Hey there! Danny Choo here - creator of Smart Doll.
This document outlines how pre-orders work for our own original characters (non licensed). The process is actually not much different to what it has been up until now. Folks will be able to order stuff with the pre-order item as usual. The only difference is that the pre-order item is only available for a limited time.
Before a customer buys anything from the Smart Doll online store, they must also agree to the specifications (and any product specific specs written on the product detail page) regarding the nature of handmade products. Some folks understandably expect perfect machine made products that look all the same - unfortunately because our Terminator models (robots who make stuff all the same) were all sent to the past and then destroyed by some "Connor" - we have to continue to ask our talented team of humans to make our Smart Doll girls n boys. Thus each and every Smart Doll is blemished and imperfect - just like the humans that made them.
- About SHIPPING TIMES
- "Release Date" on the product detail page usually means the day the product was first made available for pre-order. It does not imply the day that the product arrives on the customers doorstep, nor does it imply the day that it will be shipped.
- Expectations about shipping date will be stated clearly like "Ships out within 20 business days" - this means that if a pre-order is placed for this item then it will leave our fulfillment center within 20 business days - it does not imply nor mean "will arrive on customer doorstep in 20 business days."
- Even though we state something like "ships 5 to 20 business days" there may be situations where we can ship immediately because we have made a small batch.
- "Business days" is when we are working which does not include weekends or Japanese public holidays.
- Everything is shipped out from our Tokyo Fulfillment Center located in Mirai Store.
- If at anytime after placing an order, if a customer contacts us asking when their stuff will be shipped out, we will presume that they need the goodies before the shipping time we stated and we will be obliged to and proceed with canceling and refunding the order.
- If you placed an order for a pre-order item but then want to add something at a later time, reply to the order confirmation email with links to the items that you want to add and we will invoice you. However, if your original order has proceeded to the Staging phase then we cant merge your order. Staging is when your order has been packed and in the Staging area waiting for DHL or FedEx to pick up. There are a zillion packages in the Staging area and going through them all is not practical. Please take note of this if you are planning to order.
- WHY PRE-ORDER?
- Up until now, we would release a character and they would remain in stock for a few years. This method has become unscalable due to the amount of characters that we want to continue to release. We need to discontinue some characters so that we can use resources (and make physical space) to develop new ones. We simply cannot continue to release characters and stock them for years - we would sink fast.
- Characters will be available for a limited window and ends in the following situations:-
- The pre-order period has ended - typically 24 to 48 Earth hours. A countdown timer will state the amount of time left.
- We reached production capacity - meaning we simply do not have enough resources to make more.
- Interest for the product trails off early - meaning that pre-orders for the product peaked way before the pre-order period was due to end. The pre-order period will end prematurely so that we can focus on production.
- Characters that proved to be popular based on the amount of orders will make a comeback either in the form of another pre-order window or as a regular lineup character who are known as Frontline members.
- Questions to customer service regarding whether characters will make a comeback will be printed and eaten for afternoon tea (ignored) so that we can focus on production - and drinking tea.
- In order to grow the brand, its important for us to have constant availability of key characters for folks who visit our online store for the first time. Having all our characters as a pre-order is short sighted which would bring in higher revenues in the short run, but be detrimental for the growth of the business in the long run. For this reason, characters who have been more successful in new customer acquisition will have a survival advantage over characters who sold more in quantity - but didn't do as well in creating new customers.
- All businesses experience something known as "churn" - a business term that refers to when folks who were fans of a product or service for one reason or another stop consuming and move on. Because of churn, new customer acquisition is a vital part of any business.
- Characters that do well in new customer acquisition are ones with the huge anime eyes.
- WHY WE DO NOT ANNOUNCE PRE-ORDER DATES
In June 2020, a character called Envisage was supposed to be released on a particular day but we had issues on the online store which took longer to fix than expected. Many folks expressed disappointment in the form of online comments and email about the delay.
We could have launched on schedule if I asked staff members to stay behind and work extra hours on fixing the issue. This is not a matter of trying to save a few quid on wages for the extra work hours - it's a matter of making sure that my team get enough of their own time to do their own thing.
As an employee working the corporate life many moons ago, I know what it was like working 5 days a week and having only two days off on the weekends. Now, as an employer since we launched Smart Doll, I have never once asked members of staff to stay behind to work late and will never do - even if consumers demand so and even if it means that we could have got stuff out the door to sell more.
For this reason (and due to the amount of disappointment expressed in comments and mail), going forward to avoid further disappointment and set expectations, we won't be announcing release dates for our own original products. Licensed products are a different matter as we usually make a certain amount before pre-orders open to alleviate pressure on the team.