Great Customer Relationships Boost Sales
Many independent bicycle retailers worry about how Amazon and other online sellers could further impact the bicycle industry. Rather than losing sleep over the unknown, these retailers would be better served by focusing on what they can control – such as improving service and strengthening relationships with customers.
“Given that e-commerce is driving an increased amount of retail growth, it is more important than ever for retailers to focus on developing customer experiences that enable them to grow and retain their customer base,” wrote Brett Relander, a digital marketing specialist, in this article for Entrepreneur magazine.
As a retailer, you aren’t selling just bikes, parts and accessories. You’re also selling the feeling that a customer has after they leave your store. You may not always beat the price offered by virtual competitors – but you can still shake hands with the people who come through your door. You can also host repair clinics, group rides and other events that make your store a destination.
Here are other ways to create a store atmosphere that keeps your customers coming back:
1. Train your staff well.
Hire enthusiastic retail professionals who know bicycles, understand your store’s systems and enjoy what they do. Even as market changes accelerate around you, you can take solace in this fundamental that you've relied on since you opened your doors is still the most important thing you can do to succeed. Every in-store transaction passes through one of your staff -- make sure they are excellent.
2. Integrate your website into your store’s customer experience.
Use your site to offer convenience and help customers find exactly what they want. Remind them that they can order online and pick up for free in your store. Remember, in today's world a customer's time is one of their most valuable assets. If they entered your store, they were hoping to check a task off their list. Don't make them leave and start their search over again online. Use your expertise and resources to help them finish their task and move on with their day.
3. Promote your store’s website, not somebody else’s.
Be willing to invest the time and resources to integrate your site with those of the major vendors. That way, you won’t have to send your customers to a third party’s online catalog or rely on a "behind-the-scenes" site for orders. To the first point, even as Trek moves to offer complete online shopping, trekbikes.com won't showcase all of the products that you have access to. To the second point, don't retreat to behind the sales counter and look items up on QBP or J&B -- that process can be tedious for the customer and instead you want to condition your customer to see how comprehensive and convenient your website is.
4. Offer a great selection of products.
E-commerce gives you an “endless aisle” to meet your customers’ needs. Avoid the phrase "special order," which sounds daunting, time consuming, expensive -- and will drive a customer straight to Amazon. Instead, say: "We don't showcase that item because of limited space, but we do have it on our website. Let's find it online together." You want to encourage your customers to buy from you whenever they can. They can support their local retailer in-store and online.
5. Remember your customers.
This seems so easy to you the owner. This is how you built your business -- you established relationships with the cornerstone customers who helped you build your brand. Now you need to stress this with your staff how important it is to know your customers and show them that you care about them. What are their names? What rides do they like? What trips have they taken recently? The best way to establish and maintain personalized service is through employee longevity. Treat your staff members well so they’ll stick around and get to know your clientele.
In the end, the best way to build your store’s brand is to encourage your team to form direct, long-lasting relationships with customers. That has been the cornerstone of bicycle retail for years and, despite technology and market changes, remains true today.
You NEED to build these relationships if you are going to succeed. The product itself is becoming commoditized, you need to build relationships that make you the destination to get the product.