This also has happend in the bike industry. While traditional bikes with many gears are certainly still in high demand, the opposite side of the scale has a growing fanbase as well: The single-gear bike, or the "Fixie". Being a popular and trendy product, it was just a question of time until somebody specialized in offering customized fixies to a growing customer base.
One such vendor is Big Shot Bikes. The Fort Collins, CO based company has been founded and is beeing run by Matt Peterson who we met for an interview on this special sector of the mass customization market and his role in it, his views on MC in general and the benefits of only having one gear.
FTP: Matt, you are the owner and founder of Big Shot Bikes. Can you tell our reader a bit about yourself, your background and your passion for quality bikes?
MP: Well, growing up in Colorado I had always been active in the outdoors; traditionally I am a software engineer by trade and I had worked for quite some time for a large telecom company. Having rode out the tech and telecom bubble, I had become burnt out on the corporate environment. So in 2009, I saw an opportunity to merge two of my passions, software and cycling. I had noticed a trend emerging in single speed bikes with bright colors that people had built up themselves. I thought this was a natural fit for customization. With a small initial investment, I dove in, leveraging my skills in software and ecommerce to create a company and brand that is doing quite well and gaining market share.
FTP: Big Shot Bikes offers customized bicycles. While there is competition on that market, what is special about your bikes?
MP: Hands down the most appealing part about our bikes is the customization and sense of style that comes with owning one of our bikes.
People love the opportunity to create a design that matches their own personality. We get quite a few emails from customers telling us how they have been complimented on their bike and how they take a sense of pride in the color scheme that they created.
FTP: What makes a single speed or fixed gear bike so desirable? Does it not limit you to have only one gear?
MP: Single speed bikes have become a recent cultural phenomenon. Sure, there are some limitations to having one gear, but there are also advantages. The simplicity of going back to basics is what is drawing many riders. No gears to tune or clicking derailleur to worry about. This low maintenance factor means you can just get on and ride.
FTP: Who is your main customer group? Are these bikes just for the younger ones amongst us?
MP: The majority of our customers are definitely younger, mostly college aged. But we sell to all age groups. In fact, we recently sold a bike to an 81 year old ex-racer in Arizona. So really our bikes are for anyone with a sense of style and just wants a fun bike to ride, no matter what age or background.
FTP: Can you outline your customization, ordering and delivery in a few sentences? How does everything work together?
MP: Sure, our system is designed to be fully integrated with our inventory management system. If a color or part is available on the build tool, that means it is currently in stock. Once an item becomes out of stock, it immediately disappears from the customization tool; this is critical in being able to effectively fill orders. Once an order is captured, our inventory system is updated and the order goes through a series of status change. Customers will receive three notifications: one to confirm the order, another to let them know the bike is being built. The final notification is integrated into our shipping software and a final notification containing the tracking information for the bike. Lastly we integrate right in with our shipping software and tracking provided once the bike is shipped. We also have the ability to track and attach customer support tickets to orders that have shipped just in case we have any issues once the customer receives the bike.
FTP: Especially interesting for our non-US readers: Do you deliver worldwide?
MP: We do. We ship to just about any country that FedEx will service via international economy air. We have shipped to most of Europe and a few more exotic locations such as Egypt and South Africa. Granted, the shipping charges are steep, averaging about $200 USD for international shipping.
FTP: What do you think will the future hold for the mass customization landscape? Will it stay a trend, become a standard or even redefine how we sell and buy products in the future?
MP: Honestly, I feel it will stay a trend, or more appropriately a new established niche in commerce. Mass customization is ideal for direct to consumer sales model. But I feel that traditional product manufacture and distribution will remain the dominant form of commerce while mass customization will supplement it.
FTP: What are your plans for the coming five years?
MP: If the next five years are anything like the last three years, we will continue to see strong growth in both our brand and business. We plan to diversify our product line offering more bike models and styles. From a technology standpoint, we have invested in HTML5 becoming the standard in web based development and will continue to stay on top of technology that will allow us to offer the best customization experience we can.
FTP: Some of our readers might be looking for a job opportunity in your branch. Are you hiring?
MP: We hire seasonal bike builders each spring/summer, but these positions tend to be filled by college students looking for temporary work.
But where we do have significant opportunities is with international distribution. We are continually looking for individuals or companies that feel they could effectively sell and distribute our bicycles in their country or region. We have designed our customization tool and website to be easily translated into almost any language. So the opportunity exists to establish international distribution points and country specific versions of our site.
Thank you very much for the interview, Matt! It will be interesting to see whether your predictions regarding MC as a trend hold true in the future or not. In any case, best of luck for your business!
And here are some really nice impressions of single gear bikes and the configuration process (even on iPad) in the official video demo: