You may think that most markets today are saturated. Are you sure that it is true? It is not, as a matter of fact. The fitness club business is a good example.
In the 1990s, the growth of fitness clubs in the U.S. reached a plateau. The aging of the population and the decline in the birthrate made it necessary for the fitness club industry to find a new market among older adults and/or the Boomer generation. This effort brought a certain amount of success, but the overall growth of new members seems to have reached a peak. Still, many traditional fitness clubs failed to attract large numbers of potential customers among these target generations.
The women-only fitness company called “Curves” proved this. Since its founding in 1992, Curves has grown dramatically. Curves now have more than 8,000 franchises all over the world and represents nearly one-third of all fitness clubs globally. The average age of their members is 50, and most of them had never joined a fitness club before.
Surprisingly, there were millions of American women – particularly middle age or older women – who were not at all attracted to conventional fitness clubs. They did not want to be exposed to men when they were exercising to lose weight. They also did not like the impersonal atmosphere of traditional fitness clubs that were filled with machines. And they didn’t want to spend long periods of time “working out.”
“Curves” has been successful because they resolved all these concerns by offering a new service that is totally different from the conventional fitness clubs.
At Curves, women don’t have to worry about men. The clubs are only for women. Curves developed their own training machines that are easy to use for older women. And they offer an exercise program that requires no more than 30 minutes to complete.
One other innovation introduced by Curves is to allow its customers to work out in a small group instead of exercising by them. Instead of having the exercise machines facing the wall, as in a traditional fitness club, the machines at Curves are arranged in a circle facing inwards, so the customers can see and interact with each other as they work out.
These innovative ideas have made Curves enormously popular among women of many different ages. This example shows that within any apparently saturated market, you can always find countless customers who are dissatisfied.
IIf you have ideas about how to satisfy customers’ feelings of uneasiness, dissatisfaction or inconvenience with existing services, those ideas might turn into a new successful business. If you examine the products and services that have sold well to the older adult market, you will find that many of them offer relief from some negative element in the existing market.
In Japan, a life insurance product called Hairemasu (“You Can Apply”) by Alico has been a big hit because it was the first life insurance that anyone who is 50 or older can buy. It gives older adults relief from their feelings of uneasiness about their financial situation in the future when they get sick.
Kao’s cooking oil, Kenko (“Healthy”) Econa, is said to be good for your health because the fat will not be stored in your body as much as with other oils. This product became a big hit among those who feel uneasy about their health, especially those who are worried about diabetes or hypertension.
Tuka-S by Tuka Cellular, a cell phone carrier, has been a smash hit for older adults who did not like to use cell phones because of their small buttons and displays. Tuka-S solved the inconvenience of cell phones for the older generation by redesigning their phones to be “senior friendly.”