Wiggle Chain Reaction Cycles Sponsorship

How Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles change Bike Sponsorship

Whether you run an event, an advocacy group or are a publisher, the chances are that it has taken years to establish, and was have grown out of love, passion and enthusiasm also needs solid financial supporters to make ends meet. 

Have a look at the number of big events, or advocacy groups or publishers which have truly been able to retain “bike only” sponsors alone, even bike brand sponsored pro-cycling teams have a limited lifespan and tend to turn to the lucrative ‘non bike’ businesses who want to capture the hearts and minds of cyclists; Red Bull, Skoda, IAM, Sky, Saxo, Orica.

In big business there are big brands, but the more local, the harder it is, and the less likely that you can rely on Giant, Trek, Specialized, BMC or Shimano. These are big brands in cycling, but bike brands are tiny on a global scale and their marketing “vision” much shorter.

International online retailers are a new opportunity, they run big sales numbers and any event or organisation or outlet is a conduit directly towards their customers. They are still careful with their investments, but the larger your audience, the bigger the potential.

However the competition between the bricks and mortar retailers and the online retailers creates the perfect ALL OR NOTHING scenario…

Where support from locally based brands wanes, getting Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles onboard as a key sponsor or financial support can help you reach new heights… and it is ‘bike’ and it is compatible with the ‘non-bike’ sponsors.

However getting Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles onboard can also sever all ties with local brands and also leave you open for criticism for not being a patriot, for not supporting local jobs and business.

While sponsorship from local brands may have been tough to acquire (or non-existent), once you turn to the Dark Side, you may never again have a chance with the local industry again.

So the question is, what do you stand to lose and will this make a difference?

Will it really affect the ability of your event, your organisation or your ‘channel’ to grow… will you be able to retain enough of your participants, members, readers or following… and grow these numbers.

Whatever the decision, don’t forget that the world and the marketplace is changing so consider the future of retail use this to help make a decision today on your sponsorship and support allegiance.

 

photo © KevPBur

Brains Travel on Bike

Do you lose your warranty when you buy online?

I was reading a 2012 article on Grey Market imports – which was defined in the article as anything purchased overseas and not through the ‘proper’ local channels. The grey market is actually more than this, but that is a conversation for another time. 

The author of the article quotes a US bike shop owner (with names and details removed) and the following caught my eye.

When one buys from these companies they are: a) putting money in the pockets of somebody unknown, b) hurting the local economy, c) getting products with no warranty whatsoever, d) dealing with poor customer service after the sale – try to return something to them e) Could be in violation of U.S. Custom’s import tariffs

Briefly addressing a) and b), if a customer buys a Shimano or SRAM item locally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that in most cases the item has been manufactured overseas and the chances are that  the brand is overseas (i.e. the Headquarters are not in the same country unless you are from Japan or America). Point taking, adding in the local importers and retailers gets more money moving in the local economy when buying locally. But the fact is that if you really wanted help the local economy you would only buy locally produced and manufactured items. With food and some consumables this is possible but the reality is that bike and cycling gear manufacture is usually cheaper in Asia, all of the big brands manufacture there and it means that ultimately there is a flow of money out of the country.

In perspective, the comments are dramatic and about creating guilt among customers who wonder why some items cost a fraction of the price overseas and their local bike shop isn’t doing anything to provide enough advantages to purchase from them.

 

No warranty online… really?

Sometimes warranty replacements are easier online – from the comfort of home you send in a photo and provide details. A few days later a courier comes and picks up the item and a new item is delivered. It can be that simple, but of course it can be a real pain.

The pain can involve packing and taking time to post, having to cover postage costs yourself and then waiting. Sometimes the customer service is poor. But generally as a customer you have rights and the retailer (from whom you purchased) should resolve any issues. And generally they do, sometimes better than bike shops.

Have you have made too many trips to the bike shop? “Come back on Tuesday”, so you make the trip to the shop and return on Tuesday to discover that they have forgotten you, and forgotten to call. Your chances of having a warranty replacement are that same as online. With online orders you have to wait, but instore you may have to wait, sometimes the shop sends it to the distributer who then needs to send it to the brand and that can take months. With an online purchase it is common for online shops to ‘cut their losses’ and make it easy for a customer by quickly replacing (and resolving the warranty replacement with the brand later) or in some cases to suggest the customer keep the part and a new one will be sent.

Customer service can be poor online, but the big online shops such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles are out their to win and retain customers. Their customer service has been boosted dramatically in recent years and all of the serious online bike shops know how important this is to their business.

There are rogue online bike shops out there, probably plenty so there is safety in sticking with the big stores (which in turn makes it tough for new and honest business). Comparing to local bike shops, are they all honest? Do they all look after you after the sale? Some bike shops don’t even look after you the moment you walk in the door.

I can tally some great experiences in local bike shops, but also some shocking experiences and in the face of growing online competition its a wonder that some bike shops believe that they can survive with their poor customer service and shonky service.

 

There are good and bad retailers online and offline. As a customer you shouldn’t feel pressured to buy from a local bike shop who isn’t looking after you, guilt-tripped because you are killing the economy. But the local bike shops can lift their game and become a better option for you… because their service is better and they look after you. As a customer take time to know the risks of buying online, such as not being able to try before you buy, but if you are buying from a reputable online retailer, the chances are that warranty and customer service is just as good as in store.

 

photo © Vanessa Gutierrez

 

Local Bike Shop Online Store

Can a local bike shop make it big online?

This is a loaded question, most of the worlds biggest online retailers started out as local bike store who did the right thing at the right time in the right place. Local bike shops have made it big and many others are trying.

The real question is, “why do some bike shops make it and others fail?” If the successful online shops did the right thing and the right time in the right place, what are the wrong things?

