TIP: Where to place your in-store pickup counter

June 17, 2011 by

While conducting her seminar at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition this week, RSR Research partner Nikki Baird made an interesting point about the dilemma of the in-store pickup counter. These counters, as you know, are for customers who purchase products from you online or over the phone.

So where exactly should these counters be situated in your store?

“Ideally, as a business you’d say, I want my pickup location to be at the back corner of the store because I want customers to walk through the entire store to get there,” Baird said. “That’s what Walmart has done. Unfortunately, from the customer perspective, the biggest draw [of online shopping] is convenience.”

So, in other words, if you force a customer walk through a maze of aisles and salespeople to retrieve their conveniently purchased items, they’re not going to appreciate it. Customers who shop online love the ability to effortlessly browse and buy merchandise, so making them wind their way through an entire store can defeat the purpose of online shopping in the first place.

On the other extreme end, placing the pickup counter at the very front of your store doesn’t serve you, either. Baird mentioned another retailer, The Container Store, as a business that places its pickup counter directly in front. “There’s not even impulse items there for customers to look at,” Baird said.

So depending on your store design, placement of your in-store pickup counter would fall somewhere in the middle of both extremes. You need to have this counter in an area where there’s a little bit of eye candy to catch a customer’s eye, but not so much that he may as well have bought the item in the store, instead of online.

Hip to be square: Demystifying the QR code

June 2, 2011 by

They’re called QR codes, and they’re seemingly everywhere these days — you may have noticed them in store windows, magazine articles, and other places where you’d usually find traditional advertising. But what exactly are they, and what function do they serve for retailers?

“By the book definition, they’re two-dimensional barcodes that can be scanned by a mobile device or camera phone, which would lead you to a phone number, SMS text message, or URL,” says Scott Bronenberg, regional sales manager for Advanced Telecom Services.

In newbie terms, QR codes are similar to regular product barcodes — only instead of listing a price at the checkout counter, they act as portals to a retailer’s mobile website or other information. Users scan the code, and in turn, the code sends the user to whatever the retailer has linked to the code — whether mobile website, coupon, or other information.

“Right now, people are using QR codes to [redirect] users to their websites,” Bronenberg says. “But what we’ve found is that there’s so much more we can do with further integrating that landing page. Be it Facebook, Twitter, an opportunity to download an app, watching a video, and live streaming.”

QR codes were first developed in Japan as early as 1994, when they were used to track automotive parts — sort of a mobile tagging system. It wasn’t until just about a few years ago that they caught on in the United States. “We’ve been working with QR codes for about a year and a half, and the growth is spiking right now,” Bronenberg says.

And, with mobile phone companies like Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile planning to offer phones equipped with QR scanners rather than have users download these scanners themselves, Bronenberg muses the interest in them will multiply — not fade out like other marketing fads. “Right now, they’re like the shiny object in the room — they’re new, and unique. But if people get more comfortable with them, their growth could be endless,” he says. “They’ve been in use in Japan for awhile now. If we as marketers can do a good job of executing what’s on the back end, they will be here to stay.”

Besides linking to a website or social media page, one could also run various promotions with QR codes. Frank Mazza, Advanced Telecom Services’ QR code production director, recently helped develop what the company calls a “scannenger hunt.” Retailers would place QR codes around their store, asking consumers to scan them to view and download exclusive content. Mazza also suggests that dealers place QR codes on showroom vehicles that link to videos of vehicle demos or customer reviews. “[Customers] can scan them, and they can see the vehicles in motion [in a video],” Mazza says. “They have all of the details they need on their phones. You could also tie the QR codes in with vehicle servicing.” The best part? Customers have access to all of this interactive content, all without having to leave your store to get it.

Advanced Telecom Services helps retailers build custom apps and marketing campaigns to link to these QR codes. The company offers customization, building, setup and development services that start at $500, plus monthly maintenance fees. Customized QR codes that are branded according to your business start at $100. Bronenberg and Mazza also run a website, QRcode2.com, where one can generate generic, black and white QR codes for free. “A lot of people who use the standard QR code just link it to their website,” Mazza says. “But the thing is, yeah, you can use them for free, but you want to brand it, from the outside and inside. That’s what we do. We’re creating a landing site for you. The works.”

New bike = New thrills

June 1, 2011 by

Recently I found myself aboard a Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring, the über version of Duc’s über sport touring motorcycle.

There’s a very fortunate perk of my job, and the positions of many others working in the business, and that’s getting the privilege of riding a number of different motorcycles from a variety of OEMs. Quite simply it’s a motorcycle geek’s dream gig — even with the long hours of staring at words on a computer screen (that’s the writing geek’s dream job, a different story entirely).

