Brands Introduce more Size Inclusive and Gender Inclusive Apparel

Expanding and creating a more inclusive range of products is an important initiative for our customers. Getting these product details right - from fit to comfort, design and beyond - is critical. We aren't exaggerating when we say, brands really want to hear from you!

Through our spectacular tester community, brands made sure future customer expectations were going to be met. From critical feedback identifying opportunities for improvement to positive feedback validating performance attributes, MESH01 customers appreciate it all. Thank you testers for ensuring product design, fit, quality and more! Brands now know their existing customers and potential new ones can finally feel confident in their purchases.

MESH01 Testers Help a Leading Apparel Manufacturer Validate New Opportunities and New Products 

Through new product development product testing of new apparel samples, many of you helped a leading apparel manufacturer validate a completely new product opportunity and product type. As this brand continues to evolve its product offering beyond so many go-to favorite styles, your preference and testing feedback on fit, comfort and performance allowed the brand to confirm the relevance of the new product concept and inform early product development details, as well as uncover areas for future improvements. 

It's application of your product tester feedback like this that results in fresh new products to love from brands you already know and trust. 

We Could Not Have Done it Without You!

What a year it has been! Throughout 2022, concept and product testing has continued to prove itself to be resilient in its drive towards aiding brands and creating quality products. Our accomplishments this year are possible because of you - our incredible product tester community. You all have helped better the world of future product experience by providing amazing feedback and insights through product and concept testing. We cannot wait to achieve more together in 2023!

As consumers, we regularly clean out our closets to keep up with the latest trends. But as fresh new styles continuously hit the shelves, what happens to the styles that don't sell? The fashion industry’s overall environmental impact and continued push towards more sustainable practices has become top-of-mind for both consumers, brands and retailers alike. In efforts to combat the impacts, consumers and companies have been exploring innovative change, and more and more consumers are selling their clothing, either directly via platforms like Poshmark and Mercari or through programs like Lululemon’s Like New and The North Face’s Renewed. However, while these channels productively decrease waste, the challenge of unsellable inventory remains. In this article you will learn more about what happens to unwanted and unsold clothing and footwear and how pre-market product testing is helping brands work toward sustainability through informed product creation processes.

What Happens to Unwanted Clothing?

Unwanted clothing is a sustainability challenge that can be addressed through product testing.

The rise of fast fashion has been contributing to discarded clothing and footwear. According to the BBC, the average American has been estimated to discard over 80 pounds of clothes every year. At the same time, consumers are buying more clothes than ever as they try to keep up with rapidly changing trends. Currently, the average American is estimated to buy an average of 64 items of clothing and 7.5 pairs of shoes per year.

Whether or not a consumer is purchasing 64 items of clothing a year or less, more clothing and footwear continues to enter wardrobes each year. The older items are left to hang in closets, or are discarded. Sustainable options for unwanted clothing still exist, including the option to donate them to local charities or even dropping them off at your local textile recycling bin. Regardless, 85% of our clothes still end up in a landfill or burned. How?

Donating your clothes is a great way to give your slightly worn clothes a second chance. However, roughly five percent of donated clothes are sent directly to landfills right away (this is mainly due to mildew issues). And if your clothes don’t end up selling at Goodwill or similar centers, they are then often donated to textile recycling centers. These textile recycling facilities are great as they repurpose textiles to be used in new products rather than end up in a landfill. But even if we tried to recycle all of our unwanted clothing, roughly 60 percent of it is not recyclable in the first place.

Why Can't Some Clothes Be Recycled?

Cost-effective and often non-renewable materials are often used to produce clothing. Much of this clothing is made from plastics which we know better as polyester, nylon, acrylic, etc. These synthetic fibers in our clothes are commonly made from crude oil and can be difficult to reuse.

According to Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART), these fibers can be processed into polyester chips; essentially plastic pellets that can become raw materials for fabrics again and used in new products. Though, while some materials can be processed into a recycled fiber, there is still a surplus of clothing being produced.

