The Uncrowd
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The Uncrowd

A Magical Christmas Friction/Reward Miracle

This article was originally published December 24th, 2018

Reducing friction is a perfectly sensible retail strategy, though it’s worth considering that no matter how low-friction you become, Amazon will always be one click lower. So if friction-reduction is all you have up your sleeve, you’re always not quite as good as the best.

Increasing reward while maintaining very high friction; now that’s a livener of a strategy. It’s incredibly risky but here’s a Christmas special for you that describes one time that risk pays off and in buckets. The key here, as so often is that the high friction is set off by a huge reward driven by authenticity, value, discovery, honesty and care.

Uncrowd’s reporter-in-the-retails, Emily Cleaver takes up our Christmas tale…

The Grimm’s 12-piece Rainbow is the Beanie Babies of the ethical toy scene right now. It’s a brightly coloured wooden toy rainbow, made by a German toy firm, and a couple of weeks before Christmas it sold out in the UK.

A rainbow all stacked and poised and a bit boring so far

Grimm’s market their toys as open-ended, an alternative to prescriptive, character-driven mass-market toys that only have one play use. You can stack a Rainbow, build with it, balance it, pretend it’s a tunnel, a bridge, a castle, whatever you like. There are Instagram hashtags dedicated to it, Pinterest boards devoted to it and Facebook groups for fans of it.

There aren’t enough Rainbows to meet demand because Grimm’s only use sustainably harvested wood, and the 12-piece is cut by hand from one section of lime tree. That makes rainbows scarce — not all lime trees are large enough to make a 12-piece, and only one part of the tree is thick enough.

Babipur, an online ethical toy retailer, is a major supplier of Grimm’s toys in the UK. They announced recently to the 23, 000 members of their Facebook group that a new delivery of Rainbows was due in just in time for Christmas. Babipur know that the Rainbow is popular and likely to sell out. This isn’t a faked scarcity to hype up demand — Grimm’s rainbows are scarce for genuine and ethical reasons. And Babipur don’t hide this friction, or apologise for it. Instead they celebrate it. They’ve made it almost a selling point.

The Babipur team post detailed explanations on their Facebook group on why Rainbow supply can’t meet demand. They keep followers updated on where the main Grimm’s delivery is and announce what time the Rainbows will go on sale. When the delivery finally arrives, they add to the friction by only releasing small batches at a time because their warehouse staff can’t cope with an influx of orders.

The result is hundreds of parents like me obsessively refreshing the Rainbow page on the Babipur website, checking to see if it’s in stock, aware that when it does appear it’s likely to sell out within minutes. I even did a dry run on the day they were due to arrive, making an order for something small to check that all my card details worked and there were no unexpected hitches in the process.

When the ‘Buy Now’ link finally showed up, I dropped the load of washing I was carrying and went through the checkout process standing on the stairs. When I saw the confirmation email ping in my hands were shaking slightly. It was the most stressful Christmas shopping experience I had this year, and also the most rewarding. All for a wooden toy that my 2-year-old is quite likely to ditch in favour of the box it came in on Christmas Day.

Open ended play is awesome

It’s a great example of how purchase friction is not always a negative for a retailer. Babipur use friction to create a story around products, adding value for their customers.

PS There’s a late batch of rainbows up on Babipur’s site today if you fancy one post-Christmas.




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