OFO Bike Sharing Market Research

3 Dec

Image result for OFO

My students in microeconomics were recently studying quantity demand and ways to improve profits. Before we moved onto changing prices, we spent some time discussing ways they can change or alter the other 5 factors of demand (Income, Price of Related Goods, Taste, Future Price, and Number of Buyers in the Market).

This brought us to Consumer Research and how companies gather information about their buyers, products, and demand markets.

I recently noticed that the OFO bicycle system has just started operating on the Northeast Normal University campus this semester. For those of you unfamiliar with the system, OFO is an app that allows users to rent bicycles and drive them around town with no designated pick-up or drop-off site.

It was originally founded in Beijing in 2014, but has since spread to cities around China and more countries besides.

The theory of the system is rather simple.

Users download the application on their cell phones and set up an account. The start-up deposit fee has traditionally been 199RMB in China (about $30) which then goes to your account. Then it costs a small amount (1-2RMB) per hour (about $0.16) that you ride. To get a bicycle you locate the familiar yellow bike and use the Code Scanner on your phone to read the bicycle’s bar code. That registers the bicycle to you, and you then ride around wherever you want to go. When you are finished, you cancel the agreement and leave the bicycle wherever you stopped.

There are many conveniences to the program (handy for local transportation, students enjoy the system). But there are some inconveniences as well (too many bicycles left lying in the way of sidewalks and doors, bicycles can be difficult to find, etc).

So I arranged a small market survey and sent it out to my students. They shared it with the freshman (and a few with their parents / siblings) and we used KwikSurveys.com to analyze our results.

Although it is not official, it was a lot of fun and we did learn some interesting results that I thought I would share.

Income

We started by testing the income level of our respondents. We agreed that 199RMB was a lot for students with less than 1000RMB per month. There were a few students who thought it was too expensive as a start-up deposit. Especially since most of them felt they may not ever use that much money in the long run. Some of the students complained that since Changchun is in the north (with very cold weather very early in the fall and late in the sprint), their time to use it was limited. This much money for something they would only use a few months was a stretch.

Demographics

To get a feel for our response bias and the real category of people we reached, we also established some demographics. Β 

Most of the boys agreed they had tried it, but we had a difficult time getting them to take the survey. πŸ™‚

The students also agreed that, although our survey never reached them, their parents and grandparents were a possible market for OFO. Several students said their parents had already tried it as well.Β The 21 – 25 year olds were mostly our Junior students. The 15-18 year olds were Freshmen.

Reputation of OFO

At this point, most of the students were familiar with the system. Those who did not recognize the same were aware of the “Yellow Bicycle”

PAST PERFORMANCE

The students also agreed that 24% was a high number for a company like OFO. Although it has only been in Changchun this year, it has been operating in China for a while. They recommended that OFO help teach people how to ride bicycles or show people how to set up the account. They felt like there was not enough information about OFO or people introducing them to OFO.

Some students (and me) had trouble setting up the OFO account. Most of the unhappy users felt like the system was clear, but it often didn’t work or was broken. They complained that they would try to put in all the information and then would get an error code. But quite a few thought it went pretty smoothly.

The Bicycle “easy to reserve” part was must less satisfying amongst the students. The majority complained that there weren’t enough bicycles. They paid a high start-up deposit fee, but then could not ever find bicycles in their area. The bicycles were far away or were already being used. They wanted OFO to provide more bicycles in the area. At the same time, we discussed Beijing and Shanghai’s problems where there are TOO many bicycles available. The bicycles are parked on the sidewalks, and with so many taking up the space, people are forced to walk in the busy streets.

Most agreed that they enjoyed the experience overall. Some felt that it was too cold when they tried it (October — people in the far north are already bundling up for winter and heaters are turning on). Perhaps after summer they will have a different impression. Others felt like it was a lot of money and aggravation to get it all going. Many felt like it was a lot of fun for entertainment, but would not replace taxi or DiDi services.

FUTURE INTEREST

Overall, students seemed to feel that the program had a lot of potential and possibility. They did however think there were areas where it could be improved. It was a fascinating discussion, and the students responded very well!

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