Last time, we took a look back at our Kickstarter project and how we progressed from our fundraising launch right through development to manufacture. I hope you enjoyed reading about our journey, and all the triumphs and challenges along the way. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can find it here.
Following that story, I wanted to share some of our challenges and achievements since mass manufacture began, and how we’ve grown over the last 2 years.
August 2018 was an exciting time for us at Kokoon, seeing the culmination of 4 years of hard work as our headphones began coming off the line at the factory. Our initial run of headphones was small, with 700 produced in the first weeks in August.
Some of the grey headphone earcups, waiting for assembly
Working on the EEG sensor assembly
Packaged and ready to go!
Our hope was to produce the bulk of all of our Kickstarter units in one go, and ship immediately to our backers. At the time we began manufacture we had 8000 Kickstarter backers, and just over 9000 additional pre-orders which we’d taken over the course of development. Producing all of these units at once would have been quick to do; the factory had experienced employees working on the line, and were ready with all the necessary components and materials to go ahead. However, e concluded that this would be a very risky approach, in case any unforeseen issues were discovered, so opted to manufacture in batches.
It was the correct call to make. We began with the initial 700 units, following with 1500 units a few weeks later. Unfortunately, we found that these two batches had a small defect, which caused the endcaps to snap off the headphones far too easily. This was quickly fixed through several small tweaks to the assembly screws, endcap material, and a tooling change. The team were quick to evaluate the cause of the issue and implement these fixes, with new endcaps and screws arriving quickly into our warehouses.
A headphone where the endcap has broken off
With this issue resolved, we ramped up production, moving into our third manufacturing run in early 2019 for another 1500 units, followed shortly by larger manufacturing runs of 6000 headphones.
It was then that we encountered our next issue. Despite extensive lifetime testing, where the headphones were pulled and stretched repetitively for long periods, we found over 5% of the units produced developed a fault where the arm of the headphone snapped unexpectedly. This was largely due, it turns out, to variance in the material used in the manufacture of these arms, which is extremely difficult for our quality control processes to catch. Our team were very disappointed after the hard work and testing which had gone into engineering the longevity of the product but after investigating this issue at considerable length they were able to implement changes to prevent this happening in later production runs.
The disappointment is still felt and we continue to express our apologies to any customers affected by this issue. We’ve worked hard with our fulfillment partner and customer service team to replace broken units as they’re reported to us and took the decision to extend our warranty on this issue so all customers receive a 2-year warranty on the headphone arms (as opposed to the standard warranty in some territories of only 1 year).
The other half of our product is of course the Kokoon app. Having faced demand-related challenges with the hardware, this translated to the software too. As more customers began using the app, its backend system began to struggle with the unforeseen load being placed on it. Just as it was with the headphones themselves, it was a bittersweet issue to have which required us to quickly hire extra support to manage the app to ensure it’s continued performance.
With the headphones shipping out to both backers and customers, we began to expand into new markets. We started by listing the headphones on Amazon, both in Europe and the US.
We were excited to see significant interest from distributors and retailers in a number of different regions. In 2019, we launched the headphones in Selfridges in London as part of Smartech. Smartech are positioned in department stores around the world and focus on selling innovative products which bring new technology to market. After a fantastic start in Selfridges, Smartech picked up Kokoon for sale in the US, launching into Neiman Marcus stores in San Francisco and New York towards the end of 2019.
Kokoon in Smartech, Selfrifdges
Other exciting opportunities followed; Kokoon sold for a limited period on QVC, with a segment initially airing on the channel in September 2019. I’m proud to say Kokoon was also picked up by AXA for sale on their ActivePlus website, offering their customers products to improve their overall health and wellness.
There was further interest from retailers elsewhere in Europe and further afield, with Kokoon being added to sites such as bol.com (a leading online electronics retailer in the Netherlands) and Sleep Solutions in Australia (an online retailer of sleep products, from pillows to temperature control sleep accessories).
We were thrilled to be approached by Equinox Hotel, to stock the headphones in their spa. Equinox Hotel is an award-winning hotel. Opening in Manhattan, New York in 2019, it boasts a beautiful spa full of innovative treatments promoting wellness. Kokoon were included in the spa for use in their relaxation pods and on sale for customers to take home.
2020 – the year so far
It would be impossible to tell the story of 2020 without mentioning Covid-19. Like many companies, we too were impacted by the outbreak of the COVID pandemic across every aspect of our business. Whilst we were fortunate to be able to continue working from home, we were faced with new challenges to product development which our Product Designer will be sharing very soon!
As a retail product, our sales were understandably impacted and for a time we focused solely on our online sales channels; we’ve since been able to work with some fantastic new online retail partners to increase our reach to customers. From this month we’ve been available to purchase through Decathlon’s website in Belgium, and TradeMe, offering the headphones in New Zealand.
As a wellness product, however, the need for Kokoon is more relevant than ever as societies turn their attention towards preventative health, wellness and digital healthcare. For many, balancing work and life in this time has been a struggle; we’re proud to do our bit by working with workplace wellness schemes in the near future, so watch this space!
We’ve also made strides to fortify our operations, working on improving our logistics services for customers. We have now opened warehouses in the UK and Hong Kong to complement our warehouses in Ireland and the US, speeding up shipping to customers. We’ve also been able to begin offering express shipping services in some territories for customers looking to get their hands on better sleep as rapidly as possible!
There you have it – the past, and a bit of the present. So, what next? We’ll be introducing you to our new Product Manager, Hannah, who has spent her lockdown working hard to reach our customers and backers, meeting you, chatting to you, and gathering information on what you’d like to see from Kokoon next. She’ll be sharing what she’s learnt from you, and how we’re planning to take the app forward in an update coming soon.
As always, we’d love to hear from you. Our new Kokoon Kommunity initiative is now live, please share your ideas for the future of Kokoon, we’d love to hear from you! For any enquiries related to your order, please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.