If you’ve ever stumbled upon a product design introduced by a community member or noticed that a custom part or accessory is currently unavailable to purchase, chances are you’ve heard of a group buy.
Group buys offer a solution for would-be product designs or out-of-stock custom products to become available for purchase. This type of thing is prevalent in the mechanical keyboard community.
Often, individual community members come up with custom designs and wish to have them produced. However, many of these products require minimum order quantities (MOQs), and it’s not cost-efficient or it’s too expensive for a manufacturer to make only one particular unit here and there.
This is where group buys come into play. Group buys allow product designers to pitch their ideas to the community, allowing regular customers to fund its production.
What is a group buy?
Group buys are when a community collectively orders a product in hopes that it reaches MOQ. In many cases, this is the only way that a custom product can be manufactured and sold to prospective buyers.
It operates much like a Kickstarter campaign. Group buys have a start and end date, with all orders cancelled and refunded if the campaign fails to reach its MOQ by the end. If demand exceeds the MOQ set, the order is submitted to the manufacturer for production.
The entire process can last anywhere between a few months to over a year. Not all group buys are for custom products, though. Sometimes group buys can be held for existing products, where a manufacturer slashes the price of their product for a community if a specific MOQ target is met.
What are the benefits and risks of group buying?
If an exclusive product appeals to you, and you cannot find the product anywhere else, a group buy might be your only option. It’s important to understand that group buys come with inherent risk no matter how reliable they claim to be.
Following through with a group buy involves offering money to strangers in hopes that they will deliver you on their promise. How badly do you want the product — and how much risk are you comfortable with?
You should always evaluate an organizer’s history before joining a group buy campaign, as well as how much you want the product. If you’re joining a group buy simply to save a few bucks, it’s probably better off paying a higher premium to secure the product through a channel with more safeguards.
How do I join a Group Buy?
Reddit has an updated list of currently running group buys here. One community that’s worth checking out is MechGroupBuys. They have a wide range of potential product group buys, with product information detailing start and end dates, base price, and sale type. They also provide a Discord channel as well.
Getting the ball rolling for a group buy includes the following key phases:
- Interest check – Vendors check to see if enough people have shown enough interest in their products so that MOQ is met.
- Group buy – Once enough interest is established, the vendor initiates a group buy and pre-orders start to roll in.
- Production – Once the group buy stage is complete, the designer reaches out to the manufacturer to initiate production.
- Fulfillment – Following manufacturing completing, the producer ships the product to the vendor for inspection and sales.
Group buys can be worth the risk if the item you’re looking to purchase is a necessity. They’re especially popular among the audiophile and custom keyboard communities, allowing designers and companies to produce unique products that otherwise couldn’t be funded.
Partaking in a group always comes with some inherent risk. But in doing your due diligence through contacting organizers, and community members and asking lots of questions can ensure a group buy has a high likelihood of succeeding.