This time around, thanks to Ducati’s PR dude extraordinaire, John Paolo Canton, I got about two-week’s seat time in the Multi, my first time on the do-all machine since its reincarnation as a superbike motor-powered touring bike.

The new Multi has more technical geekiness packed into than anything I’ve ever ridden. By comparison, my personal ride is a 2004 Triumph Thruxton: a carbureted motorcycle for goodness sake! Ride-by-wire throttle. Electronically adjusted front and rear suspension. Brakes that would stop the earth’s rotation. Ergonomics to die for. Four-mode engine mapping. Motorcycling by way of “Tron.”

When I picked up the bike from Tom Hicks’ Southern California Ducati in Brea, Calif., (home to Ducati’s press fleet) I didn’t know what I was expecting. I’d read about the four different engine modes but hadn’t given it much thought. Didn’t know I’d be giving it a lot of thought later. A brief run-through of features with a tech and away I went.

And that’s when I discovered something about the Multi 1200 S: That ride home made me feel like I was discovering motorcycling again.

Settling into the machine over the next many days, this feeling of newness grew more intense. Sport mode was way different than touring mode as was urban and enduro. Switching back and forth between the settings offered a new type of thrill each time. Just the feel of it. The upright and very comfortable seating on a bike that produces 150hp simply felt like a entirely different experience.
Freeway cruising (touring). Short trips to the store and around town (sport). Quick trips around the block (urban). Long rides through the twisties of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains (sport). Commutes to work and back (sport, OK, there’s a trend here). Each one a journey unto itself.
The bike’s been on the market for a while now, so I’m not the first person to ride it or write about it. I’m just one rider with an opinion which, when it comes down to it, that’s what we all are. One man’s hyperbole is another man’s yawn.

And with motorcycling, more than anything in life (save for your tastebuds or musical inclinations), riding is a singular event specific to one person at one particular moment in his or her life. That’s why each ride is an adventure. Why one bike that works for this guy might not work for that girl or the other dude.

In this case, riding the Ducati truly felt like learning anew the thrill of motorcycling. Alas, it soon was time to return the loaner and settle quite comfortably back onto my own Thruxton — like putting on an old, British, shoe.

This experience got me thinking about my current ride and my past motorcycles and scooters. How often do I take the time to rediscover the thing that’s in my garage? To make the changes and tweaks to make my next ride that much different? To make me feel like I’m rediscovering motorcycling? To be honest, not enough. It’s been a while since I uncorked the Thruxton’s motor, replaced mirrors, mounted a fairing or changed the suspension.

How often and in what ways do you help your customers rediscover their own machines? How often do you do the same with yours?

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

Google’s take on mobile marketing

May 23, 2011 by

About 8 percent of those surveyed in a Google report admit to using their smartphones to access the Internet while they’re in the shower.

If that doesn’t tell you how powerful mobile marketing can be just read on for more stats from Google’s findings.

Some background: Last month, Google released a report titled “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users,” that was conducted by Ipsos OTX Media CT, an independent market research firm. (You can download the free report here.)

The study represents 5,013 smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 64, all who’ve said that they use their smartphones to connect to the Internet. Just like social networking, it seems as though consumer mobile usage is on the rise — and here to stay.

Stats to think about:

  • 93 percent of those surveyed use their smartphones at home. Most people consider their smartphones as an extension of their laptops and desktop computers.
  • 72 percent say they’re using their smartphones while doing other things, like watching television (33 percent), and reading the newspaper (22 percent).
  • 43 percent say that if they have to, they’d give up beer just so they could continue using their smartphones for Internet access.

And here’s where it gets interesting for you, dealers:

  • 46 percent of those surveyed use their smartphones to visit retail websites.
  • 53 percent of those who use their smartphones for searches end up making a purchase, whether in-store (40 percent), online (35 percent), and on the smartphone itself (20 percent).
  • 95 percent of smartphone users have used their phones to look up local information. About 61 percent of them have subsequently called, and 59 percent have physically visited the businesses they’ve looked up in their local searches.
  • 79 percent of those surveyed say they’re using their smartphones for shopping-related activities.
  • 74 percent of smartphone shoppers made a purchase as a result of using their smartphone.
  • 67 percent research a product on their smartphones, then buy it in-store.

So what can you do to make sure you’re on track with your mobile retail efforts?

