Jay Townley: The election is over, prepare your business now for uncertain consumer confidence

Jay Townley, Gluskin Townley Group

It’s finally over…the long political campaign culminated in the election, and America has a president elect who will take office in January of 2017 along with a new administration with new policies that will hopefully benefit bicycling.

However, this doesn’t matter anywhere near as much to the health and welfare of your bike shop and your attitude toward the future, starting tomorrow.

Put whatever your feelings are about the campaign, politics and the election away, and keep them for another place besides your bike shop. Shake off the long national debate and focus on your staff, your specialty retail bicycle business and the shoppers who visit you and the customers who purchase from you.

The one thing we know for certain is – there will be uncertainty between now and January when the new president takes office, and possibly for the first 100-days of the new administration.

Uncertainty is not good for the specialty retail bicycle business because consumers become overly cautious. Some will even be afraid of what the future holds and will zip up their wallets/purses, deciding to back off spending for the holidays and into the first quarter of 2017.

It is during this transitional period of uncertainty that the bike shop channel of trade, including your bike shop has an opportunity to improve the three ways you can actually grow your business.

As a refresher, the three ways are:

  • Increase the number of customers. This includes engagement, increasing conversions and increasing close rates of the shoppers who now visit your store – and reaching out to bring more shoppers to your website and through your front door.
  • Increase your shops number of transactions with your client base.  This includes your outreach to engage the customers that have already spent money with you to spend again.
  • Increase the value of transactions.  This is all about up-selling and add-on selling!  Don’t shop with your wallet – shop with your shopper’s wallet – they will tell you when they are ready to stop.

Things aren’t going all that well for the U.S. bicycle market right now as you have been reading in the trade publications. We have also heard from the editors from one of these publication that bike shop channel supplier executives are predicting a below average 2017 and are beginning to worry about 2018. The infectious negative impact of uncertainty has already started to spread.

While we have advised the supply side that they have the means at their disposal to begin to positively impact the American bicycle market next year and into the future, we recognize that the Brutal Truths we have presented along with groups like the 20Collective are currently not being acknowledged, or given the urgent attention we believe they deserve by the bicycle business leadership.

Accordingly, it is up to individual bike shops that are, frankly better positioned, equipped and staffed to take immediate advantage of the opportunities in front of the specialty retail channel of trade right now and going into the future!

Start tomorrow – do not wait until next year. Certainly don’t wait for an industry conference to sit down and decide or discuss with your staff how you are going to improve and enhance your shop engagement of shoppers, meaning your greeting! (By the way – improving engagement applies to your physical store and your website.) jay1

For too long the bike shop trade has taught that you let a shopper enter and look around for a while before you approach them – if they don’t approach you first!  This just doesn’t work anymore.

We have the research data that shows that approximately half of the shoppers that walk into bike shops everyday look around and leave without purchasing a bicycle, but they do go to another retail channel and make a bicycle purchase! 

A poor, slow, canned or no greeting at the first point of engagement can mean the difference between a shopper walking out and buying from another channel of trade or a conversion for your bike shop, and the opportunity to increase the value of a new transaction.

What holds many bike shops back from greeting every shopper that comes through the front door is simple fear and not knowing what to say.  The key – is to be sincere, genuine and really mean it when you say “welcome!”  You also need to try different greetings until you find what works – and then you and your staff need to practice.

The first purpose of the greeting is to make shoppers truly comfortable and to begin the process of showing them that your bike shop is a friendly place that is ready to welcome them in to be a part of the community.

This is the hard part – because you have to really mean it – and you have to get your whole staff on board with both sincerely meaning that every shopper is welcome and to emphasise that they aren’t freds or newbies to be looked down-on because of their ignorance of bicycles. They are truly valued.

Your sincerity in welcoming each and every shopper also means having a plan for working with and converting those shoppers that come into your bike shop to “show-room” and use their hand-held smart phone to do some comparison shopping. You can’t convert them all, but if you can convert one more a day and take them to a successful close – you are on your way to growing your bike shop business.

One more huge benefit is the positive work of mouth or WOM that you and your staff will be creating in your neighborhood and community. By welcoming every shopper and making as many of them comfortable in your store as you can, you don’t only increase your conversions and close rates. You also generate a positive buzz about your bike shop that will actually bring women, and infrequent and neglected non-cyclists through your door to see for themselves – if you are for real, and that they have no reason to be afraid.

jay2And an added bonus – you increase foot-traffic and the opportunity to make more conversions – at no real additional cost for marketing or outreach!

Also starting tomorrow – look at everything in your bike shop that will help you and your staff convert more shoppers and increase you close rate. The key question to ask is: Are you making it easy for shoppers to buy from your bike shop – both in your physical store and online?

Large and extensive selections aren’t what shoppers are looking for today, and a Good, Better, Best selection with logical step up features between price points is easy to understand by shoppers – and its easy to communicate and sell for your staff.

Many new-wave and outlier specialty bicycle retail physical merchandise selections resemble collections with bike shops as the curators, with a seamless consistency between the brick-n-mortar and online and supplier websites providing the long-shelf that adds special orders to your shops selection.

If tomorrow wasn’t already busy enough… after you sort out your game plan for engagement and conversions you need to make sure you work with your staff to make sure every conversion process includes up-selling from Good to Better and from Better to Best.

For some unknown reason, the bike shop culture includes the conventional wisdom about suggesting the next best, or more expense model as not being appropriate. Nothing could be further from the truth – and you and your staff need to understand that shoppers today expect retailers to suggest the better, higher priced model as long as there is a benefit or bargain available!

What I have discovered is that too many bike shop owners and sales associates shop with their wallets, and not with the shoppers’ wallet!  Make real and honest suggestions – and the shopper will tell you when they are finished, and you can move to close.

The same goes for add-on sales of apparel or accessories. It is unfortunate that too many bike shop owners and staff don’t even attempt an add-on sale after closing a new or used bike sale because they don’t think the customer will spend more.

Maybe they won’t spend more today – but they really do expect to be asked and they welcome suggestions that will make their bicycle purchase a better experience. If done as a respectful suggestion to make their bicycle riding experience better and more fun, they will listen and decide if they will include the add-on to their purchase.

The future is right in front of you – and you can take charge. Start growing the revenue and profit of your bike shop business by taking action tomorrow to increase and improve the level and quality of your bike shops engagement (also called your greeting), improve and standardize the consistency of your conversions, including selling-up each and every time and lastly install add-on sales as a component of every close.

Like Jay’s work? We’ve plenty more from the long-time industry author and bike retail specialist right here.