Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Twitter exchange

An interesting exchange between me and one of the folks I follow on Twitter.

Twitterpeep: "Assembling a new bike for Mr6 - I better make sure everything gets screwed on tight!"

Me: "You have to assemble a kids bike? Isn't that the job of the retailer?"

Twitterpeep: "From a bike shop sure but this was purchased from Toys-R-Us and I trust myself more than I do their staff."


Question? If consumers don't trust big box staff, why do they trust their products?

So what holds folks back from purchasing from an IBD? Is it only price? Is it convenience? Is it just shopping habit? Or is it us?

It can't be convenience, because there are more IBD's than big box retailers, we are usually around the block somewhere. Price? How much is a consumers time worth? Is this a calculation? We deliver the bike to consumers assembled to standard and with a higher quality which saves them both time and sometimes frustrating effort. It can't be habit, consumers show very little brand or retailer loyalty these days....maybe they don't trust us either.

Posted by Phil at 9:25 PM

7 Comments

  1. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 10:44 PM  
    I saw this exchange unfold on Twitter! How interesting and great grist for the mill.

    You pose a question that is being asked a lot these days, here in the US. One of the major topics of discussion during the meetings of the Bicycle Leadership Conference this January was about the retail environment/ experience.

    Somewhat begrudgingly, many folks- even a number of present retailers- admitted that the bicycle IBD retail experience is one that is often less than enjoyable for many consumers- especially those who are new and not yet a member of our clique.

    Many of the more successful retailers in the US have gone out of their way to improve that experience for consumers and it is largely paying off. For many retailers, it simply means making sure that the staff is properly trained to put the potential consumer first and to offer a less "I know it ALL and you know NOTHING" attitude.

    It's still a battle for even those who do embrace this thinking, but they are certainly better placed to capitalize if they get it right.

    Thanks for spurring conversation Phil!
  2. Blogger Gary O'Brien posted at 6:59 AM  
    As a guy who isn't in the industry, I can give you a parent's perspective. And this is coming from someone who is fiercely loyal to his shop and brand. I'm also the annoying family member who goes with people to the shop to buy bikes. In that sense, I represent nine bike sales, not including my own, in the last year. My shop has great service, no pressure and none of the cliche elitism that I know some peopel complain about.

    What's the age of the kid? I think for a lot of parents, myself included, the big box solution for a kid who is going to outgrow a bike in a short period of time makes sense. So, in a sense, they may be looking for a disposable solution, of sorts, before they buy the kid their first nice bike. Or, in some cases, you may spend the cash on a good bike for a kid that won't get used.

    For example, I have a six-year-old who needs a new bike. We've looked at my favorite shop, picked one out and then also looked at my kid who seems to grew in sprurts of six inches. If I spend $200 on a good bike for her, what will happen when she's 8? I don't want to get her a piece of junk, but she's a kid and is going to do kid things on the bike. Which probably includes trying to hang it from a tree, leave it laying in a creek or behind my Jeep.

    Her older sister got her good bike when she was 10 and tall enough to fit on a small adult bike that, with yearly adjustments, will work for her for many years. After years of using a lower-standard bike she earned a good bike by taking care of what she was given. And now it's not just a toy, it's also a means of transportation for her.
  3. Anonymous Phil posted at 12:41 AM  
    Note: This is the excellent response I got from Markus (the Twitterpeep) on his decision to purchase at Toys R Us. I thought I'd post it here in comments as an update to the post. Like Brians comment it pretty well outlines what our customers are thinking. My reply is in the comment below.

    Further to our tweets earlier, I thought I'd drop a few notes which hopefully add some context and possibly value.

    Today I went to buy my Mr6 a new bike; he's outgrown his old bike. The first bike was bought at a local shop and has served its purpose well (and undoubtedly will for Mr2 when he grows into it). The only complaint that I can recall from the first purchase was that we were told the bike was aluminum when it was steel. Yeah, this should have been obvious to us but we'd looked at a few in the shop and were wanting to make sure that we got the right thing for our first child. Come to think of it, I'm not 100% sure if the training wheels were put on (although that may have been our choice, if a fee was involved).

