Fashion magazines like Justine and Seventeen have employed teenage interns for years, but PlumWillow is one of the first retailers to openly pick the brains of high school-aged consumers. How? By putting them on the payroll. Sort of.
PlumWillow is an online shopping and social-networking site similar to Polyvore – it lets users act as stylists by searching, creating, and sharing outfits. The site has advertised solely through Facebook and word-of-mouth — the actual web site is currently in beta.
The PlumWillow Facebook page frequently asks fans about their favorite brands, and uses the images of products sold in online stores like American Rag, Nike and Roxy. (The site hopes to eventually sell the items it displays.)
But the most interesting thing about PlumWillow is its huge and hands-on effort to connect with users in shaping their initial design. The company has reached out to girls ages 13-20 who visit the site, asking them to fill out “occasional surveys over e-mail on a timely basis.” According to the New York Times, the company also flew in more than 20 girls to visit the corporate office in New York City, where they answered questions regarding PlumWillow’s overall structure and purpose. “We watch what [these girls] click on, see what they do and how they use the site,” said PlumWillow’s chief technology officer Eric David Benari.
In exchange, the participants receive a t-shirt and the fancy titles of Teen Fashion Intern and Co-Creator.
But this clever brand strategy isn’t just a way to get chummy with a powerful sales market. By speaking with the girls directly, it gives PlumWillow access to important information regarding of-the-moment teen trends and helps employees to catch design mistakes in the beta site, and better tailor the site before its official release in the coming weeks.