Mario Cipollini

Culturally incompatible – Cycling gear that doesn’t sell

A blog came up on my radar, Jonathon Nunan is a consultant in the bike industy and publishes insider news on his brand new Better Bike Business blog. A February post caught my eye:

Selling cycle clothing in Australia? No hotpants or white Lycra for starters.

It covers a list of do’s and do nots for selling cycle wear in Australia, a good list and explanations such as including UV rated wear, Australian cyclists love full length zipper and women like 3/4 knicks. Surprising is that cycle wear needs to be offered in size 6XL, 8XL and 10XL plus… wow.

That’s a nice example of some of the cycle wear that does and does not sell in Australia, what about the rest of the world?

 

What are the Rules for Cycling Wear?

Do you remember the The Official Euro Cyclist Code of Conduct (by Dom Guiver and Mike Flavell)? It is a goldmine of goodness, here are some excerpts:

Rule 1. Image and style shall be the primary concerns of the Euro Cyclist. When suffering, one must focus first on maintaining a cool, even composure and second on performance. Winning races is an added talent, and only counts if said Euro Cyclist wins with appropriate style.

 

Rule 5. A prominent line where one’s kit ends and where one’s deep tan begins is essential to one’s image. Artificial tanning is BANNED. The tan shall reflect the level of training commitment.

 

Rule 6. The socks of the Euro Cyclist shall extend to within two (2) cm. of the main bulge of the calf muscle, and shall never extend further than one (1) cm. past said primary calf muscle bulge. All socks SHALL BE WHITE in colour with prominent logo placement.

 

Rule 12. Ridiculously stylish eyewear (see endorsed products list) is to be worn AT ALL TIMES without exception. Glasses are to be worn over helmet straps at all times.

There are 63 rules in total, and if you are serious about cycling, you really need to learn them by heart. The most current version is on the OREC (Official Rules of the Euro Cyclist) facebook page.

 

Cycling Brand Matters

Getting a bit more serious, it goes without saying that there are differences between continents and nations with regard to well known and lesser known brands. Popularity can depend on the brand origins, the marketing of the brand among other factors.

Seasons play a role, how cold is winter, how hot is summer. Is professional cycling (road, track, MTB, BMX) popular and what about access to these different styles of cycling.

Consider mountain biking, in one country or region it is considered a fringe sport, a sub culture. In other countries it is an active sport more open to a broader age range and sports cycle wear, even lycra is commonplace.

And even the media and television coverage of cycling events will play a role. If cycling fans see the professionals in the latest gear, the lastest gear is likely to be a big seller – and this includes styles such as long cycling socks.

 

Making or breaking it

While writing, I have been thinking hard, what cycling equipment or cycle wear is truely specific to one country. For every I can think of, I can’t say that it is really specific, such as Americans only wearing white cycling shoes or the British only wearing black helmets. I can say that in Europe, commuter cyclists are more fashionable, particularly where bike riding is a convenient or prefered transport mode. When cycling is less integrated into society, there is a natural focus on safety, so fluro and high visibility wear becomes more important.

So this is a great topic, and for the cycling industry, something most brands should know – so what unique trends have you spotted in cycling, unique to one country or region?

Title Photo: © David Hunter

New WIggle Logo

Wiggle redesign their Logo, Smiling Cyclops?

The website for the worlds biggest online retailer, Wiggle, was a bit shakey the last few hours, and then suddenly a new logo appeared. I have grown used to the playful logo with the looped g’s,  it has always reminded me of the other playful Wiggle…. or The Wiggles to be exact. The Wiggles are an Australian entertainment group for kids which were quite popular across the globe.

What does the new logo reveal about Wiggle? We see the Wiggle orange, but now with a darker foreboding grey background. The company name ‘wiggle’ has a new font, still stylised but a little more refined and compact.

I am not married to Wiggle, and can live with the linked g’s being removed, but after the surprise of the new logo suddenly appearing, the Smiling Cyclops graphics which adorns the text is truely unexpected.

Yes, they are trying to create a unique graphic symbol to represent Wiggle which also works without the text. Chain Reaction Cycles have the broken chainring in their logo and can use the chainring as a stand-alone graphic.

Chain Reaction Cycles Logo

But aside from the functional aspect of creating a recognisable symbol, the symbolism is equally important. What does it represent. It depends how you look at it and it looks like they are trying to evoke a similar feeling to the Toyota “Oh what a feeling” ‘thingy’. It’s a ‘thingy’ because it is not the actual Toyota logo, but is a recognisable and trademarked… um… ‘thingy’ which Toyota use in their advertising. It also means you are not allowed to jump for joy next to your car, unless it is a Toyota.