  • For starters, hop on a smartphone — iPhone, Blackberry, whatever — and cue up your store’s website to see if it’s displaying properly. Are icons too small? Text too confusing and hard to read? If you’re running into these and other problems, you may want to consider investing in designing a mobile shopping app to make it easier for consumers to shop from their phones. This is especially crucial if a chunk of your sales are made online.
  • Advertise with mobile banner ads, etc. The Google report also mentions that 82 percent of those surveyed actually notice ads on their smartphones. Those screens may be small, but that means ads can take up a lot of real estate.

Tips on text-message advertising

May 16, 2011 by

A recent Internet Retailer article states that 35 percent of consumers who’ve opted to receive promotional text messages from retailers or brands usually end up visiting the stores or websites in question as a result. About 34 percent of those people who visit the store or website redeem the coupons or take advantage of the promotions offered in the store’s text message. (Read that entire article here.)

So while these numbers are pretty enticing, there are a few basic things you need to do before you start blasting your customer base with text messages.

First, make sure your customers actually want to receive the fruits of your mobile-marketing efforts. Let them opt in. If you have a store e-newsletter, send out an email message about it and let them decide whether they want to receive these special text promotions or news announcements. Have your sales associates mention the program during every transaction at the register, and promote it on your social media sites.

Also, choose your texts wisely — the last thing you want is for your opted-in customers to opt out if they perceive you’re merely spamming them instead of sending them awesome deals on service or products. This New York Times article doesn’t recommend texting customers more than five times per month. (The article is also worth a click for its handy mobile marketing tips.)

You can get started by looking into some of the various companies that offer these mobile advertising services. Start here, with this recent Top 10 list of mobile marketing companies.

It’s about damn time

April 22, 2011 by

Harley-Davidson boasts the highest market share of women riders out of all the OEMs, according to Amanda Lee, the company’s PR manager in charge of Outreach audiences — women, young adults, African American, Hispanic and active military. This, of course, is no big surprise given Harley’s long history with women riding its motorcycles.

Of the 235,000 people trained through the company’s Rider’s Edge courses, 35 percent are women. Lee herself is a graduate of Rider’s Edge, as is Claudia Garber, Harley’s director of marketing and product planning.

The Motor Co. is reaching out to women riders with a host of events and marketing efforts. From the now-ubiquitous Garage Parties to this month’s Biker Bootcamp for Women (a full week in Milwaukee immersed in Harley culture), Harley-Davidson is taking an active and aggressive effort to connect with its female customers, existing and potential.

Harley’s idea is to seize upon the growing women rider demographic and help encourage, support and inform those who have taken or are taking the leap into what has traditionally been a male-dominated sport/pastime/industry.

“As more women get into the sport, it’s kind of a contagious thing,” Lee says. “As more women are riding and more women are seeing other women riding, more women are stepping up to the plate and saying, ‘I want to do that.’

“We’re simply throwing fuel on the fire, responding to a movement that’s happening in the industry,” she adds.

The “women riders movement” — not that it’s a formal title or anything — is a relatively new phenomenon. Yes, women have been riding motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft and snowmobiles forever, but not in any great number and not in a way that ever attracted much attention from the industry at large.

Even five years ago a female motorcyclist would have been hard-pressed to find riding gear that not only was cut to fit the female form, but was stylish to boot. Again, yes, there was riding apparel, but it wasn’t until Joe Rocket and Icon jumped into the mix that women’s gear looked like it had actually been designed by and for women.

These days, apparel manufacturers know they need a women’s line to even compete.

How about riding on the back? You’ve got to be kidding. Women are finally coming into their own in the powersports industry, and it’s about time. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But with more women moving into everything from dealership and OEM/aftermarket management to wins on the racetrack, it’s clear: This ain’t the same old boy’s club.

In honor of May’s Women Riders Month, Dealernews puts its focus on the women who help drive this industry, from the pioneers who pushed through gender barriers to those coming into a business that now welcomes them. Even our cover profile highlights Top 100 dealer Donna Coryell and her dealership, Deptford Honda Yamaha. Hers is an inspiring story.

Why is it important to recognize the women in our industry? Because it’s about damn time. Women are more than the “other half”; they bring new perspective and vitality to a business that — truth be told — could use some freshening up. The industry’s history has been drenched in testosterone, and it’s left things a bit, um, ripe.