    So, when looking for a new bike for Mr6, one of the key considerations for us was cost. I Googled the local bike shops as we typically like to support the local shops. I found the sites somewhat unusable for people like me - I don't know the brand that I'm interested in nor the size. What would be useful for folk like me are guidelines such as age (or size) recommendations.

    It also seemed like I'd get little change from $200 for a bike for Mr6. So, I took a look at KMart, Toys-R-Us and Target. Target don't sell bikes and all of them have crap websites, by which you can't search for products and can only look at a pdf of a catalogue. The catalogues showed what appeared to be suitable bikes (without me being clear of the size) for about $120 from memory.

    That lead to a trip to both KMart and Toys-R-Us. As it turned out, KMart were having a 25% off sale but no-one served me even though Mr6 was riding aroun dthe store and Mr2 was running after him. Thankfully security didn't turn up as I was kinda expecting to be turfed out. The bike that appeared to be the right size was $58 after discount. I think that assembly was listed on a sign for $20 ... but I suspect it would have taken a week (and doubt I'd trust them).

    Then off to Toys-R-Us (who, as a complete aside have been doing a days till Christmas countdown on their website since January). They had a couple of suitable size options. One for $60 and one for $70. Nothing listed about installation. So, I pick up the box, no mention of any installation service. Would I have taken them up on it if offered? Nah, these people are in the business of selling toys, not assembling stuff. I'd far rather do it myself than trust them with it.

    The assembly process was ok, although the instructions say I should have a stand (and I didn't receive one). Will I follow up? Maybe. I doubt that they'll post it to me and I don't want to race back in there. I'll probably end out going to a local shop if I think Mr6 really needs one.

    How do I rate the bike? Well, it's a $60 bike and will probably do the job. It's nothing great. It would have been good to get a pump with the bike. That seemed standard when I was a kid. Thankfully the tires were inflated (even if one more so than the other). I'm also sure that if the bike had been bought / assembled at a local shop it would be better. Does that make up for the price difference ($60 vs $200)? Probably not.

    If I ran a local shop I'd emphasise the service (ie ensuring one gets the best bike for one's needs), the assembly, the advice. For all I know there are major differences between the quality of bikes for 6 year olds - I'm just naive to it if there are. I guess it's about educating the GP, we're an ignorant lot!
  4. Anonymous Phil posted at 12:44 AM  
    Markus, excellent and thanks heaps for that, pretty well sums us the decision making process I think, and pretty well shows me that selling kids bikes is a difficult task for the industry, we can't compete on the price and realistically, not even quality issues given that the juvenile bikes will only be used a couple of years each before the kids out grow them and they are discarded (my experience in talking to customers, though not in your case)....maybe when our throw away culture dies it's inevitable death, things will change and folks will see value in in a return to longer lasting quality.

    It's interesting that you mention the ".....emphasise the service (ie ensuring one gets the best bike for one's needs), the assembly, the advice" aspect; we as an industry do try to demarcate ourselves in that way, however consumers don't appear to place a dollar value on that, they seem to see that information and guidance as a "free" part of the transaction, and to be honest, with so much advice available on the intertubes (spec, features, manufacturers PR and reviews) much of the value and authority we used to hold with our experience has now pretty well evaporated, we're getting long talied and are largely becoming product warehouses and aftermarket service centers.

    As an aside, my experience today is in seeing how customers are now leading a sale while I become a filter or someone who brings context and some clarity to a possible purchase. I'm finding that that approach is leading to good sales for me and a happier experience for my customers because the tone becomes one of conversation and partnership in the process.

    Closer to my heart is what you say about the bicycle industry and the web, I hear you and this is something that causes me a lot of frustration, my industry still does not get online life, important because we lose a possible high value customer like you through inattentiveness and lack of real engagement with online. The industry is still in a defensive phase in dealing with online, either ignoring, complaining, putting up barriers or just failing to engage with something that ain't going away. What can I say? It's a revolution.
  5. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 12:45 PM  
    Anent the lack of service at K-Mart, I had the same problem at our local store.

    As soon as I got home I fired off an E-mail to K-Mart's corporate headquarters. A couple of days later I got in the mail an envelope containing a $20.00 gift certificate and a handwritten note of apology.
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