 

Lack of Genuine Committment

There is a different between trying to be successful online, and actually committing to online retail. The common scenario is that the local bike shop decides it wants to go online – pays a web design company $10,000 to create a shop and struggles to get sales. When they do get sales, fulfilling orders is messy and in no time the online inventory is out of date, along with the software and it discarded as an expensive failure…. because ‘the internet doesn’t work’.

The web design agency play a role in the demise for failing to educate the bike shop and showing them the big picture. And the cost conscious bike shop all too easily ignores or overlooks key parts of online retailing. As noted in an earlier article, If you build it, they won’t necessarily come.

Part of genuine committment is a vision to look beyond the word of the one-dimensional web design company and take the initiative to understand the building blocks. Also to question information, to analyze, to research and make smarter decisions.

The building blocks for successful online retail

A brief and incomplete list of some of the key building blocks:

Marketing: whether big or small, you have to invest in marketing. You have to spend money and the smart retailers also discover the best channels and keep trying new approaches.

Fulfillment: A massive topic, and for the sake of simplicity includes logistics. This is ensuring that the inventory is current, that delivery projections are up-to-date through to processing the order, packing, dispatching, delivery and tracking. All along keeping the customer informed and happy.

Customer Service: As with traditional retailers, customer service can make or break you. Of course the customer service requirements for online sale is different, but customers want immediate satisfaction and immediate answers. Word of mouth is just as important for online retailers and negative customer experiences are amplified even further in the internet.

Technology: From responsive websites to cater to smart phone and tablets to effective order process as well as clever technical integration and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). You need an expert at your side who knows technology.

Price: The internet makes it inherently easier to compare prices, as long as the retailer is trusted the the lowest price wins. Why pay more for the same product (an online retailer can hardly sell their ‘customer service’)?

 

The Visionary

Any bike shop can set-up online, but a visionary does more. They understand the potential of online to their business, they understand the change or adaption required. They invest and continue to drive, often employing specialists which push their online retail abilities beyond others.

It means that online retail is not for all, traditional businesses certainly shouldn’t ignore online retail (they need to adapt to remain competitive) but if a retailer isn’t truely dedicated to opening up online retail, they are often better off investing in their core business.

But their are plenty of sales out there, and just because one retailer is popular, it doesn’t mean they can maintain. Management and profit orientated decisions can taint a retailer leaving gaps for young online retailers who can do it better.

 

photo: © ubray

Wiggle Gold Loyalty

All you have to do is spend money

The Wiggle Gold Loyalty Program came up in October, it was nice to be informed that I am a valued customer and a Gold Member… whatever that means. I assumed it meant deals of some sort although generally am only interested in gear I need, rather than impulse buying anything on special.

The bizarre… even confronting news is that I have to spend $150 to remain a member. After making the grade, and not even really knowing the benefit or criteria for eligibility, I have to buy something, I have to spend money to retain the Gold status.

What is it all about – lets take a look at the Wiggle Loyalty Rewards Page (UK version).

What is the eligibility criteria?

  • Gold Customers have spent over £100 in the last 365 days

  • Platinum Customers have spent over £500 in the last 365 days

The average online purchase is less than £100 however it making two purchases a year totalling £100 is realistic, a couple of tyres and inner tubes will hit the mark so achieving Gold status is relatively easy.

Platinum is harder to acheive – buying a complete bike, a wheelset or generally spendig a lot of bike gear will get you there.

What are the benefits?

Gold Customers receive an exclusive 5% discount off the list price of all products that have not already been discounted. They also exclusively receive a 5% discount off the list price of all products including all bikes and frames. These discounts are not available to standard customers. Gift vouchers and memberships are not included.

And Platinum get 12%… which is remarkable saving… except it applies to the list price. Let’s release the cynic and ask which products in Wiggle are discounted and which products in Wiggle retail for the ‘list price’?

The common theme for the online retailers is to have discounts of the RRP (Recommended Retail Price) and during sale time, the discount applies to the RRP – meaning you pay the same price… sale or not. A sale just looks better.

So does is this 12% saving for Platinium and 5% for Gold members a genuine saving possibility, or will I be ineligible? The Terms and Conditions explain:

The Gold and Platinum prices are applied to the list price of a product. If that product is already discounted below the Gold / Platinum price, you won’t receive any additional discount

For now, this isn’t transparent and doesn’t warrant spending $150 on something I don’t need just to be part of a member program where I probably get greater savings on the list price anyway because it has a sale price. Wiggle are a pretty good online retailer and while this incentive looks good at face value, it appears to missing real value.

 

Customer Service verses Company Policy

Sorry Sir, but if you refer to our Terms and Conditions, page 53, paragraph 7.3.8 it states that…

That’s right, the customer is always right unless they are wrong. Or if the ‘customer service’ staff feel that the customer is defrauding the shop and succumbing to customer needs is a sign of weakness.

Most problems raised by customers such as non-delivery, late delivery, incorrect charges, wrong or faulty or broken parts are genuine. Without suggesting that a Local Bike Shop will always resolve a customer problem perfectly – online retail is built upon reducing overheads and this is frequently interpreted as meaning reducing customer service.

A return customer is cheaper to acquire so it is worthwhile for a retailer to focus on existing customers, ensure customer satisfaction and benefit from repeat business and customer referrals.

Without diving into all of the ways that retailers have been known to avoid customers and their duties, there is an easy way to reduce overheads. And that is, quickly solve problems to the advantage of the customer.

Rather than standing behind the rules and company policy, make it easy, make it fast and take a hit with replacements and refunds because this is an investment. The marginal losses (much of which can be recovered) is a marketing investment. The best online shops are the ones that solve problems quickly and have customer friendly terms and a customer friendly approach.