Thank you for your post, Elisa! Have seen many friends cancel their weddings this year so it was an interesting and relevant read.
You finish by saying that 99% of couples who have canceled their wedding plans are still planning on getting married, I’m assuming many of whom have not yet re-booked for another date. Most likely, competitors to Zola are experiencing similar numbers. Zola could potentially do what airlines are doing – sell services to couples where changes due to the Coronavirus are possible at no cost, where Zola in turn works with partnering services to negotiate the same change-at-no-cost model. This could likely be done within the wedding registry in some version, but with lots of possibilities if Zola expands its offerings to other services (like booking locations, etc.). Although it will likely lead to extra work for each couple for the same price, it provides Zola with some type of cash flow.
Zola will be at an advantage as I suspect many competitors are waiting to offer services before they have more clarity over the situation. Yet couples are likely aware that just as weddings 2020 are canceled, the number of weddings planned for 2021 are soaring and locations and dates are already filled – if given the opportunity suggested, they may jump on Zola’s win/win offer.
Hi Dora! Thanks for your interesting post!
I fully agree that the Covid-19 outbreak gives retailers an opportunity to build “human connections”, as you call it, with consumers – just as Nike has done. I wonder though what will happen after the crisis when brands again have an opportunity to focus on sales. Of course, they will leverage their human connections for conversion into buying customers, but I am hoping that businesses can realize a strong benefit from focusing on human connections also when sales are good.
For example, when Nike dropped the subscription fee for their streaming workout videos it led to a spike in engagement – it seems plausible that a spike -although perhaps less extreme- and possibility of conversion would have happened also before Covid-19. Instead of waiting for external circumstances to force a “connectedness” strategy, continuously considering and implementing such strategy to some extent could likely contribute to a more loyal existing customer base as well as attract new customers – some of which may switch from competitors. I personally believe that demand for more “humane” brands is trending and becoming increasingly important for the growth and success of a brand.
Hi Fernanda! Thanks for a great post about an impressive company. Can’t believe this doesn’t exist already, as one often thinks about the most successful ideas. I didn’t exactly understand the credit / payment model part, but I’m curious to understand where the tipping point is when it is worth it for companies to hire Levee in terms of number of relevant employees? Is it possible to make the product valuable enough also for medium sized (and perhaps smaller?) companies for whom hiring is still time-consuming and who have less resources to direct at hiring, although not concerning as many? Of course, such that it is cost-efficient also for Levee. Seems like another possible untapped market in need of help.
Another thought is – would it be valuable enough for companies to use Levee also for high-skilled jobs? Obviously requiring a slightly different model and with more human involvement, but I’m sure it can be made more efficient as well (booking interviews, collecting CVs, etc.). One could perhaps go to other markets if translated into other languages before copy-cats emerge elsewhere, or try to conquer all aspects of hiring (medium-sized, high-skill, etc.) in Brazil and then bring a more comprehensive product to the next market. Or any other ideas? Would be interesting to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for an interesting post, Alexander! I’ve heard about AI education a bit but never heard about Strategic Education, so I’m happy I read this. I am curious to know the competitive landscape and other AI education platforms – is the tailored curriculum the most distinctive feature of SE? I know AI-powered personalized learning is getting more common (although I’m not sure exactly to what extent), but perhaps SE is one step ahead?
Also one thing I’ve thought about is how much of SE’s features can be applied to middle and especially high school. The human element obviously has to play a large role, especially for social skills, but it seems much of the admin can be removed, personalized learning be much more broadly implemented, and even tailored curriculums be used to some extent – so why don’t we? What are the major obstacles to changing the only (and very key) sector in our modern world that basically hasn’t evolved over the past century (or -ies), when we have the technology to improve it? Would be interesting to hear your thoughts.
Thanks so much for this, Jane Doe! I haven’t tried Woebot yet but would like to, and actually wrote about it as well – great choice 🙂 One thought I had is that I’m wondering whether the app is getting traction enough to be able to charge for it (as they’ve done in the past)… Or at least whether it will in the future. I know there are a lot of people who feel silly chatting about their emotions with a bot, which as you said obviously isn’t empathetic, even if they’re working on improving that aspect. I said I think they should move to a younger target group who may be more receptive to bots’ roles, but I’m wondering now whether there are other options that can make the app more attractive to our generation and older? I’m all for therapy apps, but even I probably wouldn’t use it. I suspect a lot of people our age and above choose mood-tracking journal and mindfulness apps before chatbots. But perhaps I’m wrong. Would be interesting to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for your post! Over the past few years I have truly started to appreciate the true potential of online learning platforms, particularly in countries and regions where higher education (or education at all) is not readily available.
