Go Web: Why Your Shop Needs to be Online

Shopping has changed. With so many consumers starting their buying journey online, having an active Web presence is no longer an option, but a necessity.

Words by Ryan Atkinson

Even as consumer shopping preferences shift to online shopping, the cycling industry remains primarily grounded in brick-and-mortar. Cyclists still appreciate the ability to see, touch and experience the products we sell in person. This leads many bike shop owners to feel that having an online presence isn’t really worth it, or that the online game is being played by someone other than them.

When we talk to bike shop owners for the first time, it's common for them to say, "I can't compete online, so I'm not going to try." Our response? Change your perspective.

You aren’t competing to be the best pure-play ecommerce retailer. You are competing for a share of your local shoppers' discretionary spending. The best way to do that is to meet that shopper where they are wanting to buy.

It's Not "Online Sales." It's Just "Sales."
The truth is, ecommerce and physical retail have become much more intertwined than you may realize and, more importantly, it’s not just about buying online. In fact, according to a recent study by Deloitte, $0.56 of every dollar spent in a physical store is influenced by some type of digital interaction.

What it all boils down to is one simple action: shopping. And despite the fact that the avenues have changed dramatically over the past few decades, the two fundamental components of shopping remain the same:

Step 1: Browsing (the process of discovery)
Step 2: Buying (making the purchase)

This has been the case since the dawn of the modern era. 

Evolved Discovery Process
What's changed, however, is how that first step—discovery—is performed. Thanks to technology's availability and ease-of-use, 67% of today’s consumers conduct product research online before stepping foot in a physical store. In other words, the vast majority of your customers will begin the buying journey online, long before they walk through your door.

If you aren't accounting for this, you are missing out on business.

The fact is, consumer behavior and demand have evolved, and that means evolution is necessary for retailers as well. In order to compete in today's digital landscape, stores (even brick-and-mortar ones) must adapt to deliver the relevant information that consumers are looking for online, such as product specifications, detailed descriptions, reviews, availability, and pricing.

It's clear that any retailer today needs an effective and informative website. As you are considering the role your website plays in your brick-and-mortar business, here are a few advantages to understand.

Greater Reach
The goal of any marketing strategy is reaching as many prospective relevant customers as possible. The web offers unprecedented access to a pool of potential leads. Showing shoppers who are in the discovery process your products online helps introduce those potential buyers to the fact that you can meet their needs. They are more likely to either purchase from you online for free in-store pickup or simply walk through your door ready to buy.

Strengthened Reputation
65% of people view online search results as the most trusted source of information about a business. That’s a higher level of trust than any other source. What's more, 90% of today’s consumers check online reviews before visiting a business and 67% say those reviews influence their purchasing decisions. Most bike shops today have a website, but does that website answer all of a shopper's questions? Most importantly, does it tell potential customers what you sell, at what price, and whether it's available?

Always Available
It’s highly unlikely that your bike shop is open 24/7, but do your customers do most of their buying during normal business hours? The beauty of having a website with your product information, pricing, and availability for your brick-and-mortar store is that it's always open and available. The ability to browse online at their leisure and convenience can improve your customer experience.

Better Bottom Line
If you're starting to panic about the rise of ecommerce, you can relax a little because 94% of total retail sales are still generated through brick-and-mortar stores. But since the majority of today’s shoppers begin their journey online, ensuring that your bike shop is present and offers the information your prospects are looking for is essential to turning those clicks into in-store purchases. Obviously, the more people you reach and influence via online channels, the more traffic your physical store will receive, which translates to more revenue in your pocket.

Join the Club
Finally, being present online is important because it’s where your customers and your competitors already are. When a prospect goes online to research a particular bike or bike part and the shop across town is what pops up, where do you think that lead is going to ultimately end up when it comes time to make a purchase? To compete in today’s digital marketplace, you simply must be present where your clients are, and that's on the web, plain and simple.

Ryan Atkinson is President and Co-Owner of SmartEtailing, which provides website, marketing, and data solutions to help independent bicycle retailers compete in an evolving retail world.