How To Run A Successful Bike Shop in 2023
Retailers, distributors, and manufacturers within the bike industry experienced an unprecedented boom in 2020.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economics Analysis’ Outdoor Recreation report, the bike industry contributed $3.04 billion dollars to the country’s gross domestic product in 2020 and $3.28 billion in 2021.
That is a significant increase compared to the $2 billion dollar mark that it has been hovering at since 2017.
Significant enough for some cities to even redesign their streets to accommodate all the new riders.
As we await the numbers for 2022, what can we expect for the year 2023?
With too much stock on hand, distributors opening direct-to-consumer channels, and discounts everywhere, it’s imperative for independent bike dealers (IBDs) to think ahead and set themselves up for success by focusing on these three areas:
✓ Becoming your customer's go-to trusted expert
✓ Re-strategizing how you run your service department
✓Remembering the importance of community
Become the Expert, Not the Outlet
With so much competition out there, it's important to focus on the areas where you as a store owner or manager have control.
One of those areas is customer service and the training of your staff. It's important to ask yourself: how knowledgeable is your team? Do you stand out as an expert in the industry? What do your customers think of you? Do they see you as a trusted expert or a middle-man between them and the manufacturers?
Remember, it's not just about the product - it's about the overall experience and how you as a store can stand out. By prioritizing customer service and investing in the training and expertise of your team, you can differentiate yourself and provide a memorable experience for your customers.
Know Your Customer
Knowing your customer is one of the most important parts of any business. But the day-to-day gets in the way and it’s easy to lose sight of that.
So how can you keep your customers front of mind?
Learn and Strategize
Identify your customer and learn their needs, preferences, and behaviors, it’ll help you tailor your service to cater to their interests.
Learn to distinguish a commuter from a hobbyist, a pro from an amateur, and address their specific needs.
Being able to distinguish that straight off the bat allows you to instantaneously change the way you sell, ensuring that you see that transaction through and build trust at the same time. For example, what's important to a commuter might not be to a triathlete. Meet your customer where they are and ensure you're leading them in the right direction.
Overall, the more you understand your customer, the better equipped you will be to create a positive and meaningful experience for them in the store and through your marketing efforts.
💡Tip: Remember to prioritize the needs and expectations of the person in front of you. It's important to look beyond your own experience and consider their perspective.
The Pandemic Bike Boom
A lot of new riders that purchased a bike from you during the pandemic are either picking back up an old hobby or are completely new to the sport.
They are the perfect candidates to turn into lifelong customers and become promoters of your business.
They need to learn how to keep their bike in good condition, how to upgrade it to suit their lifestyle, and get the most use out of their new purchase. They are essentially the perfect candidates for the extra soft goods on your hands.
The Secret Sauce: Your Service Department
Your service department is where you and your staff can really shine.
Enhancing and improving the way you run your service department is important for two main reasons:
It’s the area in your store where you have the most control over your margins – even with distributors opening direct-to-consumer channels, you can still be a trusted partner for your customers by offering them what the distributors can’t and won’t.
And with bikes becoming more complicated than ever before, it’s important to focus on how your service department shows up for the customer.
A service interaction is a perfect opportunity for your staff to create a relationship with your customers. You are put in a position of power and have the ability to become their guru today and benefit from that relationship tomorrow.
How can you enhance your service department?
IBDs can enhance their service department by focusing on these three areas:
#1 Focus on the new riders
New riders may not be familiar with the various components of a bike or how to properly maintain it. They also haven't picked up the bad habits of the bike industry yet, so use this as an opportunity to educate them on bike maintenance etiquette and everyone will prosper.
Invite new riders to come in for their first tune-up with a complimentary 15-minute crash course on what your store does a during a tune-up and why it’s essential to come in once every season.
By offering specialized services and resources, independent bike dealers can help new bike owners feel more confident and comfortable with their purchases.
#2 Prepare your team to service more bikes
To increase efficiency and accommodate more customers, you can invest in training for their service team.
This can include learning new repair techniques, using specialized tools, or staying up-to-date on the latest industry standards.
With e-bike sales estimated to reach 40 million units by 2023, it's clear that e-bikes are here to stay. IBDs that want to stay competitive and attract e-bike-riding customers will need to be able to offer reliable e-bike repair services.
