IF YOU DON’T WANT TO CHANGE, DON’T READ THIS! Change is one of the most difficult and rewarding elements of business. However, many people in the powersports industry absolutely refuse to implement change.
If this is you, this column isn’t for you! Being something of a newbie to the MPN editorial staff hasn’t held me back from my usual rants, industry impressions or retail shopping adventures, and I still call it like I see it from a retail customer’s perspective. The shopping experience is important to me, especially now — post-recession and pre-renaissance — and unlike political rhetoric, this change is very real.
It isn’t just the powersports industry, the entire world of retail has changed. Amazon is now delivering Nissan Notes and Jukes to your front door. Costco is now showing warehouse shoppers the latest Kawasakis and new Ford trucks in their entry area. The goal is to catch “new eyes” from people who normally wouldn’t wander into a motorcycle shop in the industrial section of town.
Both of these changed business models still include the franchised Nissan, Ford and Kawasaki dealer in the transaction because they are the state-approved motor vehicle dealer who has to deliver the product. The local powersports dealer gets new eyes on his products and Costco makes its money from more memberships.
What Costco and Amazon do extremely well is catch my attention from “out of left field” with new products I wouldn’t normally search out. More importantly, they are catching the eyes of potential motorcycle and UTV buyers who normally won’t visit your store. They have access to the eyes, but they are not as knowledgeable or dedicated as you or me.
Rather than viewing them as the enemy, change your perspective. Costco is reaching “new buyers — buyers who will end up buying from you. Changing to this out-of-the-box concept of partnering with a “big box” retailer can be hard, but I hope you see the merit.
The key to success in showing off your products in off-site places is simple. Look for places where the heads of the family go together. The two decision makers in a household are usually husband and wife… and how often do you get both in your store at the same time? I would suspect rarely. Women control the purse strings on discretionary income in America… PERIOD.
Start looking around your community more creatively than you ever have before. Think about parades, 4th of July celebrations, rodeos, high school football games, movie theater lobbies, charity events and shopping mall displays. It’s not just the community spirit you are capturing — it’s new eyeballs. When families see something exciting together they talk about it in that moment. That moment is fleeting, but extremely important and something for spouses or parents to act on.
Today, people have less time to drive to your store, ask questions and ogle new bikes. Instead, we can Google that from our mobile devices. Industry trend watchers noted this decline in floor traffic to auto dealerships. Automotive aftermarket parts and services are plentiful in most towns, so people can avoid the dealer with what most customers feel are inflated labor rates and OE-only parts.
This thinking is changing how some people see motorcycle dealerships. There are now more choices in the motorcycle market with independent shops for accessories and services. Have you seen the mobile motorcycle mechanics services yet? They are basically like food trucks, but with a lift and tools instead of a fryer and cooktop. In San Francisco you can even rent garage space and tools to work on your own bike.
So how do we battle, blend or accept this onslaught of swirling retail change?
1.) Build Overall Shopping Experience (in store and online)
– Personalize by name, invitation, phone call, email
– Inspire imagination (sell dreams, not products)
– Build and market special events
– Send newsletters, Tweets, FB posts
– Kill them with kindness
2.) Make Your Customers Your Destination
– Go where the customers are
– Go where household heads are together
– Show your products in off-beat places that don’t cost you much
– Look at “pop-up” showrooms
3.) Surprise Us!
– Demos, special rides, midnight madness sales, scavenger hunts, poker runs, etc.
– Make it easy, safe and exciting for newbies to join your community
– Use our first name when addressing us digitally or in real life
Hopefully you can implement these changes. If you can’t, you don’t have much hope of surviving the changing business paradigm!
The long-running Confessions of a Customer™ is one of columnist
Eric Anderson’s commitments to the industry, which includes his retail sales training efforts and service to the MIC Board of Directors. He has built several well-known aftermarket brands and is the founder of Vroom Network, an industry-specific consulting company specializing in marketing, training and brand development.