Wellness is fast becoming big business. The Global Wellness Institute, for example, reports that the “wellness economy” was worth US$4.5 trillion in 2018 and has been growing nearly twice as fast as the general global economy.
Looking to capitalize on this booming market, sport equipment companies are searching for new and exciting ways to fulfill people’s desire for wellness and well-being activities.
“We have definitely noticed the sharp increase in sport spending,” said Cesar Rojo, founder of Barcelona-based engineering firm CERO, which specializes in bicycle and motorcycle projects. “We are receiving more and more projects every year, particularly in the electric bicycle (e-bike) sector.”
But manufacturers and suppliers need to be able to move quickly – sports equipment spending is highly seasonal, so a missed window comes at a great cost. OakStone Partners estimates that any delay can cost a company between 15% and 35% of a product’s net value. For electronic products, this rises to up to 50% of the anticipated revenues.
THE RISE OF THE E-BIKE
E-bikes are a good example of how sport and wellness companies are responding to market trends. These specially designed bicycles are fitted with a motor and battery to assist the rider, and are surging in popularity.
Statista.com reports that 31.7 million e-bikes were sold worldwide in 2014 and projects that sales will grow to 40.3 million by 2023. Why? Because the product seamlessly integrates with users’ daily routines.
“2019 has seen the rise of micromobility,” Rojo said. “Commuters can more easily integrate fitness, well-being and exercise into their daily lives, if they can fit it around their work schedule.”
As well as being convenient, more environmentally friendly and cheaper to run, e-bikes present a more accessible path to wellness for those who need some help starting out.
“E-bikes are a fantastic route into cycling for beginners or for those returning to cycling, as [they] provide a helping hand when it comes to conquering physical fitness challenges that would have remained a barrier with a normal bike,” Victoria Pendleton, a British Olympic gold medalist in cycling, said in a recent interview with UK-based bicycle retailer Halfords. “They really are a game-changer.”
FITNESS AT HOME
In 2020 sports equipment like bicycles and e-bikes showed themselves to be an integral part of an individual’s fitness journey during the COVID-19 global pandemic. With lockdown measures in place worldwide, gyms and leisure areas were shut down, forcing people to take their well-being into their own spaces. Home fitness equipment became critical for individuals wanting to continue their regimes.
CONNECTING WITH CONSUMERS
While e-bikes help those beginning their wellness journeys to transition into exercise, both e-bikes and other wellness products focus on helping them maintain progress, particularly through connectivity.
“Connected devices are no longer a trend – they are a reality,” Rojo said. “Everything needs to be connected because the user demands that; they want to be able to easily share the distance they have covered and how many calories they have burned.”
German brand Bosch eBike Systems is just one of the many companies making connectivity an integral part of its fitness solutions. Its smartphone-based solution transforms e-bikes into smart bikes and allows cyclists to augment their exercise with digital technology. Users can attach their smartphones to the bike via Bosch’s handlebar-mounted ‘SmartphoneHub’. When linked to an app from Frankfurt-based COBI.Bike, the neatly-mounted smartphone provides cyclists with information such as navigation and weather while collecting fitness metrics, facilitating a new, smart-riding experience that can help users stick to their regimes.
“Consumer trends change all the time, but one thing that is fairly constant in our digital world is connectivity,” said Tamara Winograd, director of marketing and communications at Bosch eBike Systems. “With the SmartphoneHub, Bosch offers eBikers a connected biking experience and a lot of useful features. Fitness enthusiasts, for example, can set targets and keep track of data such as performance, cadence and calorie consumption, in real time throughout the ride via the COBI.Bike app on the smartphone. It even connects with heart rate monitors via Bluetooth, and fitness and health services like Apple Health, Google Fit or Strava to empower users to reach their training goals.”
RACING TO MARKET
In the consumer-driven wellness industry, timing is essential. The industry is driven by fast-changing trends and by seasons, making it essential to bring new products to market on time and ahead of the competition. Being even a month late with a new product can ruin an entire season’s revenues. Korean firm INNO Design, which developed a foldable e-bike with an innovative wheel and integrated battery from Korean startup Hycore, knew that time to market would be vital to the product’s success. To ensure that the product could be delivered quickly without sacrificing quality, INNO Design CEO Youngse Kim focused on improving the way his team shared design ideas and carried out design processes.
Computer-aided design, engineering and manufacturing technology simplify things so much. A big part of the design and testing can now be done by a computer. This has already reduced process times a lot and it continues to speed up product development.
His solution? A virtual design and simulation platform. “Virtual design is a very important process before real production,” Kim said.
The platform enables Kim’s designers to quickly transform manually sketched ideas into 3D geometry for virtual testing. This digital approach allows the team to quickly see if the shapes and forms they envisioned can translate into elegant and operational equipment – before creating the designs in the real world. Such virtual prototyping can speed up time to market by as much as 40%, thanks to eliminating the need to troubleshoot physical prototypes. This is something that CERO Design’s Rojo has also noticed.
“Computer-aided design, engineering and manufacturing technology simplify things so much,” he said. “A big part of the design and testing can now be done by a computer. This has already reduced process times a lot and it continues to speed up product development.”
The platform’s cloud-native capabilities are among its biggest benefits, said Youngmin Kang, INNO Design’s product design team manager. “We can entertain ideas from many people, and then share and collaborate; having many people collaborate is an essential part of successful design,” he said.
THE VIRTUAL ADVANTAGE
As the wellness trend gains traction, sporting goods companies are scrambling to meet their needs and stay ahead of trends with innovative products that help keep consumers motivated to reach their fitness goals. E-bikes are just one such product, but 2020 will surely see the introduction of many new entrants to the wellness products race. Like INNO Design, companies that wish to clock strong results may find virtual prototyping to be an invaluable addition to their training regimen.
Discover more about the value of virtual prototyping