Zero Barrier to Entry Business Design

a summertime case study in slides and real-world stickiness

The online concept of something being “sticky” comes in many forms — the main premise is that someone starts to do something and then has reason to keep doing it.

· Facebook is sticky because once someone starts to participate there, then they will miss real-life events of their friends if they don’t check back.

· Flappy Birds was sticky because everyone wanted to beat the game.

· Snapchat is sticky because your friends are all there and you miss the social conversation if you are not there.

· Amazon is made more sticky by Prime.

The list goes on and on.

In this note we look at offline stickiness, with two specific examples that also reference our recent article on “fun”.

How do I add “stickiness” to my business?

The Shoe Store (for children)

Shops spend a lot of time on floor layout, to make the items maximally enticing to the customer, drawing them into the store and presenting the materials that they are most likely to buy.

Some shops will use the approach of using child eye-level to plant enticing items for that demographic, like candy or Pokemon cards. This approach feels manipulative, and tends to put customers (the ones with the money — the parents) on the defensive.

We spend a little time here with a brilliant use of child-centered stickiness in the form of a bit of fun — a simple slide.

The slide we noticed recently is in a shoe shop in a good district. The layout is important, so we spend a few sentences here: the shop is on 2 levels, the street level and the downstairs. The stairway to the lower level is right by the front entrance, and that entrance is a wide-open glass door. Just on right as you enter, following the curve as the stairs turn a corner at a landing, is a built-in carved-wood slide.

The children don’t even need to climb a ladder to take this slide, they are already at the “top”.

Imagine how many children walk right in the door and slide right down the slide. Who wouldn’t!? There’s no barrier to FUN!

The shoe shop, cleverly, put the children’s department downstairs.

The shoe shop has created a very natural — and quite fun — sticky situation. The child has (asked mom and then) gone down the slide. Mom goes down the stairs too to make sure all is ok. Now mom is downstairs. In the kids’ shoes department. And the kid probably needs new shoes (those feet grow fast).

The stickiness comes from the small barrier that is now between the mom and leaving — the stairs back up. Granted, this is not a big barrier — meanwhile the kid is running up the stairs again to take the slide trip a second time. But for the mom, why not have a look at the kids’ shoes before heading back up?


For a mom with an active kid, this setup has the additional sticky benefits of

1) keeping the kid entertained while she is shopping (Stairs! Slide! Stairs! Slide!); and

2) getting a positive outlet for some of the kid’s pent-up energy.

The Club (for adults)

We can already hear you saying that such a situation can only be created with adventurous children. And yet, there is proof that picking up the fun part to create a sticky moment also works with adults.

You want to experience it yourself? Visit San Francisco and go to a club named “Slide”. You will find it just around Union Square. The name says it all — Slide is the only club in the world that will allow you to either take the stairs (boring) or take the slide (FUN!). The owner says “it absolutely brings out the kid in everyone”. Especially since it brings you into a dark, mysterious room, where the party starts.

So imagine you are having a great night out, everyone has had a couple of drinks in a bar and you and your friends are now looking for a club. One of your friends takes the slide — most likely all the others will follow. Once you have all your friends in the club, why go upstairs and walk out to look for another club?


In our article on “fun” we imagined that you were pointing out to us how obvious is that fact that building a giant piano onto a subway staircase is going to be fun. We imagined you pointed out the Tom Hanks movie Big, and how we have known for years that giant pianos are tons of fun.

Similarly here, we can imagine that bringing to you the rather simple point that “Hey, slides are fun!” will meet with you saying “Yep, I knew that”. We turn it back to you again and ask why every kids’ department at every shop isn’t downstairs with a slide by the door.


There are other business configurations in which a real-world stickiness premise can be applied, similar to these brilliantly configured examples in the shoe store or the club.

We give these two cases to you as a benchmark to think of when you are designing your real-world sticky situation.

— Is someone having fun?

— Is someone accomplishing something in a better way?

— Is anyone feeling manipulated?

— Is there some other reason (preferably positive) that someone feels compelled to keep engaged in your situation?


To contrast these “sticky” slides, we highlight a counter-example as a foil — a slide that draws you in with the promise of fun, then turns the tables on you immediately.

In Berlin, there was a museum exhibit that has had a lasting and bitter aftertaste.

Again, a slide.

This slide was in the museum level exhibit, on an upper floor. As in the shoe shop and the club, there was not ladder up — so no “barrier to entry.” It was clear that you were invited to use the slide as a slide — something quite subversive in a museum! You get to touch the art in a museum!? You get to go on a slide as an adult!? Do you dare!?

The awful part happened just after the jolt of joy of daring and the fun of touching the art and taking the slide! You did it! It’s fun! Oh Nein! You end up at the bottom of the slide, which is placed in the middle of the actual offices of the museum, where people are doing actual real work, and are now shuffling actual paperwork right past you — the annoying child-like adult who is doing inappropriate things in the middle of the work day in the middle of the office.

Best to just straighten your clothes and get out, walking with as much dignity as possible, given that you were just now having fun taking a slide.

Extrapolation of anti-sticky slide

In this case example, the artist who set up the slide created a specific manipulation as a trap and a play on emotions.

We give you this story, as a foil to the prior fun slides, because this example also comes to bear in real-world situations. A straight-forward example that springs to mind is when shops advertise sales, loudly, on their shop-front windows — only to make the customer feel like day-old fish if they actually deign to go to the sales racks. There are more examples. As you design your user situation, see if there are any anti-sticky slide equivalents built in.

— Is anyone going to feel bad doing the thing you are enticing them to do?

— Is anybody incented to make anybody else feel bad for the enticing thing?

— Does your plan involve a bait-and-switch?

— If your customer has taken part in your situation, will they do it again?

— Will they recommend it to friends? Enemies?


Since it is summer and everyone is outside on the playgrounds and beaches, we invite you to think very concretely about slides, about fun, and about how stories of slides can have such different outcomes — which one are you setting your customers up for?

— Jennah Kriebel and Mutlu Yoenel