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E-Bikes 101, Part 2: Making E-Bikes Work for Your Dealership

Best practices for selling e-bikes.

Last week, we looked at the different types and classes of e-bikes available on the market. This week, we’ll look at how to successfully make e-bikes a profitable part of your dealership. The experts agree: You can’t be lukewarm about entering the e-bike business. You have to fully dive in — from marketing and servicing to promoting a community — in order to make it work for you.

Marketing

How best should you market e-bikes? Do you target your existing powersports customers, a new demographic or both?

“Dealers should first and foremost target their endemic customer base,” Mike Carr, vice president – sales for INTENSE Cycles, recommends. “Creating understanding and excitement along with demo opportunities is quite important. All e-bikes are not created equal, and there can be very different user experiences. There is so much information and data that it can be overwhelming to research and compare bikes. Create an attractive experience opportunity and focus on how the dealership tells the story. Encourage demo experience to provide the rider with an opportunity to feel what the e-bike experience is all about.”

“Having onsite events with a little course set up has been very popular,” Michael Mayer, director of marketing at QuietKat, adds. He also recommends using the full gamut of marketing tools to advertise, from direct communications to some traditional media.

“I think having a good marketing mix at the retail level is really important. Awareness through direct communications, whether it be their email channel [or] if they’re doing direct mail. Direct mailers are still popular amongst the independent motorsport retailer,” Mayer notes. He also reminds dealers to see what sort of support they can receive from their e-bike manufacturers in terms of creative for flyers, signage and more.

Marketing is a critical aspect of bringing on an e-bike brand, because if your customers don’t know you offer it, they won’t buy it. Consider that the local powersports dealership may not be the first place they think of to buy an e-bike, it’s your job to make them of aware this.

“Have a strategy and make a commitment to follow that strategy,” Carr suggests. “A powersports dealer who wants to dip a toe into the e-bike space will likely face challenges in driving substantial business. Have quality service, build community and ensure your staff is enthusiastic and well-trained. Know where riders can ride and understand the riding experience.”

Servicing

Part of being a dealership means you are a service shop as well. So, if you decide to sell e-bikes, you’re going to have to maintain them too. However, this is a win-win situation, since e-bike service presents another revenue opportunity for you.

“The powersports dealer should be capable of servicing any components and systems on the bike. To create the best consumer experience, creating a capable, one-stop shop for the e-bike category is important,” Carr says.

Luckily, e-bikes are much simpler to work on than other powersport vehicles, but that doesn’t mean you can slack off on tech training. First of all, be sure to have a dedicated e-bike technician. If that technician needs training, there are plenty of resources available. For powersports dealers new to the e-bike world, many e-bike companies offer training resources for service or can recommend where to find additional instruction.

Sam Blethen, category manager of powersports, auto and RV for QuietKat, notes that for many bikes, “Ninety percent of it is just basic mountain bike maintenance, and then you add the battery and motor into the equation.” While there are some things you need to learn to work on those, Blethen notes, for the most part, servicing a battery or motor will just mean swapping them out under warranty.  “It’s not a lot of taking apart a motor and working on it, like the powersports guys are used to,” Blethen adds. “It’s more replacing … versus getting hands-on and taking it apart. And it’s pretty simple, to tell you the truth.”

As far as batteries go, the life and charge cycles for them will vary by brand; be sure to research those aspects as you work to find the best fit for your store. That said, there are certain variables that will decrease battery life, such as salt water and humidity — just as they would with any other vehicle. One popular question many customers ask is if an e-bike can be ridden through water, such as through a stream. The answer is yes and no. Assuming this is an off-road e-bike, most manufacturers state that while the battery can get wet without affecting performance, submerging the battery is not recommended. So, as long as a rider can keep the battery mostly above the surface of the water, the bike should maintain its performance.

Decision Time

You may or may not be on-board with the idea of electric powersports. It’s true that there are different use cases for them, and maybe electric motorcycles, ATVs/UTVs or personal watercraft aren’t a fit for your dealership. In the same vein, we can’t tell you whether or not e-bikes will be successful at your store. However, what we do recommend is that, if you haven’t considered bringing on e-bikes yet, don’t automatically dismiss the idea out of hand. At least give it some thought and do some research.

“I think many powersports dealers really have kind of a decision to make,” Blethen states. “The powersports world is going electric. I think it’s still going to be a long time till it’s all electric, but every powersports dealer is looking at different electric options and products to offer. Dealers need to look very closely at both the product and also the brand that supports that product.”

To that end, in addition to looking at the different types of e-bikes available, you need to research the manufacturers as well. Find out what sort of minimum purchase agreements e-bike OEMs require. If you’re not totally convinced they will sell from the start, perhaps try a brand with a low minimum.

Also, be sure to look over the accessory lineups for the different bike brands. If your powersports dealership specializes in off-roading, for instance, look for bike brands that also offer off-road accessories for hunting, fishing, etc. In addition, check to see if these bikes have any sort of phone connectivity with apps that add security features, maps, tracking and more. Just as with any powersports vehicle, these extra accessories and features that are geared towards enhancing the user experience can be the difference between making the sale or not.

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