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The Wrong Way to Sell an eBike
Delivery gets white-labelled, trucks get cleaner
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We get to analyze a lot of different trends here at Curbivore, as we look at the intersection of commerce and the curb, of retailing / restaurants and roadspace, of streets and shopping. But the recent holiday really hammered home for me just how bad some curb-centric brands are when it comes to selling themselves, especially in the ebike space.
Look at this selection of ebike brands (below) - each running some sort of July 4th promo. This was easy enough to find, as soon as you show any interest in the search term, ads for a million ebikes will follow you around Google and Instagram.
The problem is that it’s an instant race to the bottom, as each one fights to out-cheap the others. Load one page and you’re hit with a promo banner up top, a modal window in the middle, maybe another little icon on the bottom corner. And by the time you’ve closed all those windows, the hero image on the home page still shows and says the exact same thing.
It’s great that green mobility is getting more and more affordable. And inherently a lot of ebikes are essentially commodities, as every D2C player just chooses from the same hundreds of component options made by a handful of factories in Taiwan and China.
Having run the marketing for a mid-sized D2C ebike brand myself, I know how tempting it can be to slap a sale sticker on something and juice your orders for the week, but if you’re going to run a sale, there’s still so much more one can do to build long term value.
Tell customers what they’re going to accomplish with this new tool. Tell them how it’s going to make their lives better, how it’s going to make their commutes better, the planet better, maybe even their health better.
Even the least clever marketer can look at how the car companies, or the direct-to-consumer exercise equipment startups, sell their wares.
Look at the banner that greets you at the top of the Ford homepage. It’s not screaming about saving $2,000 on a truck. It doesn’t even show you a truck. It shows what you can (supposedly) do with that truck - take your family to some unspoilt nature (so you can spoil it.) If new mobility brands could lean into that ethos, we could start to put a lot more green machines on the road…
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HOT INDUSTRY NEWS & GOSSIP
White-labeling for the win! Third party delivery apps can be great for getting new visibility on a restaurant, and for letting a busy operator start sending out orders without worrying about logistics. But as restuarants hit a certain scale, they inevitably look to claw back the 3PD’s margin, turning to a number of purveyors to launch their own in-house ordering experiences. In general, pizza companies have been at the forefront of the delivery revolution (Pizza Hut first went online way back in ‘94) - so it’s a little amusing to see how bar behind some British pizza chains are. The U.K.’s PizzaExpress just launched its first-party ordering service, powered by Uber Direct.
More interesting is this recent move by Cartwheel, which lets brands white-label not just the customer-facing side, but the courier-facing side too. So if you’re say P.F. Chang’s, and you have a roster of employee delivery workers, they stay fully immersed in your ecosystem, even for the dry backend tasks that many companies forget about. Given how tight the labor market is, and how hard restaurants are fighting to keep workers, even little steps like this can reduce churn.
Good news for lungs! This morning the California Air Resources Board struck an agreement with truck and engine manufacturers, getting the latter companies on board with the “Clean Truck Partnership” to ensure compliance with the state’s goal of 50% EV truck sales by 2035. As many other states follow CA’s emissions rules, this has reverberations around the nation. Moving down from trucks to vans, expect to see more Rivians on the road near you, as the EV maker looks for delivery partners besides Amazon.
This week in road diets: Bravo to Boston’s Jascha Franklin-Hodge, for forcefully standing up for West Roxbury’s much-needed redux of Centre Street. Meanwhile, LA is moving ahead with bus lanes on part of busy La Brea, but needs a champion to stand up to the Councilor in the 10th district, to complete the original plan to connect three rail lines. And if you want to see a truly ambitious reimagining of roads, turning it into real space for the people, look at Montreal.
We don’t deserve it! Fiat has unveiled its cutest vehicle yet, the Topolino. Don’t be fooled by its European classification as a “quadricycle” - this beauty has no pedals, that’s more or less what Americans would call an NEV. After you wend your way to the Adriatic at 45 k/h, rinse off with the built in shower. (Yes, actually.) Naturally, this machine won’t be making it to America.
Bay Area transit update: State Senator Scott Wiener has introduced SB 532, hoping to bridge the funding gap local operators are staring at (recent budgetary action by the state helped with some, but not all, of the deficits.) It’s a 5-year toll increase to the region’s seven bridges, upped $1.50 with an inflation index. One quibble is that the burden falls largely on those traveling to and from the East Bay, whereas drivers from the Peninsula to SF pay nothing, but the latter will still see benefits to their local transit operations. All the more reason for congestion pricing?
NYC transit update: The first leg of the long-overdue Second Avenue Subway was the most expensive metro ever built. But thanks to high ridership, it actually performs decently well on a cost-per-rider basis. Not so with phase two, which was just sent out for bid, and will cost an unheard of $7 billion for 1.5 miles of track. Also clocking in around $7B is the federal contribution to the $16 billion Gateway Tunnel project, which adds another tube between Jersey and Penn Station.
On a smaller scale… NYC just expanded its micromobility program into eastern Queens. Bird, Lime and Veo had previously only been allowed to operate in the Bronx, but city officials are happy with what had been a temporary pilot. Now perhaps the city should build a safe way to bike or scoot between the two boroughs?
Cargo bikes conquer Britain: Zedify is bringing its cargo bike powered delivery network to 12 more cities, meaning you can get green delivery in both London and Manchester. All the more delightful are these new cargo bike parklets, popping up in Hackney.
Uber pulls away: Fun new data quantifies the ridehail wars across the globe. In the U.S., Uber looks to really be pulling away from Lyft. In other markets it’s much more neck and neck - Uber and Ola are close in volume in India; as a result 56% of orders are still discounted, as the competitors continue to push incentives to juice growth.
Funding updates: Evidently investors are still bullish about mobility; NoTraffic just raised $50 million for its ITS solutions. The Feds have some fresh cash for construction as well. Meanwhile, the average community spends $2,000 per year on parking, and just $50 on sidewalks and crosswalks.
A few good links: New delivery brand launches in Hong Kong. Getir gets out of Spain. Teleops leap forward in Vegas. Zoning woes. UPS strike nears. London ULEZ expansion hits snag. Cash is king. Can Yelp be trusted?
Until next week!
- Jonah Bliss & The Curbivore Crew