By David Gaule, of eCommerce experts Citrus-Lime
There’s a familiar concern among independent cycle retailers that they can’t compete with big online retailers. This often results in a “What’s the point of even trying?” attitude.
One route to online success is through smart retail models, such as not trying to be a one-stop-shop for all things cycling and stocking exclusive brands or niche lines, so you’re not directly competing on specific products.
“There’s not enough niche brands to support us all” and “I have to stock the popular brands that customers want” I hear you cry. Yes, to some extent, you’re right. You need the popular brands that drive footfall or traffic and your cycle equivalent to a supermarket’s bread and milk – inner tubes and energy products. However, if your trade price doesn’t allow you to sell at a competitive price without essentially making those products a loss-leader, the stock won’t turn and it’s just tying up capital that could achieve better profit elsewhere.
So, what’s the answer? It’s time to unleash your secret weapon, that ace up your sleeve – ‘convenience’.
You don’t need to be the cheapest online. You just need to be at the right price point for the customer to favour the perceived value in having that product immediately. You don’t need a big ecommerce operation and you don’t even need to be offering delivery; but you absolutely must have a website that shows your accurate stock availability online. Most people shop online with a mobile device first, so your site needs to be ‘fully responsive’ (auto resizing to look right on any screen) and that mobile device will tell them which retailers are closest to them with what they want in stock. This drives footfall to your store. Then it’s up to your friendly expert staff to convert their visit into a purchase, upsell and cross-sell etc. If you know what consumers you’re targeting and stocking the right products with an effective Google Shopping campaign, offering Click and Collect at a price point that beats waiting/paying for delivery will often seal the deal for you.
The power of Click and Collect increases even more when we involve distributors. The technology exists (and is pretty affordable from providers who already know how to do it and are doing it successfully elsewhere) to have a centralised distributor or brand Click and Collect site that shows the stock availability (or a due date) of every dealer nationwide. Consumers will find it easier to find the (likely higher ranked) brand site, yet it will drive footfall and sales through their existing dealers.
This kind of brand exposure to end consumers will achieve a more consistent stock turn for distributors, which could help remove the requirement to offload surplus stock at massively reduced trade prices. The brand site can also show a single selling price for all. Both of which help avoid price wars that ultimately devalue brands and destroy margin for all, to the point where no one stocks them and brands die.
In this new age of retail, don’t just compete on price, compete on convenience… for the win.