Let it rain

  • Business Model Innovatie
  • Design Thinking

By introducing Abrella, Andreas Søgaard created an innovative product, based on the classic umbrella. It allows tourists and visitors to make use of high quality umbrellas for free. This not only increases their shopping pleasure during rainy days, it also increases revenues for shopkeepers. The company is currently developing Abrella 2.0 with even bigger ambitions. The first prototypes are due to hit towns at the end of 2017. After that, the world!

Abrella 2.0 builds on the original Abrella’s success. “Abrella was a great success and we use the income it generates to develop this new product”, says Søgaard enthusiastically. “We learned that it was difficult to scale up the original Abrella. If we want to get the product to a new town, we have to get in touch with local advertisers to make the product viable. We have to keep making deals, over and over again, which is both time consuming and costly.”

Making things scalable

Other than its predecessor, Abrella 2.0 will not be free. The new business model is based on selling umbrellas via a dispenser. “We charge people down to a Euro for the use of the umbrellas. If they want to keep the umbrella or don’t return it in time, we charge them ten Euros. This fee allows them to pick out an umbrella wherever they find a machine, by using an app.” Using this approach, the organization is less dependent on local advertisers, making it easier to scale up and move to new territories. The quality of the umbrellas, on the other hand, will remain top-notch. Søgaard learned that users value quality highly. Cheap umbrellas that break easily will not have them coming back for more.

Currently, the people at Abrella are busy working on the design and technology of their dispenser machine. So far, it has proven to be difficult to design a fool proof machine. “One of our first prototypes didn’t work because it had a latch to keep it closed. People would simply open the latch and take out the umbrellas without paying”, explains Søgaard and he laughs. Another prototype broke down when users returned too many umbrellas at once.

Gain trust and turn the office into a discotheque

Getting the customers to trust the product is another challenge. They have to punch in their credit card info into an app so they can pay for the service. “Winning their trust is our biggest challenge”, says Søgaard. “How do you get people to leave their payment details and use the app to order an umbrella? We want to make the process as effortless as possible because our customers are mainly middle aged women. They are not looking to fiddle around with a messy app. We are now at a point where we’ve added numbers to the machines and all you have to do is fill in the number and press a button, to release an umbrella.”

Waiting for the rain…

Søgaard and his team will be out and about testing prototypes for the following months. “Right now, we’re waiting for it to rain”, he says. “Hopefully we’ll have a working model by the end of the summer. But in reality everything will probably be a mess and we’ll go back to the drawing board until we get it right. Ultimately, we want to sell our umbrellas in London. If we find our way their, we’ll have made it. To measure our success, we have an extra phone at the office, which is hooked up to speakers. Every time we sell an umbrella, it plays Rihanna’s Umbrella.” He laughs. “We want to make two hundred machines and test them out in the real world at the end of the year. Hopefully we’ll turn the office into a disco.”

 

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