Belgian start-up Cowboy has set its sights on Europe: the opening of an experience store in Brussels is the prelude to an international expansion with the Netherlands, France and Germany as its first targets.
Big target group
"We aim to improve urban mobility. We make exciting, connected bikes for an urban group that is looking for an efficient and sustainable means of transport", co-founder Adrien Roose says. “Senior citizens were the first to embrace the electric bicycle, but we think the target group is much wider. Our buyers so far are mainly city people between 30 and 50 years old, who love design and who want to escape the limitations and stress of daily commuting." You can control the bike with an app on your smartphone: this opens up new possibilities, for example in the field of geolocation, security and statistics. If a problem occurs, there is a chat function that guarantees an answer within two minutes.
The price of 1990 euros is high, but competitive compared to more classic top models. That is achieved through a business model that eliminates intermediaries. A year ago Cowboy started with a direct-to-consumer model: "We only sell our bicycles online, via cowboy.com. Nevertheless, we think we need a physical presence in order to inspire confidence and to give people the chance to try the bike", Roose says. "In 2018 we did tests with pop-up stores in Brussels and Antwerp. In addition, we are building a network of ambassadors: they will come to you by bike by appointment. One in two buyers immediately buy online, the other half first take a test drive."
The pop-ups turned out to be too small to give the complete "Cowboy experience": customers could see the bike on a display, but testing was not possible, while "one in five consumers who test the bicycle, also buys it." Therefore, the start-up now plans large "Saloon" stores that focus on experience and service. They will also include a test track that is at least 25 meters long to try out the bike.
The Brussels store has a test track that even includes a steep slope, so customers can experience the power of automatic motor assistance. "We need a large space for that, and that is not easy to find in city centres. We were lucky here, we are close to the centre and still managed to get a space of 700 sqm. But this is also still a pilot: we seek the balance between brand experience and profitability."
So far, Cowboy has sold more than a thousand bicycles, but this year it should be ten thousand, partly due to expansion abroad. "We are now also launching Cowboy online in the Netherlands, Germany and France. In about twenty European cities, consumers can already make an appointment for a test drive with an ambassador. By the end of this year that will be around fifty cities. We are also planning the opening of Cowboy Saloons in Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin."
For now, the company is sticking to Henry Ford's proven approach: one model, available in any colour as long as it is black. “We are a young start-up; so we first wanted to focus on the quality of our product. A men's model offers more options for a sleek design. In the next phase we will develop a more inclusive model that is more comfortable for women. Today they represent around 10% of our clientele. ”The Brussels start-up is already launching a new 2019 model.