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“Own The Run, Not The Shoe”

Amy Konary
12.14.2020

This is the premise for “Cyclon”, a new subscription service for running shoes. I couldn’t agree more. As a daily runner, I’ve worn holes into the bottom of my running shoes more times than I can count. It would be great to never again have to worry about the condition of my shoes and just be able to enjoy my run!

Launched by On, a Swiss-based high-performance running brand, Cyclon is a global subscription service that will allow subscribers to receive and wear the latest in running footwear and then return worn-out products to On for recycling, in exchange for the newest version.

The Cyclon service also brings the Subscription Economy and the Circular Economy together. Once the shoes are returned, they will be fully recycled by On, who will reuse the materials to create new running gear.

From a market perspective, On’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. A 2019 Harris Poll across 12 countries showed that more than half of those surveyed (57%) wish they could own less “stuff.” 68% believe that a person’s status is no longer defined by what they own and 70% agree that subscribing to products and services frees people from the burden of ownership (e.g., maintenance, clutter, declining value).

Another recent IBM study showed that on average, 70% of shoppers pay an added premium of 35% more per upfront cost for sustainable purchases, such as recycled or eco-friendly goods. And 57% of them are even willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative environmental impact.

All of which makes sense to me as a consumer. A subscription service that keeps my feet (and knees) happy with springy, comfortable footwear and also ensures that I’m not contributing to the global waste problem is a clear win-win.

“We wanted to show that sustainability and performance go hand in hand. The subscription service enables runners to not only receive one of the highest performing shoes we’ve engineered, but to continuously receive the best and most up-to-date shoe technology coming out of our lab,” says On Co-Founder Olivier Bernhard.

Having worked with subscription businesses most of my career, I have some pointers for On:
  • Launch: I was so excited to read about the service that I immediately signed up without reading through all the details. Much to my dismay, a few minutes later, I received a confirmation email promising me my first pair in Fall 2021. Now, as a customer, a year is a loooong wait. More importantly, as a business, On is running the risk of a competitor usurping the idea and getting to market faster. My guidance to On would be to announce its next launch only when it’s ready. In today’s markets, the company that owns the idea and gets a headstart on building relationships with the customers has an undeniable competitive edge over others.
  • Freedom of Choice: One of the core tenets of the Subscription Economy is that it allows customers to choose and personalize offerings as their needs evolve. Cyclon’s current offering has just one pricing plan. What I would have liked to see is for On to make this service irresistible to all kinds of runners. Let me choose from different plans, such as the number of pairs, family plans, etc. In other words, give me the freedom to choose the right plan that works for me. On would do well to use this time to experiment with different pricing plans and identify what’s working well with potential customers. With subscription businesses, iteration on pricing and packaging is an ongoing process and the sooner you start the journey, the more you learn.
  • Transparency: Relationships are built on trust and transparency plays a big part in gaining customers’ trust. The more information that a service can provide me about how it operates, the better. As a conscious consumer, I have so many questions for On:

Returns: How do I return my shoes to On after use—will I need to pay for return shipping or will On cover that as part of the service?

Packaging: What kind of packaging will On be using to ship the shoes? Will it be made from recycled materials and will it be recyclable?

Recycling: How will On recycle returned shoes? Will the entire shoe be recycled? Where will it be recycled? What kind of gear will On use the recycled material for?

I’d love to see On sharing its process and set customer expectations from the get-go by adding such FAQs to its website. Subscription businesses grow with their customers, so the more open you are and the more you share with your customers, the more they trust and support you.

As On prepares to launch Cyclon, I’ll be rooting for its success! But, while I’m truly excited for Cyclon, I don’t think a service like this should be an exception. With conscious consumerism on the rise, it’s just good business to make sustainability a central part of the Subscription Economy.

We should all be owning our experiences, not products.

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