Record year for the Norwegian clothing brand – uses negative user reviews to get even better.
Northern Playground is successful with its quality clothing. As part of the product development, the company uses ratings & reviews. The negative feedback is especially important.
Northern Playground had sales in 2021 of approximately NOK 18 million with a positive profit. This is a growth of as much as 55 percent from the previous year.
Most people would call it a dream result, but not Camilla Gundersen who is responsible for marketing in the Norwegian online store. Like many other retailers, they struggled with deliveries last year.
«We had problems with deliveries throughout the autumn when our main manufacturer struggled to obtain materials. This meant that we had few bestsellers in stock for extended periods. What could have been a wonderfully wonderful year was just a very good year. »
The grandmother model rules
One of the things that sets Northern Playground apart from its competitors is an extreme focus on sustainability, Gundersen believes.
«We run the company according to what we call the Grandma model. Imagine that you get a home-knit sweater from grandma. You take good care of it and repair it if it breaks. It has such a high affection value that you do not throw it away even if it is worn. We run our company according to this mindset. We want people to buy less and thus reduce consumption.»
By going to war against the use-and-throw mentality that characterizes society today, Northern Playground wants to make money.
«Northern Playground’s mission is to reduce the consumption of clothing. At the same time, we make a living by selling clothes. It is an obvious paradox. The essence is that we create systems that motivate consumers to both can and want to use our clothes for a very long time. You should be able to use our garments both in the café and in the mountains, year after year.»
At Northern Playground there are never offers and discounts, rather the opposite.
«Instead of pushing prices backwards in the value chain with the goal of the lowest possible retail price, Northern Playground wants to make quality products and pay its producers properly. The sale price is a result of this», says Gundersen.
At the same time, the company has a strong focus on costs. Northern Playground mainly sells directly to consumers and thus avoids costly intermediaries. The marketing budget is also limited, says Gundersen.
«Instead of big marketing budgets and paid celebrities, we have customers who are genuine fans and ambassadors for the brand, and who tell our stories.»
Customers not only contribute in the form of marketing, but are also an important part of product development, says Gundersen.
«Sometimes customers submit suggestions for new products via the idea portal on our website. Other times we launch a separate product idea where we want their feedback. Whether we move forward with the idea or not, and how the design of the garment ends up ultimately depends on these feedbacks.»
It also happens that the company has a more or less clear idea of what is to be developed. Then the customers are involved to a lesser extent. Last autumn, Northern Playground hired an experienced product designer. The goal is to professionalize product development, but customers’ opinions will still be important. In addition to contributing to the design process, the company is also owned by its customers. In the spring, they are also planning a large issue with the help of public funding.
«We want to build Northern Playground together with our customers», says Gundersen.
Negative feedback is important
Even after the products have entered the market, customers and their feedback are central. Like many other Norwegian online stores and chains, Northern Playground has entered into a partnership with Lipscore.
«We invest a lot in collecting product reviews. We go through all the feedback we receive, both good and bad. The poor feedback is especially important with regard to further product development and improvement of existing products», says Gundersen.
She says that more than 1 in 3 customers choose to give feedback after purchase. «Few online stores in the Nordic region have a similar response rate», Gundersen thinks.
«We have incredibly committed customers, this applies to all areas. It is difficult to say why so many give us feedback on the products, but it is probably a combination of customers feeling a sense of belonging to us and that it is easy to give feedback. In addition, we like to think that the products are so good that customers think it’s fun to get involved.»
The online store itself is built on the Swedish e-commerce platform Centra, in combination with a headless CMS from Norwegian Sanity and a payment solution from Adyen. The Norwegian agency Iterate has developed the solution. In addition to the online store, Northern Playground also has a physical store in Oslo. There you can buy products, but also have damaged clothes repaired, provide input on products under development and buy food and drink from local suppliers.
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