The rise of fast-fashion has changed the consumer mindset. Consumers expect their favorite brands to continuously deliver new, on-trend products, and do so for at a low prices. With consumers buying more clothes than ever, the retail footwear and apparel industry continues to meet demand. Renee Cho, staff writer for the Columbia Climate School, expands on how this demand has resulted in environmental impact which includes an estimated contribution of 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Textile production itself is estimated to release 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year. Further, vast amounts of water are also needed to produce the clothes we wear too and the fashion industry’s processes are estimated to be responsible for upwards of 20% of global wastewater.

With the financial and environmental impacts of discarded clothing pressurizing manufactures, numerous brands and retailers have begun working ensure validated demand for new products. But what happens when brands and retailers get it wrong, and their products don’t sell as expected? As the seasons change and the latest trends die out, the unsold inventory needs to be addressed, as does the systemic challenge.

Making Change

Consumers’ growing awareness of these issues - and growing interest in sustainable practices - is causing them more carefully consider their purchasing options. And the industry is responding; more companies are holding themselves accountable for their natural impact and are working towards creating more sustainable products and processes. As segments of consumers and brands both move towards a more sustainable marketplace, some companies have started pioneered new solutions such as Lululemon’s Like New and The North Face’s Renewed mentioned above, which give slightly worn clothing another chance through brand-managed reselling.

Brands have also begun producing products with more sustainable sources, too, reducing their impact by conserving natural resources and decreasing their carbon footprint. As a recent example, Allbirds is already a carbon neutral business. (In April 2021, they even open-sourced their carbon footprint tool so other companies and consumers could benefit and learn more about their impact).

We're still at the beginning of brands trying to find new ways to restore our planet, but a fundamental way companies are working towards sustainability is by utilizing pre-market product testing feedback. While some operational areas of the clothing and apparel industry have been slow to embrace technology, utilizing pre-market feedback platforms such as MESH01 is an effective first step for becoming both responsive and responsible.

How Pre-Market Product Testing Supports Sustainability Initiatives

Pre-market product feedback can be an early step in the right direction towards multiple sustainability initiatives. From understanding which product ideas to invest in to mitigating the risk of costly quality issues, pre-market product testing provides solutions for brands trying to minimize textile waste and prevent discarded overstock. Here’s how.

Concept Testing for Sustainability: To Make or Not to Make

Product testers participating in concept testing are helping brands make sure ideas are worth developing, let alone producing (let alone making major inventory commitments to). Simply put, concept testing takes away the guessing game by allowing brands to:

  • Identify trends closer to market
  • Understand customer preferences and key drivers of purchases
  • Pass or fail product concepts before further development investments

Early in the product creation process, customer feedback is vital and the feedback obtained through concept testing sets products on paths to success. Through concept testing, brands can be confident in creating a product they know their consumers will love, with the right attributes to drive purchases. This early step also helps reduce the risks of overproducing, too, through confirming trend opportunities close to market and informing demand planning.

Product Testing for Sustainability: Getting Products Right the First Time

When an idea becomes validated by customers through pre-market concept testing, product testing then helps brands avoid market underperformance driven by quality or fit issues which result in high return rates, as well as potentially costly critical failures that can lead to recalls. Shipping goods globally and expends enormous amounts of fuel, and recalling products and product returns has potential significant environmental hazards. The increased use of fossil fuels, plastic wrapping, etc. contribute to production and consumption and inevitably, waste.

Product testing has allowed brands to meet customer expectations while becoming more sustainable through product creation. A great recent example is the innovative footwear brand Kizik, who saw a 50% decrease in product returns on a key item by using the MESH01 product testing platform. 

Further, product testing also gives brands the opportunity to explore different, more sustainable materials, too. Through product testing, manufacturers can effectively test how new materials may perform compared to previous ones. This can be a great way to hear back from consumers who have been using their products for years and can help inform if a switch to more sustainable materials will still meet customer expectations.

Both consumers and brands are more aware than ever of the collective impacts of production, shipping and consumption. Fortunately, product testers are eager and available to help brands figure out if they should commit to a concept and commit to an inventory purchase.

Keep Pushing

A push towards sustainability in the footwear and apparel industry is a push towards a better future for our environment and our favorite products. As consumers, our expectations are constantly morphing, and we have a growing desire for fresh new products. Through pre-market product testing, manufacturers and product developers can work with consumers to generate the information they need. They can now ensure that they are producing the right amount of the right products that are proven to perform.

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