Colour. Apart from price it's the one question or objection that always comes up on the sales floor - for low to mid priced bikes it's usually a choice of two, at the high end, one. Most of the time when I'm asked what other colours that blue dream bike on the floor comes in I usually make a joke of it and say "blue, blue and blue".
My customer then usually responds with a wisecrack about Henry Ford, Model-T's and the bicycle industry (yep, most of my customers are quick witted smartarses even though some of them appear to hide it really well).
I always take these kinds of questions home with me, and always with a big what if? This time it's - "what if bicycles were available in an unlimited selection of colours?"
The Long Tail, Chris Anderson's exploration of new economics, culture and commerce ('How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand') provides a few examples (c13/p203) of companies that are using this economy of choice to grow their business, and it was on the topic of colour that one resonated with me. KitchenAid.
But between 2001 and 2003, KitchenAid built a system to offer all of it's colours - typically more than fifty between it's different models - online. If you shop for mixers on Amazon or KitchenAid.com, you can now pick any of those colours from a drop down menu. These include the regular staples along with bolder colours that are Web-only: pistachio, tangerine, cranberry, grape, crystal blue, sienna, lemon and others.
He goes on to note that when presented with this 'unlimited' choice, customers didn't stop at the selection available in retail outlets, they went on to explore and purchase just about every other colour on offer as well. Anderson finished the KitchenAid example with this:
But until KitchenAid had an online channel that allowed customers to pick from it's full range of products, it had no way of knowing that there was latent consumer demand that it hadn't previously tapped.
Of course neither do we, but I reckon we can make a pretty informed guess. The industry has dealt with a host of possible customer objections, saddles are a good example, now an area where just about every shape of backside appears to be catered for and where every permutation sells, but still it seems we have not dealt properly with that most emotional of questions. Colour.
So? What if? Is it doable? Would it grow sales? Will this much colour choice drive everyone crazy?
Posted by Phil at 3:05 AM