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Bonobos | Case Study

All companies generate action, but relatively few are truly inspiring action. That distinction seems to make a great deal of difference in both results and impact.

Bonobos hits four out of the ten criteria we use to determine whether an organization is inspiring action:

Have an “inspiring idea” above commercial intent.

When it launched in 2007, Bonobos was one of the very first clothing brands to operate exclusively online. At the time, the concept of a brand going fully digital was foreign, to say the least. How would customers trust a product, especially one so personalized as clothing, if they couldn’t see and try it on firsthand?

But CEO Andy Dunn thought otherwise. He had an inspiring idea. “I merged with the Bonobos belief that the internet was going to fundamentally change the way brands were built”.

They launched their e-commerce website and are now the largest clothing brand ever built on the web in the United States. Throughout that process, they have expanded from just selling pants to retailing every male clothing item under the sun.

Since then, an entire ecosystem of strictly e-commerce brands has emerged, including past Inspiring Action Brand of the Week Casper, as well as Harry’s and Birchbox, just to name a few.

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Define the alternative future you exist to prevent.

Bonobos started because co-founders Brian Spaly and Andy Dunn were having trouble finding pants that fit. They tried numerous different brands but felt that some were too boxy or that some were too tight. They knew that this dilemma was probably common amongst men, and sought out to fix it.

Spaly (who is the current CEO of Trunk Club) began designing and altering pants using his girlfriends’ sewing machine while he was still in Stanford Business school. He wanted to create something that had the “perfect fit” and eliminated what he called “khaki diaper butt”. The final design had a curved waistband, which has since become the signature feature of their trousers.

After creating it for friends, he saw the demand. Men generally struggled finding pants that fit, and he had a solution that, up to that point, had been met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. After selling 47 pairs in one day at their first trade show, the two decided to get serious. They met with investors and eventually took their entrepreneurship to New York City, where they launched Bonobos later that year.

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Know what your devotees love about themselves with you.

Bonobos is a Men’s clothing brand. From the start, CEO Andy Dunn knew that Men typically do not like to shop. He also knew that they struggled finding that “perfect fit”, and figured if he was able to introduce a men’s clothing brand that was iconic and focused on providing great-fitting clothes, the company would be met with positive reviews. By establishing Bonobos as an online-only brand, his target audience could enjoy a more “painless” shopping experience than ever before, and didn’t necessarily need to leave the house to get the high-quality type of clothes they desired. This allowed the company to gain massive popularity in it’s early years.

In 2013, Bonobos’ introduced their “Guideshops”, which essentially act as E-Commerce storefronts. At the Guideshops, men are given unparalleled one-on-one attention from one of Bonobos “guides” and are encouraged to try on everything at the store. Since 2013, Bonobos’ has established Guideshops in over 15+ locations, and the Guideshops have been the dominant narrative surrounding the brand. Men have fallen in love with the model because they can leave the store hands-free.

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Have mapped the pattern of behavior that you wish to change.

Bonobos’ is attempting to completely re-invent the retail store. The success of their “Guideshops” has given legitimacy to a brand new business model. Dunn has said that the discovery was almost accidental, but after four years of running the business digitally he realized that the offline retail world had a huge role in the future of online.

There are a number of reasons why you may see more and more businesses adopting this model.

For starters, as Dunn puts it, they are “really long on great customer service and great experiences, and really short on changing rooms filled with clothes”. It’s not often you see an in-person customer experience garner such rave reviews. The Guideshops add that little bit of human touch that E-commerce currently lacks. Because Bonobos doesn’t have to worry about stocking inventory, they can channel all of their focus on customer-experience.

Additionally, the Guideshops themselves act as advertisements, which essentially drive online sales. It allows Guideshops to engage with their customers on much more local level, and the one-on-one customer experience they provide helps to create loyal devotees who in turn become repeat customers. For Bonobos, their web sales have never been stronger and a large part of that can be attributed to their offline presence.

For the full list of our “10 Signs Of An Inspiring Action Company” click HERE.

Ray, Adam. “REDEF Original: Andy Dunn’s Plans To Build a Digital Native Brand Empire.” Andy Dunn’s Plans To Build a Digital Native Brand Empire. FashionREDEF, 2 June 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.