Corporate social responsibility key to market share
You never forget how to ride one. And the astonishing figures for annual bicycle sales suggest millions of people continue to ride for exercise, leisure and environmentally friendly commuting.
In 2010, the last year for which statistics are available, Americans spent about $6 billion on bikes and parts, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. The industry suffered in the economic downturn that began in 2008, but rebounded in 2010 with a 15% jump over 2009 — an enviable leap in any industry and under any circumstance.
And here is an interesting statistic: even as automobile ownership increases exponentially in countries like China, bike ownership is growing even faster worldwide. In the mid-1960s, about the same number of cars and bikes were produced worldwide — about 20 million. Today, more than 100 million bicycles are produced every year, more than double the number of cars.
While bikes have long been a key means of transportation worldwide, in the Developed World, bike riding was once the purview of the young or eccentric. Today, people of all ages recognize cycling as an excellent avenue for exercise, without the effects running can have on the joints. Where bikes were once regarded as hazardous nuisances on the side of the road, cities are now integrating – even prioritizing – cyclists needs into urban planning.
There seems to be no downside to the industry, with environmental and health concerns pointing to continued growth. What industry marketers might have to concern themselves with is standing out in an ever-growing industry. For many cyclists, a bike is a bike. For the more fanatical, the advantages of one model or the necessity of certain accoutrements can bring out astonishing passions. Price points range wildly, from a few dollars to many thousands.
And while cycling is more popular than ever with all age groups, it remains, like all physical activities, more common among the young. Combined with the fact that 18 to 30 year old Millennials are trading up to adult bikes and applying to cycling the same critical attention for which they are notorious, the bike industry needs to focus very intently on this demographic.
The variables are as enormous as the style of bikes available, but one thing can set a brand apart from the others. Millennials are the most socially conscious generation ever. Among cyclists, many of whom are driven by environmental impulses, this is probably disproportionately true.
All other things being equal, Millennials will support the brands that reflect the values they care about. This is a crucial entry point to meet this $400 billion demographic. Corporate social responsibility is not a frill. To reach the next generation of powerful consumers and build brand loyalty while on university or college campuses, CSR is an absolute necessity.
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