ebike brands like Haibike, Flyer, Kalkhoff, Winora and others have been living in close symbiosis with their established network of dealers. they were having a prosperous relationship that could have easily lasted a little longer. but the world around them is changing fast. suddenly everybody talks about omnichannel marketing and -distribution, which forces the IBDs to reconsider their business model. Decathlon which is expanding with an amazing pace, or non-bike retailers like Saturn, Media-Markt and others, are all ramping up their e-mobility ambitions. and as if that would not already be enough, the traditional bike/ebike dealer is facing hefty competition from within the industry – dynamically growing bike retail chains like Stadler, BOC or Lucky Bike are increasing their market share rapidly. all of them challenging the classical IBD, and all of them getting prepared for the upcoming battle for the customer and with that for the power in the market.
let‘s have a quick look at one of these groups – the bike retail chains, to understand why they are so successful. i guess it comes down to that they offer the customer a lot – a huge selection, omnichannel if desired, some well-placed sales promotions, potentially lower prices, indoor testing areas, a spacious ambiance orchestrating bikes and here and there a coffee or more. a visit to their stores is or is about to become an experience. sure still with plenty of room to intensify, but all in all a customer experience that leaves the classical dealer lost in space. and with all these benefits in hand, it doesn‘t require much imagination to expect their further dynamic expansion.
these are for sure rather unpleasant perspectives for the smaller bike dealers. leaving them wondering how to compete. but what impact will this development have on the ebike manufacturers/brands? will they just adapt to the new distribution situation and continue otherwise with business as usual, or are there other potential consequences?
obviously, these large chains the bigger they get, will further increase their price negotiating power, reducing the manufacturers‘ profit margins. more challenging though seems to me the development of ebike trade brands. at the moment, they are mostly positioned in the price entry segment. something that doesn‘t impact the manufacturer's business too much, since this price positioning is still rather complimenting then competing.
but, what if the retail chains come up with the idea to seriously develop attractive ebike trade brands and eventually even upgrade them to participate also in the higher and potentially more profitable price segments. it seems to be a logical next step. it poses the question of why they didn‘t do it yet? it‘s probably still due to a lack of product/brand development competence and innovative thinking. so let‘s assume, they would have the means to develop well-staged ebike trade brands, with the corresponding portfolio of attractively designed ebikes ... what then?
as a consequence, things would get tougher for the existing ebike OEMs and their profit margins. players that can unite product- and brand development with state of the art marketing- and sales channels under one roof will have control over the entire value- and profit chain. invest an adequate share of this money in your further competitiveness and the markets balance of power might end.
well, we‘ll find out whether this is a realistic scenario or whether other influences will create a different development. however, considering the fact that big distribution players with deep pockets and ambitious strategies are pushing strongly into the market will change the rules of the game. for the classical bike dealer, for the ebike manufacturers and beyond ...