Indeed, there are many, many women leading the charge at the dealership, in the media, in the aftermarket, at the OEM level and on the racecourse. We’re profiling just a few of them in this issue. Go to www.dealernews.com/women11 to see a running roster of notable femmes and their contribution to our industry. And if you’d like to nominate women for the list, drop us a line at editors@dealernews.com with their names and brief bios. We’d love to add them.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

The next customer boom

April 1, 2011 by

At the time of this writing, oil prices were uncomfortably hovering a hair above $100 a barrel, and premium gas on the West Coast had settled in at about $4 a gallon.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East (isn’t that redundant at this point?) assuredly means that these prices would likely go up before they’d go down, or so says the analysts.

In fact, federal energy officials say there’s a 25 percent chance those gas prices will average $4 a gallon or more throughout the summer driving season.

Smells a bit like 2008, the last time oil prices were this high. Another flashback moment? How about some of the news headlines starting to pop up across the Internet. This one could have been ripped straight from a 2008 newspaper: “As Gas Prices Rise, So Do Scooter Sales.”

If you’ll remember, scooter sales that year jumped 66 percent the first half of 2008 and eventually settled in at 41 percent higher than 2007. Many OEMs had to play catch-up to meet the demand of all the new two-wheeler commuters. It wasn’t uncommon to hear that dealers just plain sold out of certain models.

That was the year many first-time riders got a taste of two-wheels. Piaggio alone reported that its sales were up about 75 percent the first quarter of 2008. Former CEO Paolo Timoni would later report that many of these new riders had no interest in riding motorcycles, that they were fine on their Vespas and Piaggios.

Of course, with every boom there is a bust, and we all know what happened after the scooter market crashed. One could make a good guess that there’s a metric boatload of noncurrent scooters — from all OEMs, even the new Asian entries — sitting in storage waiting for gas prices to drive people back out of their cars and onto the seats of those waiting machines.

Well, it’s been a long strange two years since the oil and gas spike and attendant scooter rush, but here’s something to think about: If you were one of those dealers who catered to that huge bloom of new riders, what did you do to keep them coming back into your store? Did you convert them into regular customers or did they travel back out the door they came in, and back into their cars after gas prices dropped down to partially ridiculous levels?

So, if the analysts are correct and gas prices continue to inflict pain on most drivers at the pump, there’s a good chance many of those folks will make the switch to two wheels. And not just scooters. High gas prices could likely get people out on motorcycles as well. (It’s odd wishing for high gas prices, isn’t it?)

The question is, if sales do take a jump and more people start riding, are you prepared to service those new customers? What will you do — this time — to keep them coming back into your store? And how do you reach out to potential customers to let them know you’ve got something that can help ease their petrol pain?

It’s conventional wisdom that getting new customers through the front door is one of the most difficult tasks of running a business. Now, with gas prices giving them a little nudge, it’s your chance to welcome them into the powersports family.
Let us know if you were one of those dealers who converted those 2008 scooter riders into loyal customers. Also, drop us a line if you’re cooking up plans to win over the next group of new riders. Send your comments to editors@dealernews.com.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews May 2011 issue.

Dealers, take a bow

March 1, 2011 by

Forget about winning — just entering the Top 100 Dealer competition is no easy feat. The application itself is arduous, requiring entrants to submit information about the vehicles and products they carry, the size of their store and all of its departments, and estimated gross revenue per square foot.

Entrants must submit their best examples of customer service and community involvement initiatives. They have to detail how they motivate their employees. They are required to submit a mission statement, and then detail how they fulfill that mission each and every day.

They have to describe their service departments, their accessories departments, their marketing departments and their
e-commerce and Web activities. Entrants submit images — lots of images — showing the best of their stores. They attach samples of print collateral, digital files of commercials, PDF documents of media campaigns.

Indeed, once you complete and submit a Top 100 entry, it stands to reason that you can use this same file as a basis for loan applications, city permits, employee handbooks, franchise petitions, and more.

So for all who submitted a Top 100 dealer entry for the 2011 competition, and many of you did (entries were up 56 percent this year), well done. The competition was the tightest in recent memory. And if the rest of the dealer community is doing half of what you all are doing each and every day — well, then, the powersports industry is going to be in good shape.

Two unique awards launched in the 2011 competition, both recognizing an effort related to the competition itself. The new Consumer’s Choice Award, sponsored by our sister property, the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows, is awarded to the Top 100 entrant that secured the most consumer votes in a balloting process conducted on www.motorcycleshows.com in November and December. The 2011 Consumer’s Choice Award is given to South Texas Suzuki, a Lytle, Texas, dealership that received 37,000 (no, that’s not a typo) votes in the competition. Congratulations to a dealership that knew how to rally its troops.