My biggest worry for Coursera is the rise of competitors. The 5 main advantages of Coursera that you mention are -as far as I know- not unique to Coursera. They may be at the forefront of the offering of online degrees (although I’m not sure) and certificates, which indeed could be their strongest advantage, but as online learning become more accepted I think such certification will be implemented across other platforms.
You mention that Coursera is sustainable because of the breadth of its content and partnerships – however, the broader and wider the partnerships, the less selective they inevitably will become, which might be a deterrent for more prestigious universities who do not want to be associated with a platform “below their ranking”. If Coursera lose their more prestigious partners, their offering becomes less strong, and partners will move to more selective platforms. For “students” who only want to audit classes and don’t care about certifications, they will likely be drawn to those platforms, e.g. Harvard’s and MIT’s edX and equivalent names. The breadth of courses nevertheless could be a strong advantage for Coursera, although they may risk auditors moving to niche platforms within their subject of interest with stronger brands.
I think there is still a strong future for Coursera but they must strengthen what is unique or stronger about their value proposition that is difficult for others to copy.
Thanks for a great post on what seems to be a great business model!
However, in terms of the risks you mention, it is not clear to me what the size of the customer acquisition cost is, and if it is a major hinder for growth. And for disintermediation, I actually am not as worried. Although it is true that the two sides may communicate outside of the platform, e.g. with customers paying less as vendors don’t have to pay the charge to WeddingWire, the vendors have a huge incentive to keep customers through the platform as their reviews, reputation, and spread among users depends on business made on the website. Further, by disintermediating with certain customers they lose such data points into their customer analysis as well as valuable tools for managing the client. As for customers, vendors are motivated to perform best and in accordance with their promises if deals are made through the website, establishing trust and security, which I believe deters customers from going offline.
One worry however is WeddingWire’s model to give higher subscription tiers priority listing over others and guaranteed first-page placement. This could potentially put smaller mom and pop vendors that most need the platform at a strong disadvantage, where the larger vendors, or at least those with already more resources, win customers before they have a chance to “compete”. It is important WeddingWire makes sure all vendors are able to get an equal chance to win customers so that they find enough value being on the website.
Thanks for a great post! I’m so glad companies like Zencare finally exist as they offer such value both to therapists and to customers.
My first worry however is that I think disintermediation potentially is a larger threat than you mention. Although signing up for a year to make membership sticky, it seems reasonably that therapists -particularly new practitioners- use that year to build a strong customer base. This poses a threat because such customer base and a potential word-of-mouth spread may be sufficient for the therapists to exit the platform in the following year. Moreover, as for more established therapists that use Zencare as a back-up when they have openings in their schedules, it may be more beneficial and attractive for them to find another platform that does not charge a yearly fee but e.g. a per-use fee, making me question the strength of Zencare’s value proposition.
Although Zencare has an incredibly important offering, I have yet to understand how it differentiates enough from existing and potential competitors to provide a superior one. I’m not convinced that the current cross-side effects you mention are strong enough, particularly at this stage, to deter competitors.
Nevertheless, excited to see its journey going forward!
Hi Walter! Thanks for your interesting post.
As a lover of traditional Swiss watches, I am sad to say that I am not surprised that industry is under strong pressure. High tech “fun” pieces with conveniently available information for your health benefits seem ideal for our time’s wants and needs.
However, I believe there is still hope for the Swiss, and not necessarily (if at all) through an entrance into smartwatch competition. Rather, I believe it should stick to what it knows best – high-quality, elegant, and expensive watches. What it must do, however, is recreate their status of being “it”-items. The luxury handbag industry is still able to successfully sell off bags worth thousands of dollars, some approaching $10k or above per piece. Even with convenient bags or backpacks, the luxury handbag will likely stay a coveted item in many forms. Even if convenient bags came with new technological features, and even if produced by Apple, I doubt they would replace the luxury handbag. This is to say that fun, high-tech, and convenient products serving our needs are not necessarily desirable – there is still a significant place for beautiful but less useful luxury items.
