Transformative Thinking Blog Entry #6 – M’rack Market Research

Last semester, I created the first functional prototype of M’rack, a universal bicycle side rack. M’Rack is a mounting system that will allow people to mount their existing bags onto their bicycle without making any alterations to the bag. This is a sustainable alternative to panniers.

Although I produced the prototype, I never did a research report for the product. Below is my initial market research. Pictures and processes will be posted in the next blog entry.

MARKET RESEARCH

There are a large selection of panniers already available on the market. To research the existing products in the market, I visited the Vancouver MEC store. They carried many panniers, cycling racks and accessories. The product reps there were also very knowledgeable and assisted me in finding the items. I have also researched online on DIY sites such as http://www.instructables.com to see what others have done to solve the same problems I have experienced. From my research, I have concluded that there are 2 options for those who wish to mount bags on their rear bike rack.

Option #1: Buy a pannier
Panniers come in various styles, colours, and materials. Panniers are priced $70-300 CAD each depending on the features and brand name, but the mounting mechanism is generally the same – 2 hooks and a strap.

Pros: water resistant materials, ready to use

Cons: fairly expensive, no padding for electronics, flimsy, hooks make it uncomfortable to carry

Option #2: Make alterations to an existing bag
Pannier J-hooks and fasteners can be purchased online or local bike shops such as MEC. There are many DIY guides online where people use other components such as metal brackets.

Pros: cheaper, you can use your own bags

Cons: requires drills (and sometimes sewing) to install, hooks make it uncomfortable to carry

Below is a video where the man creates his own panniers with plastic containers with brackets installed as hooks. The design is hard to remove when full and cannot be carried easily when taken off. A quick search online of “DIY pannier” will result in more results like this:

USER RESEARCH

A study found that cycling demographics are changing rapidly. A 2008 Montreal study was conducted prior to the growth of bike paths, of which 65 percent of the users were men and 35 percent women. But in 2013, the study included 60 percent men and 40 percent women. The age of cyclists is also is dropping. The average age of the 2013 cyclists was 37.3 years old, compared with 42 years old in a 2008 study.

I have classified city cyclists into 4 categories:

• Competitive (competes in races and competitions, wears professional cycling apparel)
• Dedicated (cycles as the primary method of transportation to school/work)
• Leisure (cycles as a hobby when the weather is nice, often with friends and family)
• Fashionista (cycles to local places only, typically with a cruiser bike and non-cycling apparel)

The target segments I wish to focus on are the dedicated cyclists. They invest into cycling gear because it is their primary method of transportation and they depend on it to get to school or work on time each day. These are people who have actively chosen a lifestyle of cycling, not solely because of financial reasons. They are most likely to research products prior to purchase and make purchases based on long-term benefits.

General beliefs/values of dedicated cyclists:

• environmentally conscious
• willing to pay more for sustainable and local produce and products
• values their own health and well being

In order to attract this product segment, I need to create a product that is sustainable, long lasting, but also allows for user flexibility and comfort. My concept for a mounting device that allows users to mount their own bags would be a very good solution to propose to this segment. There can potentially be early adopters within the leisure cyclists demographic who are looking to become dedicated cyclists.

With my concept, cyclists would no longer need to go out and buy brand new panniers, which is a more environmentally-friendly option and a better long-term financial investment. Furthermore, there is no need for the trouble of transforming their existing bag into panniers with hooks and straps. Most existing bags don’t have the proper backing to be made into a pannier because the fabric tends to rip from the weight.

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