Why brands must show off their expertise in store, not just focus on selling

Performance Bicycle is the biggest speciality bike retailer in the US with more than 100 stores across 20 states. Yet it is looking to shake up the market with a new store concept that puts the service department front and centre of the shopping and brand experience.

Speaking to Marketing Week at IBM’s Amplify conference in Florida, Performance Bicycle’s SVP marketing, Carol Wentworth, said that Performance Bicycle will increase its store numbers to 106 this month, with a new store concept set to be unveiled in Greenville, South Carolina. She explained that the shop will be “dramatically different” and designed around building relationships with customers.

“In most bike stores, the service department is in the back of the store. We have decided to put service right up front. You get the benefit of showcasing your expertise. You see people building bikes, working on bikes, you get the theatre of the sounds and the motion,” said Wentworth.

Community will continue to be a “huge component of in-store”. The new store concept will provide customers with training maps and local riding events, as well as large digital displays that include info such as a safety checker. Performance Bicycle will also aid its customers when it is closed with a repair stand outside the store open 24/7 to support people “riding bikes for commuting and shopping”.

Performance Bicycle also offers its own events to customers, including a group cycle dubbed the “great rider series” every Saturday morning. “Some stores have 70 cyclists turn up, while others may get 10, but all are happy to be out and riding with other people,” Wentworth said.
The company pushes its Saturday groups through all its social media channels.

“We have content on our website, local paid search marketing using terms. We communicate it through email, in-store and Meetup, which is great for finding people looking for groups to join. In this omnichannel world it’s all of those methods working together and sometimes it is just word of mouth inside the store,” Wentworth said.

Humanising its online offering

Performance Bicycle wants to “humanise” its online offering by leveraging all its social media platforms to create a community for cyclists.

The company is currently using Facebook, Twitter and the social site Meetup to promote its group cycles and most recently it has started posting on Instagram.

“We want to incorporate more user generated content and an intelligent content hub because we know our customers are passionate about riding and very passionate about what they achieve on a bike,” she said.

“Collaboration for small to medium businesses is going to be key to growth”

Carol Wentworth, SVP marketing, Performance Bicycle

Performance Bicycle also wants to make customer feedback more visible. “We would love to better showcase this [Group cycle events] through sharing customer insights.”

Wentworth said that providing choice and an omnichannel service is vital to the cycling business and crucial to disrupting the industry.

“In the cycling business the combination of stores and online and the omni-channel capabilities we offer customers is crucial. You can go online purchase and have it sent to store or you can have it sent straight to you from the store through access to our online catalogue. Omnichannel has a disruptive capability and I think in terms of marketing we are constantly analysing and learning about the customer path and improving our offer.”

It also offers Performance Bicycle the chance to personalise the online experience based on past buying behaviour and their attitude to cycling, whether they are weekend riders or racers for example.

“We do some segmentation based on past buying behaviour and we can identify enthusiastic riders through our database, based on products purchased and styles of riding through products purchased,” Wentworth said.

Yet Wentworth admits there is more Performance Bicycle can do here and that finding the right partners to help is crucial. “Collaboration for small to medium businesses is going to be key to growth. Collaboration with suppliers, with partners, with customers, this is critical going forward,” said Wentworth.

Nevertheless, Wentworth advises marketers to ensure that only partnership is flexible enough to allow them to still own the relationship with the customer.

“I have seen companies in other industries select partners that haven’t served them well over the long term. It might have given them immediate market capability but didn’t stand them well over the long term.”

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