Although I do not have a magic recipe, I believe that much comes down to marketing and a willingness of Swiss watch makers to go out of their comfort zones to renew their brands and appeal to the next generation of stars, including Hollywood stars but of course also social media influencers, users they may have previously not considered elegant enough but that dominate the ruling of future consumer trends. This, however, is not a marketing class, and thus I will not speculate further. Nevertheless, to summarize: despite innovative technology solutions there is still a place for Swiss luxury watches (and other non-tech, unpractical, expensive items), but they must target and appeal to those who create the “it”-items on social media and alike, because they are the large determinants of where people are willing to spend large sums of money.
At least that’s my view.
Hi Trishi! Thanks for an interesting post!
I had no idea Sephora were so innovative in their digital endeavors. I did read recently however that Sephora is launching its biggest expansion ever in 2020, opening 100 new stores, and would not be surprised if their success (I’m assuming) is partially a result of their thought leadership in the industry.
One challenge that comes to mind, for Sephora and its traditional competitors, is the advancement of Amazon’s rise as the one-stop-shop for beauty products. Sephora seems to be working under the assumption that it has to win and retain customers otherwise considering its close rival, leading it to focus on expensively “one-upping” the retail store journey and client experiences online. Yet I’m wondering – is it also advancing its offerings while keeping Amazon and other less obvious competitors in mind? Is it appealing enough to the younger “online-only generations” that may not value the cool features in the store as much as the current “in-store shopping generations”, at least not to the extent where they seek out the physical stores? If potential buyers don’t experience or are aware of Sephora’s customer-focused approach through seeing or visiting stores, it may be that buyers instead turn to Amazon as they don’t fully realize the gains of going to a website separate from where they do the rest of their shopping (Amazon).
To keep its leading position going forward, Sephora needs to make its value proposition online as unique and attractive as it is in-store, enough to win future customers going to Amazon, ideally even stealing Amazon’s existing ones. Perhaps they are already there, but I’m not yet convinced. A thought worth considering.
Hi Jona! So glad to see your post is on SWEAT and Kayla– she has been my fitness guru (hence the first-name basis) on and off (hard to stay consistent) since 2015. Interesting to hear your thoughts.
I couldn’t agree more that one of Kayla’s secret ingredients is her social media presence through which she fosters a strong community of BBG followers that inspire and encourage each other to get through the programs. Yet there are countless of other personal trainers, many targeting only women (as you mention is a strength), that are seemingly copying Kayla’s social media strategies almost entirely. They, too, are creating communities through transformation photos of followers, motivation posts, conversational tone, sneak-peaks into the lives of the trainers (without appearing too self-obsessed), etc. Even her fellow personal trainers with whom she shares the SWEAT app have similar strategies, the same app, but do not come close to Kayla’s success. How come?
One HUGE explanation, as you mention, is of course her large first mover advantage. Women start with Kayla, and seeing that it works, they continue – they have no incentive of switching. In fact, there is a high switching cost, because trying another program may not give you the results you are looking for; you are risking your looks – a huge price, particularly for women who are in the community because they want to improve their looks (and health, of course). People see that it works for their friends, join, and so on.
But I think we’re forgetting about one crucial aspect of her success: the program itself. It gradually builds up in difficulty level and thus is appropriate for women of any fitness stage. But above all: It is convenient and can be done in your home without much extra equipment (!), and it only requires ~3 exercises / week for 28min each. It sounds like I am marketing the program, but in fact, it is fairly unique in its simplicity and further has proven effects (through transformation photos, as mentioned) – a combination few others have, at least from what I have seen.
I think it’s very important to remember the product / service itself, because even though her first-mover digital social media entrance made her big, it is the simplicity of the program and its proven effects that keep her at the top. Without a great product / service, sustainability is difficult. It may seem obvious but I do think that sometimes we are so focused on the innovation and delivery of a product / service that we forget about the offering itself.
Last but not least, Kayla’s body (mix of good genes and training) appeals to a very large group of women, perhaps the largest, more so than most other personal trainers in the space that I have seen. Kayla follows her own program, so we must look like her when we’re done – or so the mental reasoning goes. Kayla, in this sense, is a representation of the product we are buying, further elevating its strength.