Bricks-and-mortar retail possesses more potential than ever – you just have to spot it.
With the power of the internet, there’s more than a just a shopping mall at your fingertips, one which we jump on to order bikes and parts from one of the many online suppliers and direct order companies: today, virtually everything can be found and ordered online for hassle-free delivery to your house. As our consumer behaviour has undergone drastic changes, it’s up to the retail sector to realign themselves and benefit from the shift from the store to the sofa.
A world without online shopping is unthinkable these days. With the large majority of us working 9 to 5 as a minimum, we’ve still got to fit in socializing, night riding, and weekend adventures in the mountains. So when it comes to shopping, we leave the house less and less often, relying on the iPad from our trusted position on the sofa instead.
Our reader survey confirms this shift in habits too: compared to 2014, 10% fewer readers bought their bike from a local bike shop, according to our 2015 survey. But despite this decline, we’re adamant that bricks-and-mortar retailing isn’t facing extinction – it’s just going to change.
Online wins, offline loses?
As consumers, we have an unsurpassed wealth of information these days, be it from test reviews in magazines, reviews on online shops, or advice from friends. What’s the best tyre? Which are the most powerful brakes, and which fork is the most state-of-the-art today? The internet can supply all of these answers, and make the decision of which one to buy a whole lot more straightforward.
The online boom is strengthened by the ever-growing and ever-improving sector of direct order companies. Those days of second-rate bikes with top specs are long gone.
Companies like Canyon are considered among the most innovative within the industry, creating superb products and a name for themselves on the market with huge marketing campaigns. They deliver bikes that are meticulously and brilliantly put together right down to the last detail, coming with an unbelievable spec at a virtually unrivalled price. And they have performance to match, justifiably winning test victories and therefore rendering themselves a valid option for all riders – not just budget-conscious ones.
This is where there is massive potential for both online suppliers and bricks-and-mortar retailers. In the future it’s crucial that all channels are integrated – both online and offline. This doesn’t mean that every little bike shop needs to have an online shop. But in order to compete with the big players, you do need clever strategies or some big financial leverage. It’s definitely advisable for small shops to hook customers into their space by asserting themselves with a digital presence and communication online via social media. But as in life, sometimes less is more. It’s better to excel with a few concerted efforts rather than attempt everything.
Create and spread the desire online to visit your shop in person. Design an aesthetically appealing shop – or even better, turn a customer’s visit into an experience.
The regular point-of-sale can be turned into a veritable point-of-interest. In short: turn your bike shop into the axis of the local scene. Stage events, rides, and workshops, for example. With competent service and visible passion, you won’t need to worry about the constant pricing battle. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to hunt out shops like this, shops with real service and the real deal. Then we’ll compile a list and certify them in the Top100 – Germany’s Best Bike Shops.
Take a direct order company that’s, for example, taken a new path: they’ve sought serious contact with their customers and sussed out how to communicate. We’re talking about the bike giant ROSE. With their roots as a local shop turned mail order company, they’ve now created two exciting retail experience locations: one at their HQ in Bocholt, the other in the bicycle hotspot of Munich. Modern, open, and friendly, the shops offer a relaxed atmosphere and first-rate advice. At ROSE, it’s up to the customer how and where they’d like to buy their bike: online from the comfort of their sofa, or offline in the shop. In both cases you’ve got a direct contact person – and this is what the future will look like.
More and more companies are clocking into these concepts, including Trek as they begin to sell their bikes online in the US. The delivery is carried out by local, certified shops, which then take on the role of point-of-contact, helping the customer with the setup and tune of the often quite complicated new bike.
Online oder Offline? Is there a winner?
But what ultimately counts is the whole package: as the market becomes increasingly more competitive, it’s not enough to just rely on your brand’s reputation and the subsequent magnetism of the products – just as it’s insufficient to sell bikes purely at knockdown prices. Customers want service and they’re prepared to pay for it. The brands who recognise that, deliver adequate products and differentiate their brand from the masses, won’t have to worry in the future, be them a direct order company or a bricks-and-mortar retailer.
Words: Christoph Bayer Pictures: Christoph Bayer/Klaus Kneist
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