I can’t read road signs when I drive because my distance vision sucks. So I wear glasses.
I got my first pair 5 years ago. I was in college, and I’d just made the discovery that the reason people were furiously taking notes in organic chemistry over the smudges of chalk on the chalkboard was that those weren’t smudges of chalk at all…but drawings of molecules. Drawings of molecules that you had to know to pass the class.
It’s been a while since then, so a few weeks ago I decided to make the ol’ four-eyes look a little more in-the-now with a brand-new pair of specs.
I didn’t want to pay a fortune. I didn’t want to drive all over the place trying on frames. And I wanted a pair that was relatively stylish.
So I found myself looking for glasses online, and–to cut to the chase–ended up ordering myself a pair from online retailer Warby Parker.
Now, Warby Parker’s a pretty hip company, so it’s no wonder I was wooed by their sleek website design and vintage-inspired frames. They also have a buy-a-pair-and-we’ll-give-a-pair TOMS-eqsue social program that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. But those aren’t the primary reasons I bought from them.
Why, then? As Matt Haughey put it,
“It’s as if the people behind Warby Parker looked at every weakness in the online glasses buying process and came up with a solution, turning the whole thing into a positive.”
The typical problems with buying glasses online? Take it away again, Matt:
- there is too much selection at most sites
- you never know what you are going to get sight unseen
- it takes a lot of technical knowledge to figure out the sizes of temples, nose bridges, etc
- at most sites, stupid glasses you would never wear are right next to cool looking ones, which are surrounded by 200 ho-hum options
Warby Parker kills all of these so-called weaknesses, or what I would call annoyances.
First up, they offer only 30-40 frame options, which actually makes shopping less fussy and complicated.
Then, they provide a “home try-on” program where they’ll mail you five frames of your choice to try on for free. This means you don’t even have to get up off your couch to pick out glasses (it’s also free to mail them back). When you want to order, you simply enter in your prescription information, and the glasses get shipped out ASAP.
Plus, Warby Parker glasses are surprisingly affordable. My order came in at a crazy-cheap (for prescription glasses) $95, which is even better than what I’d have paid at Costco.
But the point here isn’t to praise Warby Parker. It’s that I had an epiphany during the process: the reason I had a good experience with Warby Parker is that they made buying glasses as non-annoying as possible.
This same concept has broad application–from starting a business, to even small ways to make a little money on the side.
For example, when I recently started teaching piano lessons to a few students for extra cash, I offered the parents the option to drive out to their house to do the lessons. They snapped it up. (Which was a relief, since I also don’t happen to own a piano.)
Parents already have like 15 car trips to take during the day. This immediately cut out one small annoyance that normally goes along with enrolling kids in piano lessons. It’s just a tiny thing, but it worked. (Unfortunately I cannot alleviate the annoyance of listening to a 10-year-old play “On Top Of Old Smokey” over and over again during practice.)
More notably, over at Entrepreneur‘s “100 Brilliant Companies 2012” list, many of the coolest business ideas solve what could be called small annoyances. The basic simple frustration of “I freaking lost my keys agaaaiiiin!!” is significant enough that many people will pay for a product to fix it.
Here are eight sample annoyances and how companies from the Entrepreneur list are trying to solve them.
1. Annoyance: Websites taking forever to load.
The fix: Yotta. “Its site speed optimizer doubles the speed of any website’s load time without additional coding or software.”
2. Annoyance: You bike to work and then end up sweaty and B.O.-laden all day
(Sidenote: this is precisely why I don’t bike to work.)
The fix: Ridekick. “Bike to work without the sweat. This electric trailer turns your lowly ride into a kickin’ motorbike that can reach speeds of 19 mph.”
3. Annoyance: Packing half-a-dozen mini bottles of shampoo when you travel and them leaking in your suitcase
The fix: Ogomo. “A business traveler’s dream, this online store offers travel-size products that can be delivered directly to hotel rooms.”
4. Annoyance: Screaming kids on airplanes
The fix: Nanny in the Clouds. ”Matches parents with experienced nannies already booked on the same flight who can help take care of kids during air travel.”
5. Annoyance: Shopping for clothes and not finding anything that fits
The fix: Me-Ality. ”Finds the best-fitting clothes for your body by scanning your measurements and matching them to the sizing specifications of the 60 brands in its database.”
6. Annoyance: Being stuck on hold listening to elevator music on a customer service phone call
The fix: FastCustomer. “Spares iPhone and Android users the aggravation of waiting on hold. Register your phone number, then get a call back from any of 3,000 companies.”
7. Annoyance: Having a song stuck in your head and not knowing the name or who sings it
The fix: SoundHound. ”Allows even the utterly tone deaf to search for tunes simply by humming or singing into a smartphone.”
8. Annoyance: Losing your keys/wallet/phone/child…for the hundredth time
The fix: Bikn. “To ensure that nothing goes missing (phone, keys, dog), Treehouse Labs’ system uses an app, smart case and tags to stick on your stuff.”
In short: want to make some money? Find a way to make something less annoying for someone.