Contributed by Aura Cook
The coffee shop is just one example of how simply asking why has transformed a once niche, exclusive experience into a welcoming, delightful and accessible place for a larger community. In part two, we’ll go beyond the coffee shop and uncover how asking why can transform entire industries.
Yoga & Shopping Opens Doors
What once was exercise to prep for a spiritual practice in a relatively small community, yoga has evolved into a fitness class standard in every gym akin to Jazzercise from the 80’s.
By asking why yoga was so limited in appeal, even though it was an effective exercise technique, studios like CorePower, media companies like Gaiam, and retailers like Lululemon understood the “spiritual” aspect of yoga was a barrier for mainstream consumers. However, the fitness and relaxation part of yoga had a lot of value, especially for the live-forever Boomer generation.
By largely removing the spiritual barrier and focusing on the fitness aspect, studios, retailers and the media made it familiar and accessible. So accessible, that with Lululemon, one just had to walk into a store at the mall to be a part of the new yoga culture.
Opening a Digital Door
Another niche service being transformed right now is personal shopping.
Personal shoppers are extremely profitable for retailers. They offer the value of convenience, being “cared for”, and navigating the overwhelming choices in fashion. And customers who use them are consistently satisfied. A win/win, right? Despite the value to the customer, and retailers like Nordstrom pushing the service, very few customers even consider a personal shopper.
Why? Why don’t customers want to try a service that’s no cost until you buy, and offers quite a bit of value? What are the barriers?
A little empathy into the average shopper who has the disposition to spend on fashion, and we find most consumers don’t want to feel pressured. Even if they’re already in the store, a face-to-face experience with a personal shopper feels like a commitment to spend money, something they don’t want to sign up for. Gone are the days of being led by a sales person; It is a consumer driven world. So how can we give them the personal shopping experience, offer the value of convenience, caring, and curation, but on their terms, without the pressure?
Enter online personal shopping companies like StitchFix and Trunk Club (acquired by Nordstrom in 2014). They offer at home delivery of clothing selections curated by a personal stylist based on the customer’s online style profile. The customer can then try on each piece in the comfort of their own home, and ship back any or all the pieces they don’t want. Personal shopping without the face-to-face pressure to buy. According to analysts, online personal shopping companies are growing exponentially, and anecdotally being tried by all of my friends.
Why Ask Why
By looking at niche experiences, and asking why they have a limited audience, we can uncover virtually unlimited opportunities. We can build upon early adopters and open doors to private clubs with an ‘ask why’ approach.
There may be a loss of authenticity or originality, but this happens naturally when new concepts reach the mainstream, or when artists’ neighborhoods are gentrified, and fashion trends are adopted in an altered form from the runway.
“It is the trend curve, the adoption curve, the way of all progress.”
And this art, the art of asking why and having empathy for a mainstream audience, is just as important to evolving the product or experience as the original idea itself.
So dig deeper. Ask why something is niche, remove the barriers, and open up the doors to opportunity.