Some of the most successful products in history were born of serendipity. Penicillin, Viagra, x-rays and even microwave ovens were discovered accidentally during the pursuit of some other product or purpose. When Arnav Dalmia launched Cubii with a unique design for compact seated ellipticals, he thought his target market would be desk job workers looking for ways to be more active at work. But as more consumers got their hands on the product, and reviews began pouring in on Amazon, they made a discovery.
“It was these reviews that gave us our “aha” moment and helped us understand all of the different reasons people were using our products,” says Dalmia.
For one thing, they noticed that about half of their customers weren’t using our product at their desks, at all, but rather at home while watching TV, reading, knitting and even playing video games.
“After digging deeper, we found something even more interesting that has become a big part of our business today,” adds Dalmia. “We found that our products were being used for a variety of reasons related to wellness and injury rehabilitation—all of which were unknown to us before we read these product reviews.”
In fact, consumers were using the Cubii elliptical to 1) combat poor leg circulation and keep swelling down; 2) recover from knee injuries and hip replacements, using it as a way to gain back mobility with low-impact exercise; and 3) treat physical therapy and hospital patients, “even one who was recovering from brain surgery.
“That was all a surprise to us, but a good one because we realized there was a huge, untapped market that we weren’t targeting before,” he says, adding that in addition to rehab, Cubii was a hit with “active agers,” or those who are 55 and older and want to exercise, and at nursing homes to help mobility-limited residents stay active.
In the following Q&A, CEO Dalmia discusses finding news markets in unusual places.
Once you realized you had this unexpected demographic, how did you change your focus to accommodate? What did you do to capture the new market?
We didn’t really shift our focus. Instead, we dedicated more time to exploring this new market.
In addition to reading product reviews, we administered a formal survey to our users to learn why they use Cubii products. We learned that Cubii resonates with customers on a deeply emotional level—they see our products as life-changing and giving them a better quality of life that they never knew existed. Because of the strong emotional connection to our brand and products, we knew pursuing this audience on a wider scale could help even more people greatly improve their quality of life.
We also did a combination of both formal analysis, which included categorizing all our customer reviews into different groups so we can better understand the diverse needs we are targeting, along with more informal sessions to absorb all the subjective feedback, stories, & letters shared by our customers to truly put ourselves in their shoes.
It was through these surveys and analyses that we continued to learn why customers were using Cubii—everything from getting a workout in at work to recovering from surgery, and even doctors and physical therapists were using it to treat their patients. This led to us pursuing a relationship with a physical therapist and a doctor at the University of Chicago who use Cubii to help spinal stenosis patients improve their ability to walk. Because of the success these doctors have seen using our products, we’re dedicating more time to connecting with doctors.
After learning all of this about our customers, we changed our brand messaging from a very targeted statement of “workout while you work” to now “fitness that is accessible for all ages, abilities, and lifestyles,” which resonates with everyone and better aligns with the reasons that people use Cubii.
To capture this market even more, we focused on telling our customers’ personal stories. Our ads now appeal to a more diverse audience, like people going through injury rehab and “active agers.”
Is it challenging to be appealing to two demographics that are kind of at opposite ends of the generational spectrum?
What’s especially interesting is that the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 80 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of exercise. That’s over 250 million people!
We found that the main reason that people don’t exercise is because they either feel intimidated by the gym or just don’t have the time or ability to workout.
It’s not challenging to target these groups, even though their motives for using Cubii might differ, because at the end of the day, we’re helping them do the same thing: incorporate more movement into their everyday lives.
It’s also important to note that Cubii is much more approachable than a lot of other fitness companies out there. Gyms, treadmills, elliptical companies, etc. are usually aggressive in their marketing—everyone has a six pack and is super lean. That kind of aspirational messaging doesn’t resonate with most people, and the data from the CDC proves that. With Cubii, we make fitness accessible for everyone and help them take the first step toward a healthier “you,” without the pressure of feeling like you have to be a fitness model.
At the end of the day, we want people to know that it’s okay to take it one step at a time. Especially now that it’s the beginning of a new year, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to significantly change something about our lives, and that usually involves something related to fitness. But that approach to wellness isn’t sustainable long-term and usually ends up in people quitting half-way through—recent data shows that people quit their new year’s resolutions on January 12, so a lot of folks have probably given up by now.
That’s why we think our approach is more relatable and sustainable, especially for people in the zero-to-one fitness stage who don’t resonate with the extreme fitness and wellness messaging you see out there today. No matter what end of the generational spectrum you’re on, those kinds of hard-body fitness goals just aren’t realistic for most people.
Have you seen quantifiable results or return from this effort yet?
We’re seeing strong returns on this, but what’s even more important in our eyes are the stories that we’re hearing from these customers about how Cubii has had a huge impact on their lives.
The story that has always stuck with me is when a customer’s father lost one of his legs in an accident. As a marathon runner, her father lost a lot of his confidence and felt like he was bound to his couch. She called me in tears and told me that Cubii completely changed her father’s life. He got a new sense of self-respect and he was happier and more energized. It’s those kinds of stories that resonate with us and make us realize that Cubii is making a huge impact in improving quality of life.
At Cubii, we don’t measure impact by revenue or units sold. We measure it by the lives we’ve touched and the impact we have. Right now, we’ve touched over 250,000 lives, and the goal is to continue growing that.
Do you personally read your product reviews?
What’s really important to me, and the company, is keeping our customer front and center.
That’s why I read our product reviews. I think it’s important for me to do so that I can understand what users enjoy about our products and what they think could be better.
In addition, our customer success team sits in the center of our open office space so that everyone in the office can hear the conversations that we’re having with Cubii users.
I also put my personal phone number in every product box we send out so our customers know that they can call me anytime with feedback. I hear from a wide range of customers every week about how they’re using our compact elliptical products and how the products have helped them recover from injury or helped boost their confidence.
Collecting feedback from customers isn’t unique—a lot of companies do it. But very few take the time to collect and act on it in a meaningful way. I think that’s how we’ve been able to continue creating products that have a real impact on the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Cubii users across the globe.
Anything else you want to add?
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of reading product reviews and listening to your customers.
After learning more about how customers were using our product, we decided to create a new model to address that, which will be available in Summer this year. We’re excited to see what both new and existing customers think of it.