Ask the trade: How do you convert the internet shopper in store?

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You may see them coming and it may even be tempting to pull the shutters down at times, but the bargain hunter is convertible if you’re willing to make a decent case for investing in local bike shops.

So how do those in the trade go about talking round the bargain hunter? We ask five very different UK bike retailers:

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John Hoskins, Ealing Cycles
Marketing is something that’s changed beyond recognition in the many years I’ve been retailing. Like internet selling and model changes we must change too.

My manager (and the senior mechanic) have just been on a social media marketing course. Ten years ago I would have ridiculed any retailer wasting the time of two senior members of staff with such nonsense, but now it’s a necessity. Ten years ago our website was probably our most effective marketing tool – but that only works now if you can persuade potential customers to look at it. So Facebook and a myriad of other social media sites have to be used and have become an integral part of one’s advertising. Most of it is free, it just takes time and a reasonable level of expertise.

The days of a half page advert in Yellow Pages are long gone. Welcome it all, learn from your younger staff members and listen to customers who tell you why they are in your shop, you may be surprised.

Jon Askham, Kinetic Cycles
The correct stock is crucial. Carry brands that have an ability to hold margin and a good selection in store. Sell based on value; The value of your knowledge, range of product and after-sales care. Go after the customer that will buy on value, and remember that a product that costs a lot of money can still be considered good value, just use your excellent customer service skills to add value to that sale.

Above all else, make sure you come across that you care about that customer and the money in their pocket.

Mick Murphy, Mickey Cranks
Fight the online businesses at their own game while offering everything they cannot. Most customers will always want to physically experience the bike before purchase as it is typically one of their largest leisure investments. They also frequently seek expert advice on optional equipment and further services, (such as financing options) as well as detailed information that is either not available, or not conclusively answered online.

Customers continue to value the personal aspect of the sales process, which forms the basis of brand representation and customer retention. After sales service offerings and warranty support are also better served by the IBD.

Neil Holman, George Halls Cycle Centre
In my experience you can’t, even if you price match. I often read on trade forums others moaning about internet shoppers and other saying how they have converted one customer. I say embrace it, if they walk through your door with a box of goodies they want fitting say yes and be grateful they have thought of you and that you are going to take some money off of them.

A third of my business is now done online or over the phone because of the specialist nature of my online, so I see both sides.

Kevin Moreland, Bainton Bikes
Our marketing focuses on good old fashion face-to-face advice based on understanding the customer’s needs.

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