Think Locally, Act Globally


[dropcap]S[/dropcap]hoppers are changing their habits faster than Lady Gaga changes her look. Are you keeping up with what the customer wants – or are you still in denial that the times have changed? Technology may be accelerating change, but in my opinion the Internet only makes it easier to buy more of the wrong stuff.

It’s still your job to enlighten us locally on what we really need, Mr. Dealer, because we truly don’t know oftentimes until it’s too late. If we don’t know the correct question to ask Google, we’re trapped inside our own blissful circle of ignorance. And since we don’t visit your dealership and ask dumb questions as often as we used to, that enlightenment process is more difficult to deliver in the old-fashioned ways. It’s time to rethink how to reach out and influence us on a global level.

By definition, commodities are things all people know about, thus shopping for them will always remain price-driven. But since the powersports industry offers discretionary and recreational products, it still comes down to a differentiating shopping experience… which can be either digital or face-to-face. All too often customers realize our cyberspace-driven mistakes after we buy something too small, too big, too cheap, too heavy or too slow. We’ve all done it and regret not knowing how to properly research the purchase by ourselves.

The most powerful search engines on the planet are still useless unless you know the right questions to ask. I just relearned this fact buying a customized laptop computer from a local shop, which asked me the right questions vs. the Best Buy across town that only wanted to hawk what was on the shelf. I never knew the endless options until I spent time in a small shop interacting with another knowledgeable human being. Wow! What a difference!

It’s a fact – smaller retail stores force humans to interact more with each other. It sounds old fashioned to talk “small” but it’s becoming popular again. “Boutique” isn’t just a snooty French word for a pretentious clothing retailer pimping the Kardashian clan’s latest looks.

Webster’s defines the use of this adjective as: designating, or characteristic of a small, exclusive producer or business. Perhaps we have all been trying to grow up and be BIG – while the customers lately want the smaller retail experience for non-commodity products?

Things are coming full circle now that we realize what a pain mega-retail stores are for getting help. Online isn’t our only other option – micro-retailers are becoming the new rage. If you don’t think it’s happening in powersports have you looked at used motorcycle sales between private parties lately? Craigslist and CycleTrader are making anyone with an old bike and used gear in their garage into micro-retailers.

If you don’t think micro, someone else will – including your own customers! Stem that tide locally by helping customers in your area make better choices inside your dealership and begin offering certified pre-owned (CPO) machines with some sort of aftermarket warranty included in the price. This gives us assurance and confidence – two very sought after entities in this post-recession world. It also gives you more profit.

Big Box Retailers (BBR) are well known for their lack of customer service and poor shopping experience. However, they are equally well known for great prices on… well… commodities. Perhaps it would be simpler for you to study what BBRs do and then do the opposite? Take some lessons from the food and beverage industry. Big chains are struggling in the face of crappy food, increased obesity and a colorless eating environment, yet smaller local grocery stores and organic restaurants are flourishing!

Consumers are changing and smaller businesses can accommodate these changes much faster than the juggernauts of retail. Similarly, Triumph and Ducati have been revealing scrambler-class machines for years, while the Big 4 Japanese haven’t sniffed the trend yet. The same could be said for the ADV class save for KLRs and Super Teneres. Do you get the small/big metaphor and how thinking locally can draw in customers globally?

Becoming a boutique store doesn’t mean you need to be a snooty haute couture shop on the Champs-Élysées. Nobody is asking you to focus on pretentious hipsters either, that’s a passing fad not a long-term trend. “Shopping” – an evolved form of hunting and gathering – is more long lasting with periodic cycles of binging and purging laced with surges of quantity and quality. The economy and conveniences of technology influence shopping, but don’t fundamentally change the ultimate value proposition. If it’s worth their time, people will visit your store. If you don’t show them the value in advance, they won’t come!

 Boutique Business Trends

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]nother trend you need to realize is the portrayal of art in and around various boutique businesses. It adds value to the experience and further differentiates you from plain-wrap commodity suppliers. Not only is art portrayed in such businesses, the product for sale also approaches an art form. The Guggenheim Museum’s most popular ticket selling exhibit of all time was “Art of the Motorcycle.” Even the men’s magazines are showing motorcycles off as technical art.

These days, old bikes are sold by Bonham Auctions as vintage art. So how have you positioned your dealership? Are you treating your machines and associated gear as works of art or like “racked and stacked” commodities? Change the way you “storeroom” your products and convert to more of a “showroom” for mechanical marvels. That doesn’t mean you need to become a retail museum, but more of an interpretive retail experience center. See. Touch. Experience. Buy!

Trend forecaster Martha Beck states, “We are entering the age of micro entrepreneurs.” Micro-breweries are thriving in the face of macro breweries like Anheuser-Busch. Local coffee roasters, tea shops and even bone broth bars (yes, they exist) are thriving in the presence of mega-monsters like Starbucks.

These food and beverage examples are hopping on the “go local” trend because many Americans are much more concerned with what we put in our bodies than ever before… and we love the personal shopping experience of these smaller, boutique businesses over the Dark Side’s corporate overlords.

Don’t believe me? Check out http://thelab.com. LAB stands for “Little American Business.” This business is also called the anti-mall.

Fast forward to non-food based products offered for sale in brick and mortar stores. How can we offer the same boutique experience in a motorcycle dealership? It’s a very tough question which gets even tougher when your location is in the industrial section of town. Take a bicycle store for example – they are usually located in a strip mall near a high-traffic grocery store and a hobby shop.

Corporately owned Tesla stores are located in shopping malls where the pedestrian traffic is. Harley-Davidson Auxiliary Retail Outlets are located in local airports. Influential powersports and bicycle retailers exhibit their products in movie theater lobbies. Get it?

The message is simple today – go where your customers are because they are no longer coming to you. Go mobile… bring the local experience to a global audience! First think smaller because it leads to becoming bigger.

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