 

Oh what a feeling

So if the curves in the new Wiggle logo mark represent a persons arms, and the dot is the head, do the g’s represent the ample breasts of a man or women with crooked legs?

Updated WIggle Logo

But I didn’t see the ‘jumping for joy’ person when I first looked, instead I saw a Smiling Cyclops. If you want to freak yourself out, do a google search for “Smiling Cyclops”. I really loved the green monster from the film Monster AG, Michael “Mike” Wazowski (with the voice of Billy Crystal), and you could classify Mike as a happy cyclops so  this is the visual that will probably stick with me when I see the Wiggle logo from now.

mike makowski orange

So now Wiggle have a new logo and we can expect to see this appearing everywhere – but can we also expect other big changes? Let’s see.

 

Bad Online Bike Shop

What NOT to buy online

I am subscribed to a newsletter from Anthony BikeRoar, though didn’t actually subscribe and know for a fact that my email address was scrapped and included without an Opt-In, so it’s all very naughty. 

The purpose of the BikeRoar website isn’t obvious, they seems to have a bike comparison function, a directory of American bike shops and cycling articles and news with a strong Mountain Bike focus. I generally glance through the newsletter which has “Top Five’s”  and beginners tips, but in their current newsletter I spotted a featured article, “What NOT to buy online” by author Joey Esterhuyzen.

Now that is an interesting topic and in the first paragraph the author states the position of BikeRoar to online shopping,

Although we are not anti-online shopping, we have, in the past, made a song and dance about buying and supporting your local bike shop…

But it continues, unfortunately, to say,

…here is a light-hearted list of what NOT to buy online…

All of my anticipation has immediately vanished, but I continued to read anyway and discovered that the article isn’t ‘light-hearted’ (as in humorous) rather it includes one funny picture and instead is ‘light-reading’; basic common-sense information with broad comments, barely pausing to give substance or examples for justification.

Funny Bike PictureScreen caputure from BikeRoar

 

When buying your cassette there is a high chance of getting it wrong. Selecting the wrong gear ratios, wrong model, wrong gear count, or forgetting to replace the chain at the same time (which itself is riddled with landmines). Along with this, you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before – for both the cassette AND the chain.

For a beginner, perhaps it is useful to ensure that the reader knows that the techy details (specs) are really important and if you get it wrong, you lose. But this type of information is not particularly new and applies to mail-order, telephone-orders and online shopping for car parts, audio sound-system parts, instruments… and almost any product that has parts and comes in different sizes.

In core message is that if you go to your (physical) local bike shop, the mechanic will get the right item because they have the experience, plus if they stuff it up, it is their fault. If however you chose to buy yourself online, then know exactly what you want and be prepared to assemble.

The information on cycling shoes does try to provide reasoning as to why and identical sizes shoe can still be a bad fit.

 

But what I am missing is…

I am missing two things. Firstly, even accepting that the light-hearted humour is limited to a picture of a funny bike, I want more depth and I want real-life examples to open my mind. For example explaining what happens if I buy a compatible cassette for my bike which has a different gear range and the effect it will have when I try to climb the steep hill next time. Instead of telling me “…you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before…”, tell me which tools they are.

And secondly, I am really missing the content that made me click through in the first place. I do want to know what NOT to buy online. Online shoppers are now buying things online which they would not have considered five years ago. Clothing is booming and the risk of getting the wrong size is hardly stopping sales. There are not many product segments which are untouchable, but there must be some things you shouldn’t buy online.

 

Here it is: what should you NOT buy online

Let’s exclude advice targeted to beginner cyclists whether or not to purchase, rather really try and think of specific products you should not buy online. It was more difficult to put a list together than I anticipated.

You should not buy:

