[Interview] Matt Peterson of Big Shot Bikes: Customizing the Fixed Gear Trend

BigshotbikesWith plenty of bling and over-featuring of many products, in many industries now a counter-trend has started to emerge: "back to basics", advocating simplicity over sheer amounts of features.

This also has happend in the bike industry. While traditional bikes with many gears are certainly still in high demand, the opposite side of the scale has a growing fanbase as well: The single-gear bike, or the "Fixie". Being a popular and trendy product, it was just a question of time until somebody specialized in offering customized fixies to a growing customer base.

Matt Peterson Big Shot BikesOne such vendor is Big Shot Bikes. The Fort Collins, CO based company has been founded and is beeing run by Matt Peterson who we met for an interview on this special sector of the mass customization market and his role in it, his views on MC in general and the benefits of only having one gear.

FTP: Matt, you are the owner and founder of Big Shot Bikes.
Can you tell our reader a bit about yourself, your background and your passion
for quality bikes?

MP: Well, growing up in Colorado I had always been
active in the outdoors; traditionally I am a software engineer by trade and I
had worked for quite some time for a large telecom company. Having rode out the
tech and telecom bubble, I had become burnt out on the corporate
environment.  So in 2009, I saw an opportunity
to merge two of my passions, software and cycling. I had noticed a trend
emerging in single speed bikes with bright colors that people had built up
themselves. I
thought this was a natural fit for customization. With a small
initial investment, I dove in, leveraging my skills in software and ecommerce
to create a company and brand that is doing quite well and gaining market
share. 

FTP: Big Shot Bikes offers customized bicycles. While there is
competition on that market, what is special about your bikes?

MP: Hands down the most appealing part about our bikes
is the customization and sense of style that comes with owning one of our
bikes.

People love the opportunity to create a design that
matches their own personality. We get quite a few emails from customers telling
us how they have been complimented on their bike and how they take a sense of
pride in the color scheme that they created.

FTP: What makes a single speed or fixed gear bike so
desirable? Does it not limit you to have only one gear?

MP: Single speed bikes have become a recent cultural
phenomenon. Sure, there are some limitations to having one gear, but there are
also advantages. The simplicity of going back to basics is what is drawing many
riders. No gears to tune or clicking derailleur to worry about.  This low maintenance factor means you can
just get on and ride.

FTP: Who is your main customer group? Are these bikes just for
the younger ones amongst us?

MP: The majority of our customers are definitely
younger, mostly college aged. But we sell to all age groups. In fact, we recently
sold a bike to an 81 year old ex-racer in Arizona. So really our bikes are
for anyone with a sense of style and just wants a fun bike to ride, no matter
what age or background.

FTP: Can you outline your customization, ordering and delivery
in a few sentences? How does everything work together?

MP: Sure, our system is designed to be fully
integrated with our inventory management system. If a color or part is
available on the build tool, that means it is currently in stock.  Once an item becomes out of stock, it
immediately disappears from the customization tool; this is critical in being
able to effectively fill orders. Once an order is captured, our inventory
system is updated and the order goes through a series of status change.  Customers will receive three notifications:
one to confirm the order, another to let them know the bike is being
built
.  The final notification is
integrated into our shipping software and a final notification containing the
tracking information for the bike. Lastly we integrate right in with our
shipping software and tracking provided once the bike is shipped. We also have
the ability to track and attach customer support tickets to orders that have
shipped just in case we have any issues once the customer receives the bike.

FTP: Especially interesting for our non-US readers: Do you
deliver worldwide?

MP: We do. We ship to just about any country that
FedEx will service via international economy air. We have shipped to most of
Europe and a few more exotic locations such as Egypt and South Africa. Granted,
the shipping charges are steep, averaging about $200 USD for international
shipping.

FTP: What do you think will the future hold for the mass
customization landscape? Will it stay a trend, become a standard or even redefine
how we sell and buy products in the future?

MP: Honestly, I feel it will stay a trend, or more
appropriately a new established niche in commerce. Mass customization is  ideal for direct to consumer sales model.
But
I feel that traditional product manufacture and distribution will remain the
dominant form of commerce while mass customization will supplement it.

FTP: What are your plans for the coming five years?

MP: If the next five years are anything like the last
three years, we will continue to see strong growth in both our brand and
business. We plan to diversify our product line offering more bike models and
styles. From a technology standpoint, we have invested in HTML5 becoming the standard
in web based development
and will continue to stay on top of technology that
will allow us to offer the best customization experience we can.

FTP: Some of our readers might be looking for a job
opportunity in your branch. Are you hiring?

MP: We hire seasonal bike builders each spring/summer,
but these positions tend to be filled by college students looking for temporary
work.

But where we do have significant opportunities is with
international distribution
. We are continually looking for individuals or
companies that feel they could effectively sell and distribute our bicycles in
their country or region. We have designed our customization tool and website to
be easily translated into almost any language. So the opportunity exists to
establish international distribution points and country specific versions of
our site.

Thank you very much for the interview, Matt! It will be interesting to see whether your predictions regarding MC as a trend hold true in the future or not. In any case, best of luck for your business!

And here are some really nice impressions of single gear bikes and the configuration process (even on iPad) in the official video demo:

 

Big Shot Bikes – iPad Bike Customization from Chris Bourke on Vimeo.

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:02+00:00 April 3rd, 2013|Cases-Consumer, Interview, MC/OI on the Web|

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.