Yoga Panda – introducing network effects to the yoga industry
Yoga Panda, though a small, Seattle-based start-up, has introduced network effects into the yoga industry.
In my previous post, I discussed MINDBODY software, namely that the company found a niche in the yoga industry, a market that is not yet technologically savvy. The inspiration for today’s post is from one of my previous posts’ commenters, “DB”, who noted that MINDBODY has not capitalized on improving the customer experience by creating a universal login for wellness customers. This leaves a major customer need for another company to provide, and Yoga Panda might just be this anticipated threat, and as such is the topic of this week’s discussion. MINDBODY has the capability to squelch what Yoga Panda has built, but will it catch on in time?
One of the key issues with MINDBODY’s software is that is serves businesses more so than yoga and fitness students. When signing up for a yoga class via MINDBODY, the student must create a new username and login for each individual yoga studio, which is inconvenient and confusing. MINDBODY is missing a major opportunity to add more clients – if customers had a universal login via MINDBODY which allowed them to sign up with any and all yoga studios, fitness classes and wellness centers, more businesses would be incentivized to sign on and capture these potential students, particularly if these studios and wellness centers had access to customer data. Knowing the types of other classes their students take, studios could more effectively price their classes and target existing and new customers for classes and workshops.
Enter, Yoga Panda, a Seattle-area free mobile app that allows yoga students to book classes, often at great discounts, at multiple studios in town based on open mat space that has not yet filled. For students, the more studios that join the app, the greater the benefit (i.e. access to great classes). Similarly, for yoga studios that are on the app, the more customers join, the more they are able to fill up empty class spots. The concept is similar to ClassPass, except it does not restrict customers from the number of classes they can take, and does not charge a monthly premium. It essentially democratizes yoga.
Bear with me, because it might seem like a stretch to apply network effects to this company. In traditional network effects, the more users that use a particular product, the more valuable the product becomes. In the case of MINDBODY, more businesses using MINDBODY software does not improve the businesses’ or customers’ value, thus network effects do not apply. By providing solely a product, and not a platform, MINDBODY is missing a huge opportunity here, which Yoga Panda and other similar apps are stepping in to capture.
Yoga Panda is really a platform, and not a product. Yoga studios sign on to offer open mat space that they can’t fill, which yoga students are eager to fill at lower prices. Right now, because Yoga Panda is limited to the Seattle market, anyone could create an app for one or multiple other cities and take advantage of the gap in the market for providing a more convenient and less expensive customer experience in addition to a means of filling up empty classes. Because this idea is more customer friendly, it has the potential to build a much larger network of users, which will attract more yoga studios and potentially other businesses that offer fitness classes.
If MINDBODY harnessed its customer data and offered its wellness students (the end users) the opportunity to register at multiple studios with one login and simultaneously provided yoga studios with an opportunity to fill empty slots in their classes, it could effectively introduce network effects to an industry that is just beginning to catch on. Because it already has a large footprint and user base, transforming its offering from a software product to a platform would a) create stickiness with businesses and end users and b) would create a defensible competitive advantage (i.e. being THE connection between its business user base and its end user base). In this new model, the more studios and end users that sign up, the more valuable MINDBODY becomes as a way of connecting studios with students. Because it already has critical mass (i.e. tens of thousands of business customers), it is ready to tackle this challenge, before Yoga Panda and other similar student-friendly apps gain momentum and build a formidable user base, which will paint MINDBODY into a corner. Instead of connecting businesses and customers, MINDBODY will be painted as the back-end software provider to yoga studios, rather than the platform that connects studios and students. Will MINDBODY be able to transform their offering in time?
Student comments on Yoga Panda – introducing network effects to the yoga industry
I believe MINDBODY still has some indirect network effects, because if you imagine there are few companies using MINDBODY and few users finding these companies then the product would definitely be less valuable. Furthermore, I would say that MINDBODY can also be considered a platform, perhaps your contention is with where the most value creation / captures happens in the value chain of the platform. Being the back-end software provider is a huge platform play – if every yoga studio hooks into your infrastructure, you are the platform provider, and there should be decently high switching costs for the provider. The issue is of course multi-homing, nothing stops a specific yoga studio from listing their classes on YogaPanda and using MINDBODY.
It is very interesting that MINDBODY hasn’t moved into offering excess mat space for cheaper. I wonder what constraints in MINDBODY’s business model or culture has deterred them from moving in this direction.
As you mentioned, Yoga Panda is incredibly similar to ClassPass. The primary difference in value creation seems to be that Yoga Panda is focusing on a smaller market. This seems counter-intuitive to what we have learned in class. Normally, a platform is most successful when it is able to build a large installed user base. By focusing on only a subset of the ClassPass market, it seems that Yoga Panda is prematurely limiting itself. You also noted that Yoga Panda does not restrict the number of classes or charge a subscription fee. Without the monthly premium, how is Yoga Panda able to capture value? Is it currently receiving revenue?
Really cool post! I had never heard of Yoga Panda until now and am super curious to see how they scale. I have the same question at Jennifer B above, regarding how Yoga Panda is able to capture value. I have to imagine that Yoga Panda is positioning itself as a hybrid between MINDBODY and ClassPass: 1) Capturing value (and creating lock-in) from the studios in a similar manner to MINDBODY by offering the customer analytics and reporting tools that allow studios to look at their business as a whole – in exchange for charging the studios a subscription fee and 2) creating value for customers (and studios) via the ClassPass model. While I think there are relatively high switching costs for studios who are on MINDBODY right now, you could argue that the quality isn’t exactly there (I recently watched a studio owner navigating her MINDBODY account and joking that she didn’t know how to use 80% of the features and that it was confusing), leaving a big opportunity for other players like Yoga Panda to come in and create an ecosystem with even stronger network effects.