Products and marketing
Distinctive brands and collections are crucial in the battle for the hearts of consumers. We encourage bicycle use and enrich the cycling experience with state-of-the-art design and smart, surprising innovations.
But our products do not sell themselves. Today’s consumers want more than a high-quality product; they also want buying convenience.
Product innovation and design
We innovate and design our products with the consumer in mind. Not only for the top models in our bicycle collections, but also for our basic and mid-range models, to ensure that we can supply top-quality bicycles at every price level and to suit the budget of every consumer.
In addition to the available technology, market research is also an important basis for innovation. We identify customer needs via consumer panels and tests.
To these we then add insights we gain from the specialist bicycle and sports retailers and target group analyses. This gives us a broad picture of how consumers use and maintain their bicycles. Based on these insights, we then move on to develop new product concepts. We subsequently involve consumers in the process again, by testing prototypes in our own experience centres. This approach boosts the success rate of our innovations and at the same time also reduces our time to market.
In 2017, we worked on various new development processes on this front. These included enhancing the performance of our e-bikes, the further integration of components and accessories in the frame and new Internet of Things applications for bicycle use.
Target-audience focused development and performance improvement
E-bikes now come in all shapes and sizes. You can find them in the category city and touring bikes, but also in mountain bikes and racing bikes, cargo and folding bike ranges. Development and design are geared to specific target groups and kinds of use. Propulsion and action radius technology are improving every year and becoming relatively less expensive. We work closely with suppliers of batteries and motors to provide the best possible target-audience focused solutions. In addition to ground-breaking innovations at the highest level, sometimes in exclusive partnerships with suppliers, we make sure that that new technology becomes more accessible for the middle segment, where volumes are greater.
Integrated components and accessories
There is a great deal of demand from consumer for the integration of cables, batteries and motors in the bike frame. This also offers significant benefits in terms of design and damage reduction. Although this is frequently a matter of details, these types of innovations can have enormous impact on the visibility and image of a bike. At the same time, it does challenge our product developers in terms of complexity, producibility and maintenance-friendliness. This why we design more and more of our bikes on the basis of a holistic design vision.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is opening up a completely new market. In 2017, we launched our first connected bikes, including the Sparta M8i and the Haibike eConnect. These models come with anti-theft detection and crash notification, plus they give route advice and record routes. We are only at the cradle of this development. We many more possibilities to explore, including those using computer displays. Managed centrally at group level, in 2017 a number of brands worked on the development of platforms, apps, applications and central data storage. We are focusing on applications that enhance the cycling experience and make bikes even more convenient for consumers.
Together with commercial partners, national governments and local authorities, we are working on new 'mobility as a service' concepts on various fronts. For instance, for bike leasing, bike rental and sharing, but also on improving access and flow in ever-more congested cities, with a view to creating a better living environment. This includes complete concepts for the delivery of the required bicycles to the management of the bicycle fleet. This approach is enabling us to develop new revenue models with continuous income flows. We are using the partnership with Beeline Bikes in North America to explore the potential for mobile services in fields such as maintenance and repairs.
We do everything in our power to protect the innovations we release on the market every year, by using international patent and model protections. By year-end 2017, Accell Group had 65 patents and model protections in its design portfolio and an additional 10 pending patent applications.
All our products are made of high-quality materials and we are constantly on the look-out for smart solutions that increase user-friendliness and traffic safety. Every product meets the highest international safety standards, such as those laid down in ISO (World), ASTM (USA), EN (Europe) and IEC standards for electrical components. In many instances, our internal safety requirements exceed these standards.
Brand portfolio and collections
We want to offer a winning portfolio of brands in every market we are active in, which is why we work continuously on the differentiating potential of our brands. And where necessary, we reduce the number of brands available on a particular market. In 2017, we stopped producing a number of niche brands in Germany and the United Kingdom, including Sinus, Staiger and Active. These brands were produced exclusively for a special channel and were not distinctive enough.
In 2017, we made a start on rationalising a number of our brand collections. On the pretext of ‘less is more’ and ‘good, better, best’, we reduced the number of SKUs and variations. This enables us to create a more transparent range for consumers, make their choices easier and provide product ranges that respond more effectively to consumer demands, as well as realise shorter throughput times.
Koga F3 6.0
Award: IF Design Award 2017 and Good Industrial Design 2017
The KOGA F3 6.0 has been developed for cyclists who aim for sportiness, design and sustainable quality. The technical ingenious frame and front fork with KOGA-Crown-Connect-Technology enabled the engineers to route all cables completely internal. The look of the super-smooth-welded frame is enhanced by a combination of round and sharp edges, giving the bike a clean, sleek look. The equipment with belt-drive and internal gear hub, in combination with hydraulic disc brakes, offers ultimate cycling pleasure and low maintenance effort.
