February 24, 2012

Innovative Business Models: The New BOGO

Consumers have not been told effectively enough that they have huge power and that purchasing and shopping involve a moral choice.  Anita Roddick


This is a blog post from three women who elevate the love of shopping to art.  Debbie, Amber and I all love shoes, purses, accessories.  Oddly enough, we all also wear glasses.  I have five pairs to coordinate with my various moods and hairstyles.

As consultants, we also believe in the power of positive change.

So, to us, the thought that BOGO – that retail standard bearer, Buy One Get One free – could be transformed to do real good was a stop!look!listen! moment.  The Buy One Give One was an idea whose time was NOW.  It wasn’t just interesting, it was deeply compelling.  We all knew of Toms (me because my mom turned up with a pair and told me about them months ago.  She’s handicapped and must buy 2 pairs of shoes to create a pair she can actually wear).

However Amber told me about Warby Parker.  She also told me their business premise.  I was…Hooked.  Line.  Sinker.  Done.  Just reel me in.  I want to go back to our definition of innovation from Day 1 of the 12 Days of Innovation:

The application of a new idea, method, device or construct  that delivers shared value to those who create and those who consume it. It is not based on an instance but offers sustainability over a period of time.  It has some durability.  It is not invention – but its application to solving a particular problem or enabling a new use.  It disrupts the current way of doing things sufficiently to create new categories, markets, products and interactions.

Warby Parker, and their quirky name drawn from Kerouac, not only does the charitable thing well, they reinvent the shopping model.  They make it easy for you to give them a chance.  I uploaded a photo of me, head tilted and not directly centered, on which they managed to allow me to try on most of their recommended glasses.  This allowed me to narrow my choices to 5 pairs – FREE OF CHARGE – which they will send to me and allow me to choose from.  I will overnight them back – with a prepaid label to make it EASY – with my selection.  My selection happens to be a Tenley.  I know this because I was lucky enough to visit a local company displaying them – Art in the Age of Mechanical Production. It’s a lovely store, curated with – well – care.  And they let me poke around their great wares, even after I told them what I was there to do.  God bless retailers.

Unfortunately, I missed two of the founders talking about their model by a couple of days.  However, that didn’t prevent the eyewear from being a hot draw on a cool Saturday.  Seriously, who can resist the draw of looking studious and sexy at the same time.  Not me, and not others.  See that clustered crowd – that’s all for Warby Parker eyewear.

This new Buy One Give One model could be massively disruptive in that it not only delivers but it extends that shared value to a third party in need.   This is very different than the pennies-on-the-dollar approach we’ve seen through classroom and music program donations elsewhere.  This is full on giving of a scale that can dramatically allow the world to see through a different lens (bad pun intentional, so sue me).

So, how can companies like Talbots, the Gap, JC Penney, Limited Brands and others do more?  The concept of the L3C is taking hold – A low-profit limited liability company (L3C) is a legal form of business entity in the United States that was created to bridge the gap between non-profit and for-profit investing by providing a structure that facilitates investments in socially beneficial, for-profit ventures while simplifying compliance with Internal Revenue Service rules for “Program Related Investments” Definition courtesy of Wikipedia.

People like us are watching closely.  We spend.  We are not alone in expecting more from what we give a retailer and what they give us.  So, start asking now:  what can you give, how much and to whom?  -c-

Related Posts