Ask the trade: What consumer shopping behaviour trends have you noticed in recent years?

You needn’t be an expert to see that the way consumers are researching and purchasing goods is changing.

Report after report backs up the notion that retail practices and methods to reach the customer are evolving rapidly. But what have those within the bike industry noticed thus far? We ask the trade:

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John Hoskins, Ealing Cycles
There has always been a small group of customers who would compare prices before purchasing anything, even pre-internet. But the situation is getting more blatant. Showrooming really does annoy me. I’m of a generation that wouldn’t even take a labelled carrier bag into a different shop. But it’s part of modern retailing. A large percentage of the buying public put service above price and we should treasure those that do. Let the smart phone price checkers do their worst, you’ll never make a living out of them anyway.

I have no problem with fitting equipment purchased online – I’m probably making more than Wiggle on a gear mech by charging reasonable labour rates for fitting it. No expensive stock to underwrite, no “old” stock to unload – what’s not to like.

Kevin Moreland, Bainton Bikes
Less people are visiting the shop and turnover is lower, but those who do visit the shops tend to spend more per visit.

Jon Askham, Kinetic Cycles
We’ve noted an increase in average spend and a downturn in entry-level road, however the latter has been replaced by a resurgence in entry-to-mid range MTBs, which is really making a comeback. The days of relying on £500 to £1,500 road sales to keep a business afloat seem gone.

Mick Murphy, Mickey Cranks
The rise in mobile technologies and social media is redefining interaction and consumer shopping patterns. Digitization is revolutionizing the sales and service processes. The good news for IBDs is that most customers still rely on us during the decision phase of the bike purchasing process. They want to test ride and be sized on the bike before buying it, and servicing is still very much an “offline necessity.” IBDS will therefore remain an essential part in the decision journey.

Customers come into our store in two categories; the first has thoroughly researched their purchase and just want confirmation before buying, the second requires guidance and advice from an expert and has sometimes been blinded by the fog of information online. Both appreciate the value of service and after sales, they are both potentially lifetime customers.

There is however a third category we call ‘The Reapers’ who only visit when they are stuck, and use your valuable time to gather information before leaving to purchase online.

Neil Holman, George Halls Cycle Centre
Many want it as cheap as possible and they want it yesterday. When I came into the trade in the 1980s customers would be willing to pay for the service you provided and very rarely would you get someone argue over the price, now everyone has their smart out checking sales online.Very few customers now accept what you tell them or quote them. We used to sell a lot of traditional bikes like the Dawes Duchess and the Claud Butler Cambridge, but since Halfords and Victoria Pendleton launched that kind of bike we don’t sell any now. We upgraded to Pashley which thankfully are selling.

We used to sell lots of clothing too, so much so we expanded into the shop next door purely for clothing and we would often spend several thousand pounds a month with each supplier. Then Aldi, Lidl and Mountain Warehouse came to town selling cheap. Our sales fell through the floor. In 2016 some months we never made a clothing order so I took the decision to drop all the clothing, barring shorts and mitts, this summer.

Related: Ten ways to design customer engagement into your store.