Customer journey and omni-channel
In 2017, we began categorising customer target groups and their specific wishes and requirements. Taking a systematic approach, we are mapping out the selection and purchasing process (customer journey) of various types of consumers in each country. What this revealed is that the specialist retailer plays a vital role in virtually every customer journey.
We have made progress on the development of our brands’ own direct-to-consumer channels. Most brand websites are currently still focused on the promotion of collections and on providing information. In 2017, we developed a blueprint at group level, on the basis of which all brand websites will in the future have a largely identical webshop architecture and a uniform CRM system. The brands will be able to offer a range of options, such as booking a test ride at a local dealership or purchasing a bicycle using click & collect. The uniform platform offers major benefits for us as a group in terms of data analysis and customising our products and services to consumers.
In addition to our webshops, Accell’s experience centres are also an important part of our omni-channel strategy. Following the opening of De Fietser (The Cyclist) in Ede in 2016, Accell Group opened a new, more compact experience centre in France in 2017.
In 2017, we introduced a new margin model for all our distribution partners in the Netherlands. The aim of this new model to help create a more equal and fair playing field when it comes to price levels in the various sales channels we use in our omni-channel strategy. The basic premise of the model is that our partners are paid a margin that is a fairer reflection of the added value they provide.
Consumers often begin their purchase of a bicycle or bike-related with an online orientation. This is why we want to make sure our brands and products are visible to consumers at the start of the buying process. With this in mind, we continued to shift our marketing mix towards online in 2017 and focused a major proportion of our marketing efforts on addressing consumers directly.
Data analytics & performance measurement
In 2017, we started to harmonise how we collect the visitor statistics of our brand websites centrally. This provides us with the opportunity to create a dashboard at group level, which we can then use to gain immediate insight into the online performance of our brands.
Customer relationship management
A strong CRM system is crucial for a consumer-centric organisation. As is it in other projects, the group organisation’s main priority is the selection of suitable suppliers and design of an effective process. This enables our operating companies to strengthen and broaden their online and offline relationship with consumers.
Our digital marketing effort focuses primarily on increasing findability and generating leads. Via online search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and targeted online campaigns (SEA), we guide consumers to our platforms, try to seduce them with a targeted product range and support them through the purchasing process.
Every year, we set ourselves the target of making more than one million euro available for local, regional and international initiatives that contribute to making mobility more sustainable, foster the health and safety of consumers and promote bicycle use worldwide. When calculating that target, we also include 30% of the amount we spend annually on professional sports sponsoring.
Our international sports brands take a selective approach to sponsoring. It increases their visibility and relevance among specific target groups and connects the brand to individual top athletes and teams that compete for prizes at the highest levels. For instance, Lapierre was materials sponsor of the French ProTour Team FDJ in 2017. Other brands are active as sponsors of professional mountain bike and downhill teams.
Cycling heroes in the broadest sense of the word not only act as ambassadors for our brands with their performances, they also promote cycling as a sport and inspire young people to take up sports and cycling.
Sponsoring plays a limited role for our national bike brands, and on this front we the focus on appropriate bicycle-related local initiatives with a social character.
Leadership role and social dialogue
As a major player in the bicycle industry, we believe we have a responsibility to actively contribute to the solutions to societal challenges that are close to us. In 2017, we contributed ideas on a number of fronts about clean, healthy and safe mobility solutions in cities and their outskirts. We also played an active role in promoting fair trade and competition in the bicycle industry.
To makes its active dialogue with all the other organisations involved as effective as possible, Accell Group is affiliated with numerous national and international organisations, sector associations and initiatives that are specifically aimed at promoting health, safety and sustainable mobility. These include the WFSGI (World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry), the ECF (European Cyclists’ Federation), various country organisations such as the Dutch RAI Vereniging, the French Univelo and ZIV in Germany, as well as the European umbrella organisation CONEBI. We have seats on the boards and in the committees of these organisations. 
Support EBMA for fair competition within the EU
The EBMA (European Bicycle Manufacturers Association) advocates fair competition and as part of that effort promotes the interests of the European bicycle industry and employment in the sector. In 2017, EBMA campaigned against the unlimited import into Europe of cheap Chinese e-bikes, which are sold at consumer prices well below the EU cost price thanks to massive Chinese government subsidies. The EBMA submitted an objection to the European Commission in 2017 and has asked for measures including new anti-dumping regulations. These regulations have been in place for traditional bicycles for many years but do not yet exist for e-bikes. We support EBMA’s efforts on this front and by doing help protect the roughly EUR 1 billion in investments made by European bicycle and bike parts manufacturers and the more than 90,000 jobs in our industry.