  • Flammable lubricants / cleaning agents because it is simply better not to air-deliver dangerous items.
  • Second-hand cycling knicks. It is not hygenic as they are intended to be worn without underwear.
  • Bicycle Helmets are a safety item so a perfect fit is important and you also need to ensure that the helmet complies with local regulations (if applicable) and with any regulations for competitive cycling, if you compete. I recommend that you know that it fits perfectly before buying which means a trip to your local dealer. Though do consider that showrooming (when you try first at a retail store with the intention of purchasing online) is bad form.
  • Items which are illegal to use in your country, for example, Germany has strict regulations on the brightness of bike lights and even how loud audible devices such as horns can be. While lights and loud air-horns for the bikes will pass through customs, if you fit them and uses them on public streets there can be consequences if you are stopped by police officers or involved in an accident.
  • Fake cycling apparel (and gear). Though it may be a fraction of the price of a genuine item there are two problems, the quality is often signficantly inferior and secondly by supporting fake / counterfeit / unlicensed products it supports an industry built on fraud rather than the cycling teams and cycling brands who deserve the support.
  • Bikes and gear of unknown origin. By all means, do some research and find out more, however if you don’t really know anything about the products and are not getting the right signals, then you don’t really know what you are getting.
  • Anything from untrusted online retailers. Check and see if it is a genuine online bike shop because you will never see your $800 again for the top-of-the-line-brand-new-too-good-too-be-true Pinarello.

And for an attempt at humour, don’t buy yellow jerseys or ‘world-champion’ jerseys or any other cycle-wear reserved for the victor of a race. You have to earn it first. The exception is when you are buying a collectable (and the money goes to charity) and you don’t wear it rather it hangs on the wall until it is uncovered that your cycling hero was a doper all along and now the jersey is worth only disdain.

 

 

Title Photo: © Egan Snow

Copy Right Content

Wiggle ignore copyright, use Chain Reaction Cycles image

Carlton Reid of Bike Biz UK reports that Wiggle have been caught out using a Chain Reaction Cycles image in Wiggle social media.

Chain Reaction Cycles ran a blog post, a laborious blog post about wrapping a full suspension mountain bike in wrapping paper for Christmas. CRC achieved their aims with over 1000 shares through Facebook and other social media platforms such as Google+ and Twitter. In this respect, sharing-it-around is intended, spread the word and draw attention back to the online retailer.

Viral marketing Copyright

But you don’t expect your competitors to integrate your marketing into theirs, a Twitterer’ Brent @shedfire picked up the ‘theft’.

Wiggle CRC Stole Twitter

 

Copyright, in most countries clearly protects the creater of the original work and traditionally the work can’t be taken and reproduced. However there is an element of artistic freedom to adapt original work – in some countries a variation / manipulation of over 10% allows copyrighted work to be adapted however depends on the situation as a samples from a song, such as a drum beat, can’t easily be extracted and re-used. But Vanilla Ice didn’t know that when he ripped off Queen’s Under pressure.

And social media changes everything, on facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest and imgur copyright theft is rampant. However once content reaches the public domain then it is hard to keep it protected – especially if it appeals to others. And hence meme’s and even Viral marketing detaches the content from copyright and explodes into the sharing space for #Lol’s and #Rofl’s

But they are the users

And Wiggle is not, so they have a responsibility to check the content they use, and use it with permission. This goes for any business, using content belonging to another individual, business or entity without permission is risky and plain unprofessional. It call’s for clear marketing and communication strategies that staff responsible for outside communication understand the policies and protocol for publishing information.

The Wiggle response was fairly casual,

“Yeah sorry, we were sent it a while back from someone, cannot find the source. & had it in a folder.”

In the grand scheme, CRC benefit by making Wiggle look incompetent and earn bonus points in the eyes of their customers. Wiggle should have had a better response:

1. Praise CRC for their creativity,
2. Make a formal apology (due to an internal error which won’t happen again) and,
3. Use it as a marketing opportunity for example, their own wrapped bike or a social media gift to CRC or highlighting their benefits.

 

CRC are not worried, or should not be (as they come out on top) however can consider watermarking. It would limit the number of competitors who use their images but also add a small promotional effect when the image is shared. It may however lead to some rejection and fewer shares when consumers ‘reject commerce’ and want to own content without commercial influence.

Damaged Bike Delivery

Bike or gear damaged on delivery? You need to know this!

You can’t hide the disappointment when you order online to find the bike or gear damaged on delivery. This is going to be painful! But there are a few things you should do to turn wrongs into rights and avoid frustration and heartache.

 

1. Don’t accept badly damaged deliveries

If the package looks as though it has been through disaster zone, simply don’t sign for it. Tracked packages will go through the system and because it is recorded and returned and that you havn’t received it, you can clarify with support whether a replacement should be shipped or you want a refund.

 

2. Don’t open the package

For deliveries you may not have a choice, it doesn’t need to be signed off, or a family member, colleague or neighbour may have signed on your behalf. If the box is is a really poor condition, don’t open it. Leave it unopened and take photos and report to customer service.

This is a judgement call, if you ordered cycle wear then a crumpled box may not bother you. but it doesn’t hurt to take a photo before opening.