Look out for Bosch’s eBike and the Shimano Steps certifications.
By ensuring that your team is well-equipped to handle a variety of repair needs, the service department can provide a higher level of service to customers.
#3 Effectively communicate with your customers
Good communication is key to providing excellent customer service. This can include explaining the repair process and costs clearly, setting realistic expectations for turnaround times, and being responsive to customer questions and concerns.
But you can take it even beyond that, let’s have a look.
What effective communication actually looks like
Stress-Free Difficult Conversations
You know this all too well after the customer drops off their bike to be serviced, unexpected things can pop up.
Being the expert and relationship-builder that you are, you might want to have a conversation on the phone with the customer to first educate them on why a big repair is needed and to soften the blow.
But no one likes to play phone tag, and even when you reach them, it might not be the right time to let them know that you had to tear apart their bike to rebuild it only to find a cracked frame in the process.
This can help minimize misunderstandings and ensure that you are able to effectively communicate any necessary repairs or additional work. At the same time, you are keeping the customer informed and being transparent about the repair process.
Meet Them Where They Are
When it comes to a big purchase like a bike, most customers take their time to do some research online.
Meeting them where they are means you have the right tools in place to catch them while they are browsing online.
Their level of knowledge and overall familiarity with bikes will vary and coming back to being an expert and a resource for your customers, making it easy for them to ask you questions is just another opportunity for you to catch them at a critical moment.
The bike industry can be intimidating and traditional eCommerce just doesn’t do the job. Your customers are not just buying another sweater where they know their exact size, you need to be available to answer questions and have the right tools in place to do it.
Learn more about how service-heavy businesses use text messaging to automate their processes.
Text Your Way to a Leaner Inventory
With the massive shift in demand and the world’s largest distributor of bicycle components, Shimano, introducing a new direct-to-consumer portal in the USA, how can you re-strategize the way you manage your inventory in the new year?
Special order more
The past two years of supply chain woes have conditioned consumers to be more patient, IBDs can capitalize on this and special order exactly what they know they will sell, secure the payment, and keep customers in the loop via text message at the same time.
Send tailored campaigns
Ikeono’s Campaign feature is designed for relationship building, hence it’s only possible to send a campaign to an existing customer. Strategize new campaigns based on brands or product categories and reach out in a personalized way.
The Role of Community
Community is a vital component of the bike industry.
For many people, biking is not just a mode of transportation or a form of exercise, but a passionate hobby and a way of life.
By fostering a sense of community, IBDs create a welcoming and supportive environment for people to connect with others who share their interests.
However, in this post-bike-boom era, newer IBDs might need help to pivot and effectively connect with their customers.
While they may be skilled business people, they may not have the same level of enthusiasm and knowledge about bikes as true bike enthusiasts.
How can local IBDs build a strong community?
Organizing events for the general public could be anything from casual meetups at the shop to more structured events like bike maintenance clinics or group rides. These events give people an opportunity to meet each other, learn new things, and feel more connected to the local cycling scene.
Check out how Mike’s Bikes does it with their Learn How To Wrench Like a Pro program.
Many kids are interested in cycling, and independent bike dealers can help foster that interest by offering programs like a youth bike club. This could be a place where kids can learn about bike maintenance, ride together, and have a sense of belonging.
Most of the time they will show up with parents, which gives you and your team another chance to build strong relationships.
Group rides are a way for people to get to know each other and feel more connected to the local cycling community. These rides can be weekly meetups or special events.
They should be a fun, low-pressure way for people to socialize and enjoy the sport together.
Your shop can be the hub for all kinds of cycling-related activity, and don’t forget, building a community takes time, patience, and consistency.
Ready for 2023?
As we look ahead to 2023, it's clear that the road ahead will be a little bumpy but IBDs have a unique opportunity to shine through the power of human connection.
By focusing on becoming trusted experts, effective communicators, and community builders, IBDs can not only solve many of the overstock and competitive issues but also differentiate their stores in a world that is increasingly digital.
In other words, by doubling down on the human factor - on being a place where people can connect, learn, and feel supported - you can set your shop apart and create a truly special community.