I bet you’ve never heard of an umbrella that can rain, right? Well, someone actually saved their factory by selling this unique item. The case we’re sharing today is both interesting and risky. Let’s dive into how this adorable Chinese boss came up with this product idea and used it to boost sales through marketing.

Raining umbrellas, laser reflective umbrellas, umbrellas with a fan, couple’s umbrellas, and umbrellas for walking at night—–all of these creative umbrellas are made by this factory.

The boss is Lei Penglin. He created these special umbrellas based on customer suggestions, attracting a large number of young customers online and clearing the unsold inventory.

In 2019, Lei’s factory was almost closing down. To boost sales, he tried selling goods through live streams on Douyin (TikTok in China). But it was always just two or three people watching, and no one bought anything even after he talked about his products all day. After ending the streams, he often felt like giving up.

At first, his videos mainly talked about very professional things like the fabric density, the number of vinyl layers, and the number of ribs in the umbrella frame. However, the comments complained that he talked too much and it was too complicated. He realized that doing business online isn’t just about pouring out info. Instead, it’s important to engage with and listen to your customers.

Consequently, he adjusted his live-streaming style. Instead of just talking, he began to use exaggerated body language to display the features and functions of the umbrellas with a serious expression. I believe many of you have also encountered the same issue, where what you think is quality content does not interest your audience at all.

umbrella factory videos

Gradually, Lei’s unique way of presenting started to attract a small group of fans, but the sales were not particularly good. Then, one comment caught his attention — someone wanted an umbrella that could “rain” on its own. Although everyone thought it was just a joke, Lei decided to take on the challenge and make it a reality for this customer.

After chatting with the netizen, Lei understood that what they really wanted was a way to stay cool in the summer heat. They wanted an umbrella that can not only block the sun but also sprinkle some water to cool them off. So, Lei added a battery and a fan to the umbrella, and made a spot in the handle to pop in a water bottle, along with a simple pressure nozzle. Now, customers can just insert a bottle of water into the handle, hit a button, and a refreshing mist comes spraying out.

raining umbrella

Another comment said that they wanted an umbrella that could light up. Seeing this, Lei tried to use reflective materials to create a prototype and then made a video with a pre-sale link. Surprisingly, this umbrella received an overwhelmingly positive response, selling 10,000 units on the first day alone. Within the following half-month, total sales reached 70,000 units, making it their best-selling umbrella.

laser reflective umbrella

Now, the comments on their videos are like a wishing well, filled with thousands of messages. People describe their dream umbrellas, some even attaching sketches, hoping Lei could bring their imaginative designs to life. His factory can customize an umbrella in just a day, from sketching out the design, to printing the material, purchasing the frame components, and then assembling it all in the factory.

Of course, Lei doesn’t create a new umbrella for every single comment. He pays more attention to the ones that get lots of likes. Lei believes that these wishes from netizens indicate what the market is looking for. If they can meet the market’s demands, their sales will naturally increase.

Thanks to Lei’s persistence, his platform has accumulated over two million followers. Meanwhile, his factory has grown significantly, expanding from less than ten people to hundreds of staff.

In 2023, they customized 90 types of umbrellas and sold over 1.2 million units, increasing their sales tenfold compared to the previous year. Many e-commerce entrepreneurs are lining up to learn from his success.

customer comment

Lei’s story is somewhat similar to the Print-On-Demand business in some Western countries. These businesses offer high commissions to attract global illustrators to submit their designs, and then let the fans vote on them. The design with the most votes will be mass-produced and sold.

After reading this, you’ll understand why I said at the beginning that this case is both interesting and risky. Relying entirely on consumer feedback can sometimes lead to failure, rather than a romantic success story. Therefore, market research should still involve careful analysis of users, ideally supported by data, and involve low-cost investments to test the market first.

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Jingsourcing is a leading Chinese sourcing company that helps medium and small businesses import from China. In our daily blogs, we share real-life case studies of our clients, insights, and tips on Chinese sourcing, as well as interesting stories like this one. If you’d like to follow us to learn more, feel free to subscribe.

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