 

3. Document everything and take photos

As soon as you have a suspicion that something isn’t right, start taking photos, for example unpacking the box so you have photographic documentation to ‘prove’ to customer support for your favourite retailer that this was the condition in which you received the item.

Documentation continues to making ordered notes if you speak to customer support on the phone (time, date, name and reference number) and being organised. This will save you from trying to locate lost details and ensures that you can back yourself up.

 

4. If it looks fine, inspect it anyway

Take the time to check your order, is it complete. What about the condition of each item. While you may not spot mechanical defects, take the time to carefully look at the bike or gear, look for scratches, damage or anything which is out of the ordinary. Wheelsets should be true, bikes should have original protective wrapping and be in pristine condition while parts may be in original packaging or OEM packaging.

 

5. Report to the retailer as soon as possible

The better retailers include ‘returns’ information with the delivery as well as with confirmation emails to make it easy and efficient for customers. (Likewise, the bad retailers hide this information and make it difficult and painful to lodge a return).

Provide the details of your order and describe the issue. If you are emailing rather than phoning, you may have to wait for a response and instructions.

 

6. Don’t use or ride the bike or equipment

It is temping to use or try equipment, but if it is not in order, resist this tempation. In an example, a customer reported a damaged Colnago from Wiggle however took the bike for a short ride. Wiggle staff responded The tyres, chain, and brake rims show considerable signs of clear use and rejected the claim suggesting that the customer had caused the damage. Wiggle documented, though included photos of a different bike – and the question is, who is telling the truth?

 

7. Don’t break it

The bike or the cycling gear may have arrived safe and sound, but removing it from packaging, assembling and simply accidently misusing can cause damage. Take time to browse any instruction and unpack and assemble with care. Don’t rush and be sure you know what you are doing.

Assembly can be tricky, Many bike parts, particularly Carbon Fiber, have torque specifications. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for help or ask to borrow a torque wrench. If something does happen, go to part three and document.

 

8. Be polite, be persistent

It is frustrating dealing with canned emails and 5 different staff members where you have to start again. The best retailers allocate a single staff member to help resolve your issue, while the worst ones bounce you around, don’t respond in a timely manner or simply ignore you. Be polite, by firm and persistent. Include your preferred resolution.

If you are ‘absolutely right’ but getting no where, it may be the support staffs role to reject or deny claims. Ask to elevate the issue or to speak with a manager.

 

9. Threaten the retailer

Having tried all reasonable approaches to reach a solution, if the retailer isn’t taking you seriously then it may be time to let them know you will be seeking alternative approaches to resolve. Keep in mind that defaming a retailer can get you into trouble, the online bike shop may become more interested in finding a satisfactory resolution if it keeps you from telling all of your friends, or reporting on social media and social communities or even reporting to the relevant consumer protection orgaisations.

 

10. When all else fails, take action

Some retailers may not be phased by a threat, running a poor business may mean they they are regularly threatened and that they know the threats are hollow. It is problematic if you have ordered overseas, customer protection laws may not apply however you should follow up with consumer protection agencies in the same country as the retailer.

Social media can be a good channel to draw attention to your plight though take care to be factual and publishing information which a retailer coud use to sue you. Other customers may have advice to help you.

Consider other options, if you feel that a retailer is not operating ethically you may be able to inform the consumer protection agency in your own country who can at least try to protect other consumes.

Posting a genuine, factual and detailed negative review on rating websites or evening writing a real letter (pen and paper) to management.

 

photo © Tracey Adams

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.

 

Are you a scumbag if you buy online?

The worldwide cycling industry would like you to believe this. But the worldwide cycling industry also facilitates online shopping, the online bike shops have to get their bikes and gear from somewhere and you can’t believe that a brand doesn’t know who is selling their genuine bikes or parts and accessories.

You are a scumbag if you go into a bike shop to look at gear, to try it and to take time from the staff when you intend to buy the same thing online. This is known as Showrooming and is tackled in the online BBC article: The peril of ‘showrooming’.

Your not a scumbag if you go into a shop and browse, or if you are genuinely looking to purchase but don’t find what you want.

It is a fine line, but the nature of retail, even before the internet was that customers compared anyway and want the best deal. And good staff will look after you.

The hard to devour line is “traditional bike shops will disappear.” Cyclists will be left with nowhere to service their bikes (and are probably not patriots if they are buying from overseas shops). Why is it the consumers obligation to pay a premium for the benefit of somehow shifting supply and demand for an apparent indirect long term benefit?

