Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tangerine dreams

Colour. Apart from price it's the one question or objection that always comes up on the sales floor - for low to mid priced bikes it's usually a choice of two, at the high end, one. Most of the time when I'm asked what other colours that blue dream bike on the floor comes in I usually make a joke of it and say "blue, blue and blue".

My customer then usually responds with a wisecrack about Henry Ford, Model-T's and the bicycle industry (yep, most of my customers are quick witted smartarses even though some of them appear to hide it really well).

I always take these kinds of questions home with me, and always with a big what if? This time it's - "what if bicycles were available in an unlimited selection of colours?"

The Long Tail, Chris Anderson's exploration of new economics, culture and commerce ('How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand') provides a few examples (c13/p203) of companies that are using this economy of choice to grow their business, and it was on the topic of colour that one resonated with me. KitchenAid.

But between 2001 and 2003, KitchenAid built a system to offer all of it's colours - typically more than fifty between it's different models - online. If you shop for mixers on Amazon or KitchenAid.com, you can now pick any of those colours from a drop down menu. These include the regular staples along with bolder colours that are Web-only: pistachio, tangerine, cranberry, grape, crystal blue, sienna, lemon and others.

He goes on to note that when presented with this 'unlimited' choice, customers didn't stop at the selection available in retail outlets, they went on to explore and purchase just about every other colour on offer as well. Anderson finished the KitchenAid example with this:

But until KitchenAid had an online channel that allowed customers to pick from it's full range of products, it had no way of knowing that there was latent consumer demand that it hadn't previously tapped.

Of course neither do we, but I reckon we can make a pretty informed guess. The industry has dealt with a host of possible customer objections, saddles are a good example, now an area where just about every shape of backside appears to be catered for and where every permutation sells, but still it seems we have not dealt properly with that most emotional of questions. Colour.

So? What if? Is it doable? Would it grow sales? Will this much colour choice drive everyone crazy?

Posted by Spinopsys at 3:05 AM 12 comments

Friday, January 26, 2007

Who should we be targeting?

Warning: This is a very mountain bike slanted post.

For any industry to grow you have to get people that aren't using your products or services to start using them.

A very obvious observation I know, however my question for this post is who we should be targeting to sell more mountain bikes to?

Two potential groups immediately come to mind...

First, the casual riders. Those people we all see on the $150 department bikes either on the paved trails or easy singletrack. Often without a helmet and wearing some sort of denim.

Second, the non-bike sports enthusiasts. Your long distance runners, kayakers, hikers/climbers, etc. The people that are already doing "adventure sports" but just haven't thrown a leg over a mountain bike yet.

My first thought was to go after the first group. They already own a bike so maybe getting them to upgrade and get more involved would be a logical next step. Then the devil's advocate in my brain kicks in and asks the questions... "Haven't these people already shown what they think a bike is worth?" and "In general, do these people look like they are into pushing themselves to more dangerous and/or harder stuff?"

That's when I thought of the second group. These people already push themselves into taking on harder sports and many of them understand spending big money on gear to get the stuff that will work long term and take a beating. To me marketing mountain bikes to these people would be a great way to get more people to jump into our sport.

I recently took a trip to the local book store and spent some time flipping through different adventure sports magazines. The general Outside magazine along with hiker, kayaker, runner, etc specific rags and none of them had much, if any, advertising for mountain bikes. So it seems that most of the bike companies are spending their cash in areas that current mountain bikers already exist. In other words, everyone is fighting for a share of the same marketplace.

Am I missing something? Shouldn't some money be spent on getting more people into the sport... especially those people already with an inclination towards adventure sports? What's your thoughts?

Tim Grahl
Quasi-Koolaid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Grahl at 6:53 AM 12 comments

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Taiwan- the center of the cycling universe; I'm leaving on a jet plane...

Friday morning, bright and early, I begin the long series of flights from San Diego to Taiwan. Yep, my first trip to the defacto center of the cycling universe.

The overwhelming majority of cycling products are now produced in Taiwan, especially bicycles/ frames. This isn't a bad thing either. The product quality is as good as anywhere else in the world (I promise you) and they have tons of experience in manufacturing and R&D of cycling products. No, it isn't Italy or even the USofA, but the products work, are reliable and cost much less.

Taiwan and their manufacturing costs, even more than China, are to be thanked for the growth of the cycling market in this country and many others. Why? Consumers demand more and more for their money these days- regardless of the strength of the economy. Taiwan has helped to fuel that growth more than any other single factor. Think I'm wrong? Prove me wrong. Seriously- what other single factor has helped to spur growth so much, more than less expensive products? Lance? Nope. Lance helped sales, but price is always king.

So this trip will be educational for me in many ways and I am very excited about it. I can't wait to see some of those wacky products that will never see the light of day and then those gems that I hope will make their way onto my bikes because they are simply too good to pass up. I know I will be grinning from ear to ear on many occasions.

If you have something specific you want to see or know about, let me know. I will be trying to post from Taiwan, as time allows. I am sure there will be plenty to see and talk about.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 10:37 PM 5 comments

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

2007 Bloggies blog awards;

Our little slice of heaven here has been nominated for a 2007 Bloggie Award by Carlton Reid, editor/ founder of BikeBiz and podcasting virtuoso.

Here's the problem though; voting ends on Wednesday January 10th... so I have precious little time to beg each and every reader of this blog to go vote for us! Any category, I really don't care... maybe even every category. Maybe Carlton will tell us what category he nominated us in, but my guess is Best Group Blog.

