Taipei Cycle Show, Daily Report Day 2: E-Bikes, E-Bikes, E-Bikes, E-bikes

‘’The product becomes the platform & the service becomes the product.’’

This year, the Taipei Cycle Forum with the theme “Keep Pace with the Next Bike Age” was extended to 2 days with four sessions covering pressing topics such as e-bikes, dumping regulations, smart manufacturing, and e-mobility. The conference room was packed - a clear indicator that industry players are curious to know more on what thought leaders have to say about these topics.

Customer wish fulfilment

It should be logical that the product fulfils the customer’s wishes, unfortunately that does not really happen that often. That was the opening statement of the day - a strong one that immediately made the whole room sit at the edge of their seat. The industry makes itself believe that it listens to customers’ demand, while in fact it’s just looking at a set of numbers of the previous sales year - which is a compromise pure sang.

Convenience is key

To actually give the customer the sense that they are heard and that their wishes are fulfilled, go observe them. This was the first takeaway of the day stated by Hannes Neupert, Executive Director of EnergyBus. Fortunately, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel, other industries have already done it. The conclusion: customers look for convenience.

Find that balance: look at adjacent industries

But every customer has different needs. To find a balance between customer wishes and product design, a compromise should be found. According to the research conducted by ExtraEnergy there are no less than fifteen types of bicycle users: from urban and business, to leisure and comfort. So how to make a bike that fits all? Don’t.

But how to find that balance? Neupert illustrated his point with the example of the car manufacturer Toyota. They build a car which is the perfect compromise between a family car and a car that can transport cargo at the same time. The motor is the same, but the outside is adapted to make life more convenient.

“Don’t try harder, try different”

This was the mantra that Han Goes, managing consultant at Q Square Consultants, wants all industry players to repeat in their minds. The societal trends are clear, 75% of the current population in the industrialized world live in metropolitan areas. The prediction is that by 2050, 70% of the world population will live in cities. This means that we have to be creative in overcoming mobility issues. “In urban traffic, there are so many cars that they don’t go fast anymore,” said Neupert. Similarly, Goes finds that the likes of Uber and Lyft do not and cannot ease congestion dramatically in light of increasing population density in cities.

Service is the product

In order to get rid of congestion, people should own lesser vehicles and share more. We can already see sharing economy in the bicycle industry too with the likes of Ofo, Jump and Lime Bike. However, this does not have to mean a decrease in production rate. According to Goes, ‘’The product becomes the platform & the service becomes the product.’’ Harnessing new technologies such as IoT will allow collection of big data that will inform bicycle manufacturers on how e-bikes are being used, and therefore allowing them to offer better services.

Cross-industry exchange

Goes also encourages and emphasized the need for cross-industry discussions, especially one that involves government and IT. The need to rethink and redesign e-mobility given that societal trends is real and coming fast. Bicycle retailers, IT vendors, and public offices need to join their efforts to create a sustainable infrastructure for future e-mobility.

We believe participants of the forum left with a lot of food for thought. Over 95% of the attendees in the room believe that in 25 years, e-bikes will be the norm in Taiwan. How far along are we in making this come true? What must happen for this to be a reality? But most of all, what does that tell us about the bicycle industry itself? It tells us that the international bicycle industry has the same dream. Also, it tells us that they are optimistic about the idea that all the different stakeholders can work together to make this come true, especially given that Taipei has to even start making inroads to a more bicycle-friendly infrastructure.