When companies look at moving into a niche market, especially one with well-established competition, they need to diversify their offering.
Toms Shoes did it with their product by not just producing yet another shoe but rather by focusing on creating an opportunity for social good with every purchase. Instead of buying a shoe, you’re buying something with a ripple effect that will make you feel really, really good about wearing your Toms. For those unfamiliar, Toms donates a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair that is purchased. Their customers feel good and it creates a storytelling moment — people will share the good created from their purchase with friends, family and even strangers.
718 Cyclery in New York City builds and sells bikes. In a saturated market, and in one of the largest cities in the world, it may be hard to stand out in the crowd. However, the company is making waves and getting a lot of press for the way in which they deliver their service. They focus on collaborative builds. They work one-on-one with their customers to help them choose a bike that is perfect for their lifestyle, pick the best parts and then… they build the bike with the customer. An immersive bike buying experience and one unlike their competition offers. People feel way more invested in the process, emotionally attached to the finished product and they are more likely to talk about the experience.
Another industry that is extremely dense with competition is the coffee industry. Specifically, coffee shops. There are the total hipster coffee joints (Barista Parlour in Nashville) and your chain-style coffee shop (Tim Hortons) and your higher-end chain cafes (Starbucks). There is no shortage of possible options when it comes to getting your java fix.
In Canada, the primary sale of coffee lands squarely on the shoulders of three major companies: Tim Hortons (they claim to serve 8 out of 10 coffees sold in Canada), Starbucks and McDonald’s. McDonald’s is now serving up about 10% of the Canadian coffee market with their McCafe line. Look out Starbucks and Tim Hortons… a new coffee cowboy is in town and they are coming for you!
In early 2015, I made the switch from Tim Hortons (my everyday coffee) and Starbucks (my treat coffee) to McDonald’s McCafe coffee. I had heard incredible things about the quality of coffee so I decided to give it a go and I haven’t looked back since. There are many reasons for the switch (proximity to my home, price, taste, etc.) but the primary reason is due to something unexpected: the cup.
McCafe has found a way to diversify themselves in the coffee market by building a better cup. Here’s what makes their cup better than the competitor’s cup:
No More Hot Hands
This one you need to feel to believe. Their cup is either double-walled or well-insulated or just made of pure magic because you can grab it and go without burning your hands or needing one of those loose and trash-creating sleeves (even if they are recyclable, it still contributes to the ever-growing pile of rubbish we deal with.) It just feels like a better cup.
A Lid from the Heavens Above
When you open your coffee and click the tab into place, the cup creates a smile. No, seriously. It is a very happy cup and in turn, I feel really happy when I drink my coffee (or maybe it’s just that I’m really happy about the caffeine intake… either or.) The lid is also extremely well-made. The tab stays in place (sorry Tim Hortons, your lid is awful!) and you can close it again if you need to prevent splashes in the car (Starbucks, those green stoppers are just not practical and create more waste!)
The Built-In Loyalty Program
For every seven coffees you purchase, you get a medium for free. Or, a large and you pay the difference (about $0.30 at the time of this post). This built-in loyalty program makes me feel awesome about the coffee and it gives me a reason to return. Adding gamification to your product is a great way to make your audience feel rewarded for doing something they’d already be doing anyway. While Starbucks has their Gold card (you need TWELVE beverages to get something free), Tim Hortons does not yet have a loyalty program unless you hold one of their credit cards.
Thus concludes my ode to the McDonald’s cup. And no, this wasn’t sponsored in any way. And, sorry Starbucks and Timmys. I still love you, too.
When you look at your own product or service offerings, how are you building a better cup? What are you doing to diversify your message in a crowded marketplace? I would encourage you to think about the side angles that may exist for your product or service and use that to sell your wares.