Eurobike in 2019 re-introduced the Public Day, a chance for Wolfgang and Hilde to cruise the halls and consider their next e-bike purchase and grab as much free swag and stickers as they are able. Brands who have been accustomed to connecting with distributers, retailers and media now have to switch modes and entertain the masses. For some brands this is a bonus and helps to counterweight their exhibition investment costs – being able to also present to the customer is a bonus… for other brands, the customers are more of an unpleasant side-effect.
Most of the media and a lot of staff depart ahead of the public-day. Though even on the fourth day of Eurobike 2019, there were plenty of highlights and innovations to discover among the 1,400 exhibitors… the sheer size of this event means that you will always miss out on some of the brands and highlights you wanted to see. For this closing report from Eurobike, instead of sharing bikes and cycling product highlights, we are looking behind the scenes to share some of the curiosities.
Lost in Translation – Behind the Scenes of Eurobike
Eurobike is primarily a trade show… and not a consumer show. It offers bike shops, distributers, media and the cycling industry an opportunity to see the range of products from a brand, see the new products and solidify existing connections or to make new connections. Many of the worlds bikes and parts are produced in Asia and this introduces interesting dimensions… particularly with ambitious Chinese and Taiwanese brands seeking Western business and distribution partners.
While the cycling media focusses upon new and interesting products from the show to share with their readers, it is almost always filtered content and consciously overlooks some of the realities and curiosities of the bicycle show trade. To provide further insights behind the scenes, here are a few of the peculiarities visitors to Eurobike will encounter.
Imagine that you operate a cycling brand and are working hard to find ‘buyers’ and customers. Presenting at Eurobike is expensive, but you fly stock and staff over. But instead of engaging every visitor who ventures past your booth, your staff have their heads stuck in their mobile phones and are essentially saying to passers-by “we are closed for business”.
Visitors who are genuinely interested may start a conversation regardless, but it is a missed opportunity for all of the others who pass and could potentially be a new business partner or customer. Particularly in the sections with small booths for Asian suppliers, sometimes you pass booth after booth where the staff are glued to their phones and hardly risk a glance away from the screens. Even western brands have a tendency to close themselves off to potentials especially when the staff avoid eye-contact with visitors or form a closed circle and choose not to engage with people showing interest in the products. When a brand pays tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to exhibit and build their booth, the disinterested employee is losing the bike brand opportunities.
Technical Mumbo Jumbo
The average cyclist is fairly sceptical about bike-brand marketing and has evolved to first ask “could this a real benefit or is it just marketing BS”. To make matters interesting, as a Press Visitor of Eurobike, I am frequently embarrassed for brands and their staff when I recognise that they are not even convinced by their own marketing.
The eyewear brand 100% have excelled in brand marketing, particularly with Peter Sagan, one of the most exciting pro-cycling personalities of the era, wearing this eyewear brand. So what exactly are the technical and performance benefits of 100% eyewear… according to the staff member at the stand, “It’s just a cool design… it doesn’t really do anything”. Cluelessness is not the norm from all exhibitors, most staff will at least attempt to promote the virtues of their brand and products, but some simply do not.
Just as disheartening, I enquired with an Asian supplier about their curious e-bike motor solution and the advantages of their system. Accepting that there is a language barrier between the native Mandarin tongue of the Shenzen (China) based business, it should be self-explanatory when I ask, “What are the benefits of your system, why is it better than other e-bike motors?”. When the answer is, “there are no benefits, it is not better”, I have to cringe as I diplomatically suggest that they re-think their response when the next potential customer asks the same question.
Missing without (much of) a Trace
In the depths of Germany where you may expect the aroma of grill Bratwurst and beer to fill the air, in the Chinese and Taiwanese sections of the Eurobike show in Southern Germany you can easily detect the familiar smell of five-minute-noodles as many of the Asian trade visitors stick to familiar cuisine.
And a familiar routine is that the brands and staff have the ability to disappear rapidly leaving only a pile of brochures in their booth. It is understandable that on the Public-day of the trade fair, many B2B Asian suppliers have no connection to retail customers so it is only natural that they pack-up-and-go early. But a lot of Western brands who are consumer facing also turn their back on the public visitors and abandon their stands early. Pressured by the fatigue after three and a half days, exhibiting is exhausting. However a subtle message is transmitted when a brand decides to give out coveted stickers to their loyal fans or instead decides to turn their backs and disappear.
For the organisers of Eurobike, energy is also invested into the massive outdoor dirt-jump track to give visitors a big attraction along with interesting seminars to compliment the exhibition… but at the end-of-the-day, visitors on the public day pay cash to get closer to the brands… and both the brand and the visitors miss out if the brands leave early.
Deals to be had
Asians brands and also smaller brand who have lugged bikes or gear over to Germany, the prospect of lugging it back again is a burden for some. On the final day of the trade-show, hand drawn signs start to rapidly appear with attractive deals on the purchase of parts and even complete bikes.
The deals are typically from unknown or lesser known brands, real brands wouldn’t usually dare to undervalue themselves. The quality and reliability of the equipment can be uncertain, but it can also be a deal of a lifetime… The brand save themselves the freight costs and inconvenience of transporting making everyone a winner.
Packing-up and shipping
The Eurobike exhibition location in Friedrichshafen, Germany hosts other major Expos with boat shows, aeronautical shows, car, fishing and garden shows dotted throughout the year. The organisational staff have a solid routine and this also extends to other suppliers such as logistics and shipping services. DHL, for example, have an office at the exhibition grounds and shortly after midday on the final day, hours ahead of the official closing time, they are already at capacity as exhibitors pack and ship their exhibition bikes and gear back.
For the regular reporting on new bikes, cycling gear and trends, these will be presented over the coming weeks on Bicycles Network Australia.