Segway Ninebot Overseas Markets

How Chinese Company Ninebot "Segways" Into the Global Market

Sophia Yu

posted on April 29, 2019 2:04 pm

In Michigan, there is a good chance for you to see people riding electric scooters everywhere on the roads, a lot of whom are college students that riding them on campus from one spot to another, or on their way back home. Same thing happens in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Indianapolis, etc. A total number of over 80 cities have become home to Lime or Bird scooters, the top two dockless scooter-share companies in the US. If you take a clear look at a scooter body, you will find a label on it, says “Powered by Segway”.

Similarly, in Beijing you probably are used to seeing a Segway rider passing by you, or a person standing beside you with a Segway in his hand on the subway platform. Additionally, four in five Segways are made of Segway-Ninebot, China’s sought-after startup in micro-mobility industry.

Segway-Ninebot is an intelligent short distance transportation device company that focuses on research and development, manufacturing, sales and service. Founded in 2012, Segway-Ninebot has seen a dramatic growth with a domination of global landscape. From New York in the US to Soul in South Korea, the company’s footprint has expanded to hundreds of cities all over the world.

The firm’s “brand power” has been rising dramatically, up 25% in 2019 compared with 2018, according to “Top 50 Chinese Global Brand Builders Ranking” published by WPP, British multinational advertising and public relations company, and Kantar. Additionally, it ranked 38th among 50 most appealing Chinese global brands in 2019, moving up two places from 40th in 2018. This company is also seeking an IPO on China’s new Science and Technology Innovation board (dubbed China’s Nasdaq). It reportedly has filed an application and aims to offer a share cap of 7.04 million on April 17, 2019.

Ninebot also ranked first in market share in Segway industry in 2018, according to statistics from CNPP, a big data research center. Not only in 2018, it has been keeping its first place every year from when the ranking of Segway market share came out, though not long ago.

Two Strategic Decisions Guides to Its Success

When talking about what brings Ninebot a robust growth in the past few years and makes it successful, Peng Yuwei, sales director in Asia Pacific told PingWest there were two most significant decisions that the company has made in 2015. First, Ninebot acquires Segway, not only the inventor of two-wheeled, self-balancing electric transportation device, but also the once-buzzy maker of the vehicles. Second, Ninebot partnered with Xiaomi to be its ecosystem provider.

Founded in 2001 with the idea of helping people get around cities, Segway has a history of 18 years so far. It holds over 400 patents before the merge with Ninebot. “As we were expanding our overseas markets, we are facing pattern problems,” Peng told PingWest. In 2014, Segway accused Ninebot of violating its patents on two-wheeled electric scooters and sued Ninebot for patent infringement. In such circumstances, Ninebot announced an acquisition of Segway on April 15, 2015. Additionally, Xiaomi and Sequoia Capital, an American leading venture capital firm, invested 80 million in total in Ninebot.

The strategic acquisition of Segway brought with it 400 patents, as well as manufactories, employees, R&D technologies and research scientists. Ninebot completed 100% acquisition of Segway and started to thrive afterwards.

Cooperating with Xiaomi is another crucial strategic decision. Xiaomi’s smartphones and accessories are the most cost-effective ones, offering customers the best features at a relative lower price than other giant smartphone makers. When Gao Lufeng, founder of Ninebout, met with Lei Jun, Founder of Xiaomi, for the first time, Lei advised Gao to make industrial products, instead of scientific products, in order to lower costs (source). Segway played an important role in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, that Chinese police officers ride them around Olympic game stadiums to patrol important areas in Beijing. Tourists can also tour around on a Segway around the Bird’s Nest at a cost of $20. It was expensive in 2008, and even in current days. Indeed, a Segway costs several thousand dollars, an affordable price for a large portion of families. It was a luxury good as former US president George H. W. Bush gave a Segway as a present to former Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi. Lei Jun and Gao Lufeng, however, decided to make it affordable to the general public. In 2015, Xiao launched the first Segway in its self-balancing electric device product line, named Ninebot mini, a two-wheeled Segway features a maximum speed of 16km/h (3.7 mph) and at a price of RMB 1999 ($297). In November and December 2015, the sales volume reached 100,000 (source).

Ninebot Mini (Photo Credit to Mi-Store)
Ninebot Mini (Photo Credit to Mi-Store)

Partnership with Xiaomi raises Ninebot’s awareness. The next plan for Ninebot is to expand its footprint overseas.

Smart Selling in Asia Pacific Region

PingWest does not find any statistics of overseas sales revenue of the firm, but we found its first half 2017 results, from Kantar’s 2018 Brandz Ranking, that Ninebot’s overseas sales revenue accounts for 60% of the total sales revenue, up 40% year-on-year.

For sales strategy, Peng pointed that the prime way is to hit the ground running to find dealers to cooperate with you, and second, when the first work is done with your best, come with some new ideas to innovate your way of sales.

The first point seems a platitude, but it is vital. “Don’t give up, try every way to look for dealers. You can even ask local people about where you think the most convenient place to buy a Segway on FaceBook,” said Peng. “When you do not have any way to reach out to a dealer in your target region, find a couple of people who are interested in buying a Segway in a certain region, and get to know the environment and where is a favorable place for them to buy, because they are more familiar with the region and could offer you great recommendations” Peng added.

Other ways to extend sales map are recommendations from friends who are familiar with that region if you have, getting to know your competitors’ sales networks, searching with Google online, and more.

For different countries or regions, Peng has different sales strategies, due to regional disparities such as levels of development, cultures and commute behavior. For example, since Japan and South Korea are always leading the fashion trend in Asia, people there like to try new stuff. In such circumstances, Ninebot partners with a number of internet celebrities to advertise its Segway. They share posts on Facebook, Instagram and other social medias to catch people’s eyes on the product and attract his/her followers to do cool stuff like s/he does, or at least to increase brand awareness.

Besides, Ninebot built 1 acre go-kart tracks in South Korea for customers to experience Segway tours. Segway go kart, Drift W1, and ES2 are the most popular products.

South Korea Experience Center (Photo Credit to Ninebot)
South Korea Experience Center (Photo Credit to Ninebot)
Ninebot ES2 (Photo Credit to Smart Wheel Canada)
Ninebot ES2 (Photo Credit to Smart Wheel Canada)

Peng said more experience centers are in process to open in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Japan and the Philippines.

In Japan, Ninebot did something unexpectedly. It partnered with entertainment companies to pay an advertising spot on stage that when its pop stars are doing live concerts, Segways are shown to the audience. Sometimes the two parties partner in such a way that fans who buy a Segway are able to take a photo together with the pop stars.

Segway has dominated not only the Asia Pacific marketplace, but also global marketplaces all around the world. In the US, 80% of scooters are provided by Ninebot. Today, when talking about Segways, the first brand come in our minds is Segway-Ninebot. Sticking to its belief that Segway can solve “walking problem” as it is more comparable to walking due to time-saving, and adding some smart sale ideas according to different culture and regional characteristics, Ninebot achieved a burst in sales and is the most successful player in Segway industry.

(Cover Image Credit to NIS-Store)