Hermann Hänle
17. October 2018 0

Mobile poachers in an ecological niche

This scenario might sound familiar: you sit down to have a cozy chat with an acquaintance; they tell you about their business world, you tell them about yours. Or maybe you have experience in an unusual field and simply transfer it to another: and behold, a new business idea is born! The Reclam brothers, for example, transferred the concept of chocolate vending machines to their books and set up the first book vending machines for book lovers in Erfurt in 1912. They came up with a 24/7 service more than 100 years ago.

New ecosystems for new business ideas

The digitization era is speeding up business ideas nowadays – but that’s only half the story. All of a sudden, companies are filling new business niches that no-one had noticed or anticipated before. Ecosystems are appearing for specific business purposes – with the intention of giving clients a better customer experience.
As you can imagine, this is happening in the mobility industry too. Traditionally there are of course many different players involved in this market. But a logistics company, a machine manufacturer, and a DIY store chain developing a mobility solution – to my knowledge, that’s never been done before. Bosch, Deutsche Post, and REWE/Toom have put their heads together and developed an idea between them.

Toom + Bosch + Post = mobility

Five branches of Toom are trialing a scheme where customers can rent an electric StreetScooter van to carry their shopping home. The vans are charged up when they’re waiting in the car park. Deutsche Post is the van supplier (!) and Bosch is the car-sharing provider that digitally maps and manages the entire rental process. Toom takes care of the customer interface, using the rental service to enhance the customer experience. Customers gain a comprehensive service that goes far beyond actual shopping – plus, there is no red tape: the electric vans are used on demand via an app. You might call it sustainable mobility in the cloud.

Scalable mobility?

Is it a workable business model? A colleague told me he bought a sofa a while ago. Needless to say, it didn’t fit in his car. The retailer lent him a van – with the sofa already loaded into it. The colleague drove it home, unloaded the sofa, chucked the packaging in the van and drove it back. Now that’s what you call customer experience. Next time he wants something, he’ll go back to the same retailer …
Toom is thinking a step ahead of this – on a digital, long-term basis. But it can only act on its plans quickly if a partner ecosystem is used. The pilot is to last a year for now – presumably the partners will then get together again and count the cash. If the pilot works, they would have to scale the solution (both in the real and virtual worlds). For Bosch, on the other hand, the pilot is a first-class use case for testing its mobility services – and then possibly offering them to other retailers.

If it doesn’t work out …

… let’s go back to 1912 again: Kurt Tucholsky and his partner, Kurt Szafranski, sold the book Rheinsberg in a “book bar” on Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, where strong spirits were served along with the book. But they felt compelled to give the business model up after just a short time – despite its success: “On December 18, 1912, the Sankt Petersburger Herold wrote that anyone who purchased a Wilde got a whiskey and soda, and anyone who bought an Ibsen was given a Nordic corn. But that wasn’t true – it was us doing the drinking. And we sold an awful lot of Rheinsbergs …”
Best of luck with your new business idea – get the right partners on board, but don’t forget to think about the consequences.

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