How Firefox Bikes is tapping into India’s bicycling boom
As cycling becomes cool and in demand, premium bicycle brand Firefox Bikes is looking at the category with renewed excitement and marketing investment. It has just launched its first branded future-ready experience center in India. The Drum finds out from Manika Sharma, head of marketing, Firefox Bikes, how the two-wheeler brand is planning to increase its footprint to cater to the post-pandemic surge in demand.
Firefox Bikes is betting big on its ‘experience store’ in India
Of the many things to have been dusted of cobwebs in the post-Covid world, one of the definite categories on the list is two-wheeler premium bicycles. The category has been on a roll in India, with more and more people taking to it. While markets such as Amsterdam have always been cycling-friendly, the more populated and crowded ones including India had not seen that demand until recently.
The last two years, however, have been extraordinary for the category. “Historic numbers of people across the globe are discovering that bicycles are powerful instruments of transformation and an answer to some complex global problems like public health, global warming and alternate transport,” points out Manika Sharma, head of marketing at Firefox Bikes, India’s leading premium bicycle brand (a Hero Cycles Group company). It is a common truth now that the global pandemic has touched people in many ways – they are more health-conscious, more concerned about addressing environmental challenges, and more committed to changing their behavior to advance sustainability. And they realize that cycling can help address many of those concerns while also being a fun thing to do.
Many players are thus seeing this category with much more enthusiasm, and also allocating more marketing dollars to have a part in its growth. Firefox Bikes recently announced the launch of its first branded experience center in Mumbai “to establish a positive and interpersonal engagement with the consumer and shape their perception toward Firefox,” according to Sukanta Das, its chief executive officer. The idea behind the company-owned company-operated store is to offer a fun, unique, engaging and immersive user experience to the new-age cycle rider.
The brand journey in the last 18 months
The pandemic has led to a generation of new riders who are adopting biking to stay fit and also as a sustainable way of living. Firefox Bikes has had a good growth journey in this backdrop. Sharma says: “We have grown four times in the last two years.”
As a category leader, the brand intends to create world-class customer journeys at all touchpoints, both digital and physical. The just-launched Mumbai experience center is designed as a destination for ushering a biking culture in the city, she adds.
The changing demand cycle
Culturally and socially, two-wheelers in general and bicycles in particular were never seen as fashionable things in many of the emerging economies. Four-wheelers were seen as the markers of personal growth. The pandemic has changed a lot of that, with consumers re-thinking paradigms of health and fitness, as well as environmentally-sustainable choices. In that backdrop, cycles have become the go-to choice for many consumers across age bands. Sharma shares: “The demand for bikes is coming largely for adult bikes – MTBs and hybrids, across town classes, and we expect this trend to continue.”
The evolution of the marketing journey for the cycle brand
The marketing strategy for this evolving category revolves around creating great customer journeys and engagement, starting with discovery, shares Sharma. “We enable discovery of the brand on digital through our website, connect and engage on social media and enable experience through our stores.”
The experience center is being pitched as a physical manifestation of the brand ethos. The concept of these stores is tied strongly to the brand’s commitment to helping customers make an effortless choice, providing bikes that meet their specific and evolving needs, adds Sharma. The brand plans to expand its footprint by adding 150 stores across India, with eight experience centers in major metros and Tier-1 cities.
The experience store playbook
The first-of-its-kind experience center has been got a completely refreshed design and look to build a new-age retail identity for the Firefox brand and match its positioning of being “an edgy, path-breaking and future-forward brand”.
The store livery has been deployed to reflect an edgy visual theme, with black and orange colors used to build a premium and vibrant presence for the stores.
Each touchpoint in-store is designed to elevate customer interaction so that they engage with the brand, products and services on a whole new level, shares Sharma.
To add to the buying experience and customer interaction, the store will also have digital engagements through virtual reality (VR) and gamification, she adds.
State-of-the-art service areas, displays of top biking routes and upcoming rides have been designed for the social and community space for customers to interact with the brand.