FEATURE10 May 2013

Tuning in to tweens


Tween girl community site FashionPlaytes has hired two research industry executives as it looks to generate income from the insight space.


Dean Wiltse and Dana Stanley, two well-known names in the world of research, have recently joined FashionPlaytes, a company that runs an online community for 5-to-12 year-old girls. With these hires, it’s clear that company has ambitions in the consumer insights space. Commenting on his appointment, Wiltse, the former CEO of Greenfield Online (now part of Toluna), said: “There’s an incredible opportunity to become the social destination for tween girls and the most sought-after partner for any brand focused on connecting with this highly elusive demographic.”

Wiltse takes the role of CEO while Stanley, formerly of Survey Analytics, becomes vice-president of research. We put a few questions to Wiltse about his plans for the company:

“Over the years, we’ve earned the trust of these girls and their parents, and are amazed by the level of engagement and the wealth of information they’re willing to share with us”

Most of our readers are the wrong demographic for FashionPlaytes so can you start by telling us what it is?
Dean Wiltse:
We provide a platform for tween girls to engage with brands, learn about a variety of topics that interest them and provide their thoughts and views. This active community has grown from 33,000 in 2012 to 700,000 today. Our girls love to voice their opinions. As you can imagine, Gen Z girls are just starting to form their brand preferences. FashionPlaytes is at the forefront of a new paradigm in business where companies actively and dynamically incorporate input from customers into how they develop, design and deliver products and services.

Given yours and Dana’s background in research, I’m guessing you see a research opportunity here. Can you give us your vision for how FashionPlaytes might work as a research business?
We will enable the industry to directly reach 5-to-12 year old girls in our COPPA compliant and parent approved community. Over the years, we’ve earned the trust of these girls and their parents, and are amazed by the level of engagement and the wealth of information they’re willing to share with us about their preferences on a wide range of topics, ranging from the obvious – style and fashion – to entertainment, technology, consumer packaged goods, and more. Of course, all of this is done in a way that is meaningful to and fun for the girls, and we are exceedingly careful about their privacy. Our mission has always been about empowering girls – now we see an opportunity to give them a voice and let them drive their experience with brands beyond our own.

How has the company typically generated revenue?
Today, revenue is generated through our e-commerce engine as these girls design their own clothes and accessories. We custom make their designs and ship to them within six days. This is how we get parental permission too. We ship over 4,000 boxes a month and see an opportunity now for in-home use tests, for example.

Do you see community sites like yours replacing access panels as online sources of sample, or are they simply useful ways of filling niche coverage gaps?
I see us as the best place to connect with girls aged 5–12 and we plan to expand later this year to include girls from 13 to 19. Many of our girls have already passed 13 and are sticking with us, positioning us to conduct projects with older girls. We also have mothers who trust us and are responsive to our outreach. So we will not replace access panels but we hope to be the first choice for girls, and mothers with children in these age ranges. With plans to expand in Europe next year, we will have even greater reach.