The second is the new Vehicle Brand of the Year award. We launched this award with a specific mission: to give the OEMs a real incentive to support their dealers who are working hard every day, and detailing their achievements through the Top 100 entry process. The Vehicle Brand of the Year award goes to the “winningest” OEM — that is, the franchise listed most often by the Top 100 dealers.

For 2011, the Vehicle Brand of the Year award goes to American Suzuki, an OEM that arguably has had better years in terms of vehicle rollouts and annual sales. But here’s one thing Suzuki does right: It works with its dealer community to really encourage those businesses to go through the Top 100 entry process. Suzuki recognizes that the entry process is an education in and of itself, and it is to be commended for its support of the Top 100 competition.

Congratulations to the class of 2011. You work hard, you stay focused, and you persevere. And for that, the industry is grateful.

Mary Slepicka
Group Content Director
mslepicka@dealernews.com

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews March 2011 issue.

Business Seminar Helps Chinese Manufacturers

February 21, 2011 by

Panelists’ Message: U.S. Consumers Want Quality and Value

INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 21, 2011)— Chinese manufacturers Sunday received several tips on how to successfully sell powersports vehicles and equipment in the United States. The seminar here was put on by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and Advanstar Communications for Chinese exhibitors before a packed house at this year’s Dealer Expo.

Attendees heard from government and industry experts about what it takes to successfully sell powersports equipment in the U.S. market. Presenters included representatives of Sargent’s Motorsports Groups, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Dealernews magazine. The program, entitled, How To Successfully Sell Powersports Vehicles in the United States, was moderated by Paul Vitrano, executive vice president of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA).

The key messages delivered by panelists were:

  • QUALITY PAYS. Attendees were told that American consumers value quality over cost and that they are willing to pay more for a better product.
  • OBEY THE RULES. Panelists, especially representatives of the CPSC, emphasized the importance of following U.S. government rules and regulations. “Government agencies balance their responsibilities of helping businesses with protecting consumers,” Vitrano said, “and they lean toward protecting consumers.” Penalties for breaking the rules are stiff and expensive, attendees were told.

Joe Delmont, contributing editor for Dealernews, told the audience that it’s important to build a brand, not simply try to export products to the U.S. under many different names to be sold by many different distributors. “That’s a prescription for failure,” he said.

Delmont, who provided a checklist of things to consider in looking at the U.S. market, told the audience that to gain 5% market share in a specific segment for a new China brand might take three years and cost as much as $300 million.

CPSC representatives Tanya Topka and Justin Jirgl described in detail the process of working with the agency that has been set up under the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). A key regulation developed by the CPSC under the law calls for action plans to be approved by the agency before a company’s ATVs may be sold in the U.S.

Gary Sargent, Sr., and Gary Sargent, Jr., have been selling and servicing powersports equipment in their Portland, OR. dealership for more than seven years. They emphasized the importance of building quality machines and backing them with quality parts.

Gary Jr., who runs the dealership’s service operation, told attendees that he prefers to use more expensive, quality parts on a repair job and be confident that it won’t fail.

“I want satisfied customers,” he said, “not unhappy customers who come back because a part failed.”   JD

Bika Chik fashion show at Dealer Expo

February 20, 2011 by

It’s kind of a well-known fact that men’s motorcycle apparel exponentially outnumbers women’s apparel  — the complete opposite of how it works in everyday casual wear, where women’s apparel dominates. But luckily for us ladies — and judging from what I’ve seen on the Dealer Expo show floor this weekend — there are some great women’s clothing companies out there holding down the fort. Designer Jeanette Keller’s Bika Chik is one example. A few minutes ago, I caught its fashion show at the Fashion Forward stage, and besides all those cozy graphic tees, there were two things that stood out to me as possible hot-sellers:

Embroidered leather vest. This looked even better on the model than it does in this stock photo. It’s fitted, and a tiny bit on the cropped side, which makes it great for riding. The front has all kinds of edgy zippers and a small upper pocket design, along with two front pockets and a button-waist. The back is embroidered and studded with Swarovski crystals. Comes in black, in sizes S to XL.

 

 

 

 

 

Leather jacket with fringe. A little bit of fringe never hurt anyone. Just like the vest, it has an embroidered skull design on the back to bring some edge to the girly design. It currently comes in pink, but I wonder if Bika Chik will offer this in black as well, in the future. Comes in sizes S to XL.

A bonus: Prices are pretty affordable, too.

If you’re at Dealer Expo, you can find Bika Chik Wear in Booth 5653. Otherwise, contact the company directly by visiting www.bikachik.com and clicking on the “contact us” button.

— Cynthia Furey