It is supply and demand, and it demands brands, wholesalers and retailers to change. Don’t showroom – but likewise, if you find the most competive price for a bike or cycling gear online, do you homework, know the pro’s and con’s, but don’t be ‘guilt tripped’.

Jenson USA website redesign

Jenson USA count to one of the big online retailers, sitting alongside Competitive Cyclist as one of the big American based online bike stores. While dwarfed by the UK online retailers, it is still a popular choice stocking certain brands and products unavailable from the UK bike shops. The catch, shipping costs for customers overseas, particularly when ordering large items such as wheelsets or bikes is prohibitive.

They have announced a new website , “the end result is a better looking site and some new search functionality”. Lets take a look at a snapshot of the old site first.

jenson USA old website

 

And now the new site – completely reduced, just a welcome message. Don’t know about you, but I don’t need a welcome message and if the currency is clearly display (and can be changed), I don’t really require instructions. These type of disruptive messages such as email signup or ‘follow us on social media’ are a hurdle to access the content.

jenson_usa-bikeshop_redisiign

After clicking the welcome message away, this is the new site. Not a massive change in basic layout, a lot more white space – the header area remains for promotions and the Top Sellers still feature.

Jenson USA Bikeshop Redesign

White space on a website is usually always good – most retailers and businesses believe that they need to fill every inch whereas leading retailers and businesses recognise that it is quality and ‘guidance’ rather than quantity of information that converts.

For customers, many of the changes, aside from some of the look and feel, is likely to remain hidden with the promised improved search capabilities.

 

Can you Trust Online Retailer Reviews?

Just like your traditional local bike shop, growing a loyal customer following is an important part of business. I would argue that there is less customer loyalty with online shops compared with local bike shops. Being predominently price orientated and without that same recommendations, support, follow-up and maintenance, an online shop has a more limited role and more limited scope to build a following.

Despite less loyalty, when the price and time is right, it is significantly cheaper for online shops to sell to an existing customer rather than acquiring a new one.

Wiggle have been promoting their Gold customer loyalty plan and telling me that I have until the end of this month to spend $150 to remain in their program. So I should spend $150 for the sake of it?

Lets move along to online retailer social communication – specifically blogs and whether you can trust them.

So why wouldn’t you trust them – well of course because the online retailers want to sell and for this reason if they are publishing a review, they would hardly want to dissuade customers from buying. And that is where credibility walks out the door, as they are not independent media, how can they be impartial? (Another story is how independent magazines and website tend to publish reviews at exactly the same time that the same brand has advertising).

Searching the Wiggle blog for keyword “poor” and “bad” shows no results with articles or product reviews with these terms in the context of the products quality or attributes.

Chain Reaction Cycles have the CRC Hub with articles and videos, very much focussed on their products and events and news related to inventory.  They have created a more comprehensive community integrating video, blogs and social sharing tools, facebook, twitter and google+. Their useless search likewise delivers no results which suggest any criticism of any of the featured products.

We have previous discussed customer reviews and the tendency for bad reviews to disappear, or never to appear. Amazon have a different approach. By virtue of their size they happily allow negative customer reviews as they know that the customer will continue looking on their online shop for alternative products rather than leave.

In the cycling world, the product pool is smaller and even the big retailers can’t afford to annoy their suppliers and brands too much. But as a customer, yes, you can read a retailers reviews and also customer reviews and perhaps even get useful information. But be aware that there is a vested interest so time spend researching independently is worthwhile.

 

Genuine Customer Reviews are Gold

Shops and brands want to sell, they promote all of the virtues of a product but how good is it really? The opinions of other customers matter as they generally don’t have vested interest when they share their personal experience and help others.

Amazon lead the way by incorporating customer reviews to drive sales and because they have such a dominent market position, Amazon happily accept the good and the bad reviews to give an overall rating – if the product is poorly rated, customers can use the ‘similar products’ features to find a better rated alternative.

Many online bike shops also successfully implement customer reviews – the bigger the shop, the more popular the product, the more reviews. And the more reviews, the more valuable it is for customers in judging a products value based on the crowds opinion.

However one problem highlighted by customers of online bike shops, both big and small, is that negative reviews may be filtered out so never appear or are subsequently removed. This isn’t an ethical approach by retailers however is hard to detect this manipulation.

The best approach to help fight this is to complain to the bike shop and spread the word on the forums if your review isn’t published. When the online shops recognise that customers want both the good and the bad to make a more informed purchased then this benefits all. The bicycle shops may initially sell less of the poorly rated product, but if they are smart, they will move on to better products and as a result create genuinly happy customers.