So, if you're a fan (or simply want to get me to like you) go vote for us! Yes, I know it's a shameless plea, but I am a shameless man...

Thank you for your votes and thanks to Carlton for nominating us- it's an honor just to get nominated.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 10:05 PM 3 comments

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Time for a Revolution!

King Karl's post from the other day got me thinking as I followed the comment thread;
Al posted at 7:02 PM
I think that for commuting to be the next be thing, it will need a combination of things: 1) tax breaks/incentives for people to ride to work and/or employers to promote/support bike commuters 2) local communtities to support/promote the bike commuting - especially in smaller towns and the midwest and finally (and not necessarily my favorite but it has worked for hybrids) celebrities getting behind the movement.

To which I replied-

Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 8:13 PM
Al- good points. However, the main thing we need more than anything else?

Ready? Million dollar answer to all the problems right here;

We need more/ better bike paths. No matter of incentives will bring people out of the cars just to do battle with other people still sitting in their cars. If they feel that they are in danger, they won't ride. Most cities have little to no infrastructure to support cycling as a form of transportation.'

look at Portland, arguably the most bike friendly city in the US and they still have major concerns due to bike-friendly infrastructure. Just go to BikePortland.Org and read some of the threads there. Best bike city in the US and they still recognize a need for better bike paths, etc. And that's in Portland. Go to any other city and it is exponentially worse.

IB Rich Kelly got the thought rolling here- we need to support the folks who advocate for the cycling community and we need to get involved locally to improve conditions for average commuters or it will never, ever hit that critical mass that we need to really make a long lasting impact and effect change.

This is great stuff for another post...

And here we are...

I know that our new contributor Phil Gomes will have lots of ideas about all of this and he chimed in on the comments already. Phil's been behind this kind of thing for some time now. I have some thoughts about all of this as well... of course, or I wouldn't be here right now.

Here in the US, as in many countries, there simply isn't the infrastructure in place to support average folks becoming commuters. It just doesn't exist consistently on a city, county, state, regional or national level. Some places do a fine job of working with the cycling community and provide safe routes and lanes/ paths for cyclists, but they are exceptions and not the norm at all. We have to work to support a dramatic shift in thinking about bicycle commuting not just for the consumers who will be riding the bikes, but also for the folks who control the money that can provide the needed infrastructure.

The future health of the cycling industry is very closely pinned to bicycle commuting becoming a viable means for people to get back and forth to home, work and school. The way we live is so different now though and people are living farther and farther away from where they work. We have to help these folks by either providing safe routes for them or by having public/ mass transportation set up that accommodates bicyclists with bike racks and lockers. Roads are congested with cars these days, in most places it seems, and few new cyclists feel comfortable jumping into traffic. Sure, those of us who have been riding for years might not have a problem with it and might even wonder why there is such a fuss about cars, but we are not the future consumers and the key holders of the industry's future- it's the folks who don't already ride or don't think of commuting by bicycle. We have to help create a better riding environment for them.

Every time gas prices jump, some folks within the industry jump up and down and proclaim that the promised boom is now here... and then that boom turns in to a short spike (if anything) and fades away. Sustainable growth in the bike industry is not dependent on gas prices alone. Until US gas prices hit $10.00 per gallon, people are not going to get out of their cars and put their lives at risk to ride a bike to work, the store or school. It is false hope to believe that gas alone can save us.

So, before we start proclaiming that product innovation or gas prices are going to bring the "boom" we all desperately want to see in this wonderful business, we need to donate time and/ or money to our favorite bicycle advocacy group/s- whether it happens to be IMBA, Bikes Belong, your local bike-friendly congressperson or the radicals at Critical Mass.

The future of our industry is in their hands; are you/ we giving them the tools they need to win the fight for us?

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 11:20 PM 5 comments

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2007 - The Year of the Bicycle?

As we say bye-bye to the stale ol’ 2006 and welcome in the shiny, new-car smelling 2007 I wonder if this will be the year of the bicycle. For so many years I have patiently waited for it, but have never seen it.

I feel that 2006 was pretty good for the bike industry. The mainstream press has given more time to bicycles and the bike related products but as gas prices stabilize and winter sets in I wonder if people are going to ride to work less and think about bikes less.

My curiosity has been trying to figure out what the next big thing for the bike industry is. In the late 70’s it was road bikes (thanks Breaking Away) and in the mid 90’s mountain bikes were everywhere. Remember the days when you could make any mountain bike part out of 3D violet anodized aluminum and it would sell like crazy? What is the next trend that will bring that to the bike industry?

I have had the lucky fortune of having worked in both the ski and bike industries and it seems that we are both looking for the same thing. The bike industry has not had a big industry trend since the mountain bike (Razor scooters don’t count) and the ski industry has not seen a large-scale surge since the advent of the snowboard. They have tried to make a push with snow-blades, tele-boards and my favorite non-sport-sport, Nordic Walking. Even with a bit of mainstream press in the NY Times, Nordic Walking is failing miserably in the US. Americans just don’t feel that they should have to buy $50.00 poles to go for a walk.

Fixed geared bikes are gaining in popularity but yearly sales estimates are only about 8,000 units in the US.
Cyclocross? Possibly. If you are serious you have to buy two bikes.
Big-hit bikes? Not likely.
Singlespeed-29er-full suspension with 3.4” tires and disk brakes on the front only? Doubt it!

So, as an industry, what are we doing to bring the next big thing to the market? Is 2007 going to be the year of the bicycle?

Posted by Karl Wiedemann at 7:59 AM 17 comments