Miranda and I are training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon in May, and this past week we went to get new running shoes. 

Usually it takes me forever – weeks – to buy new running shoes.  The reason it takes me so long is because I’m someone who needs to collect a lot of data before making a buying decision. When it comes to running shoes, the decision-making problem is twofold: 1) there are a lot of data points to consider, and 2) much of that data (foot comfort) is subtle and difficult to parse.

Normally, I go through a lengthy process of evaluation before buying a new pair of running shoes.  The process goes something like this:

First I look at the color: would I want to be seen wearing these shoes?  Color should be pretty irrelevant to me, because I care more about comfort than style, but color is always the first thing I see, so it tends to be the first thing I evaluate.

The second criterion is price: do these shoes fall within an acceptable price range?  I’m never sure how much running shoes should cost, but anything above $100 always feels too high to me.

Then there is size, fit, comfort and how the shoes feel while walking and running.  These are probably the most important variables, but the data here can be difficult to interpret.  New shoes always feel a little bit funny because they haven’t been broken in.  Also, when it comes to figuring out the right size, I always end up hunched over wiggling my big toe and second-guessing which size is right for me.

The worst part about trying on new shoes is that you only have a limited amount of time before your feet pretty much go numb.  After trying on 5 or 6 pairs, it becomes difficult to notice the differences, and then the data required to make a purchase decision is even more obfuscated.

For me to actually make a shoe purchase, I usually have to visit multiple stores to try on multiple shoes and then go online to make the final purchase.

However this week, I had a totally different experience at Jack Rabbit.

Jack Rabbit has reinvented the shoe buying experience by totally changing the evaluation criteria for making a purchase.  At Jack Rabbit, it’s all about how the shoe “performs” when you run.

The experience is flawless.  When customers arrive at Jack Rabbit, rather than being ushered over to a massive shoe display wall (where I would typically start my cycle of evaluation by looking for the colors I liked), customers are instead asked to sign in to be helped by a store associate. When it’s your turn, the associate comes over and interviews you about your running habits and the shoes you’ve tried before.  She then goes into a back room and comes out with three different pairs of shoes for you to try on.

You not only try on each pair of shoes, you also get to try running in them on a treadmill that is hooked up to a video camera.  While you run, the video camera records your feet for about 20 seconds.  Afterward, the store associate plays back your video in slow motion to see how your stride looks in the shoes.  Flipping through each frame, the associate then explains how the shoe is impacting each stride.  She then tells you which of the three shoes supports your feet best based on a seemingly scientific method of evaluation.

That’s it.  As a customer, you’re given three choices and then an impossible-to-deny decision as to which one is best for you.  The price isn’t even shared until you’ve been sold on the perfect shoe and color doesn’t even come up in the conversation.

It’s genius; rather than leaving consumers to go through the typical cycle of evaluation, Jack Rabbit bypasses color and price and then tells you which shoes you should buy.

I was in and out of the store in 20 minutes and gladly paid over $100 for the perfect shoes for me.  I was happy to pay the price, a reward for their genius business model.  They deserve it.

And in case you were wondering, we went for a six-mile run in our new sneakers on Saturday and they felt great the entire time.

Jack Rabbit – A Genius Business Model
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