“Almost too good to be true” (Refinery29), “The online incubator for dream products” (W), and “Beauty editors squeal with happiness” (InStyle) are some of the ways this beauty company launched in September 2015 has been described.
Volition has changed the beauty product development process by giving people the opportunity to submit their ideas, connecting them to labs to create products addressing their needs, and offering a platform where community members vote to determine which products should go to market, thus creating products that address real needs and that people want.
Anyone can submit their idea through an online portal by answering “What beauty problem can we help you solve? Or tell us about your product idea”. Once submitted, Volition staff review the idea for feasibility, brand fit, and market potential. If the idea is chosen for development, Volition works with the innovator (the person submitting the idea) and developers (chemists, R&D teams, and labs with experience in the luxury cosmetics industry) to develop a product profile. The product is shared on Volition’s online Campaign platform, where community members can weigh in through votes or product surveys to further refine the product. If the Campaign gets enough support, the product is launched.
Value creation and capture
Volition creates value by harnessing the power of consumers and leveraging it to make better, more original products that address people’s unmet needs. For instance, one of its products, called Mission Brows, are realistic, stick-on brows developed by a cancer survivor. Creating products based on innovators’ perceived needs leads to more unique products, while crowdsourcing the go/no go decision-making process helps ensure that there will be demand for the product. Furthermore, crowdsourcing can much more cost-efficient than garnering consumer insights through traditional quantitative and qualitative assessments, thus leading to the creation of products in a more efficient manner.
Volition also creates value by empowering people (usually women) who have ideas but lack the expertise to launch their own products. Furthermore, the company has a revenue-sharing model, and thus also financially rewards innovators. If innovators choose to defer their revenue share to charitable organizations, then Volition increases the innovator’s revenue share and matches the amount, thereby also benefiting society at large.
Volition captures value by selling their products through their online platform. In 2017, Volition formed a partnership with Sephora, thus enabling the company to market and sell its products through Sephora.com and its retail stores.
Volition’s challenges and future outlook
The main challenge I see with Volition is keeping its community active.
Volition have put measures in place to encourage innovators to continue to pitch their ideas through the Volition platform: its revenue-sharing model (though the lack of transparency in the exact compensation structure could discourage innovators from sharing their best ideas) and its time to market (beauty brands typically take 3-6 months to get a product to market, while Volition has cut this time to 3 to 6 weeks).
However, retaining its community of voters will be much more difficult. Currently, community members must vote through Volitionbeauty.com, thus requiring them to actively check the site for new products. A larger social media presence (e.g., Instagram) could help the company stay in touch with its community members and inform them of new products. Strengthening its brand name is also critical. Especially as competition increases from similar startups and from established companies moving into the crowdsourcing space, community users must find reasons to engage with Volition over other brands. Its partnership with Sephora will, without a doubt, give the brand more legitimacy and expose more potential users to the brand. However, Volition’s ultimate success hinges on its ability to continue to offer its community a compelling value proposition.