This year marks the bicycle’s 200th anniversary.
At the time an absolute revolution in the realm of individual transportation, the bike is to this day a modern versatile mode of transport that provides an answer to many economic and political problems as well as some in the future.
In just the past year, over four million bikes were purchased in Germany alone according to recent numbers released by the German Bicycle Industry Association (ZIV). This marks a 6.9% decline in the figure from last year. This trend can be attributed largely to last year’s unseasonably cool and rainy conditions in spring and summer. Unlike most other industries, the bicycle business is largely dependent upon weather patterns during the seasons. When the weather is bad, only the devoted few elect to employ this mode of transportation, while most prefer to leave their bikes on the chain.
Although the number of bikes purchased in 2016 declined significantly, interestingly the total euro sales for the industry increased by 2.6 Million. For that, you have the electric bike to thank. In the last year alone, 605,000 electric bikes were sold in Germany – a drastic increase of 13% from 2015. With the 15% increase in sales revenue for the industry as a whole and three million electric two-wheelers on German roads and bike paths, one can already see the massive impact e-bikes are having on the economy as well as individual mobility in everyday life. In the long-run, the ZIV predicts the electric bike to attain a market share of 30%.
Whether or not the e-bike will have to fight its perception as a strictly senior mode of transportation remains to be seen, but the bicycle industry looks forward to the day that they can attain greater popularity among young people. The target areas for this industry which include mountain bikers, casual riders and bike messengers is populated largely by the younger generation. Manufacturers realize this and hope to take advantage of the trend towards digitalization and electrification in association with PR and positive advertising in order to sway these young people.
In addition to the problems posed by perception, a multitude of manufacturers are having a hard time keeping pace with today’s technological progress. This provides a significant roadblock in their pursuit of a profitable place in the bike market. By gaining a clear and competitive position, e-bikes hope to carve out their own chunk of the industry as well as imprint their product in the minds of the public. In the local market alone, around 200 brands compete by means of a foot race to this all-so-crucial chunk of the cheese in the hopes of gaining the favor of their customers. While it may seem logical that this distinction could best be achieved by proper and efficient PR, many companies neglect this tool. Additionally, many of the smaller companies choose not to put in place a system of communicating with customers that hinges upon this sort of digitalized communication seen widely today through social media. This is resulting in the manufacturers and their brands being forgotten in favor of brands that the public is regularly exposed to through these outlets.
The trend towards electrification also means that other bike models are being left in the past, thereby suffering in sales. Producers who are no longer willing to change the way they communicate with the public or come down off their prices will have a hard time securing a lucrative position in the industry. The next time the weather takes a lasting turn for the worse during prime bike-selling season, these companies’ future may be even gloomier than the skies.
Today, it is exceedingly important for companies to put in place a social media presence in order to foster relations with and integrate their customers. User-generated content is a mighty tool for marketers that can be used to attain support through recognition by the customers of a business. Having customers who will recommend and recount their own experiences and opinions to others is more important towards building a brand than any means of advertising the company could undertake alone. Strategic PR when partnered with good storytelling allows well placed user-generated content the opportunity to have tremendous influence on the purchasing decisions of the masses.