Savvy bicycle retailers have a number of means at their disposal to retail goods besides their physical stores.
Online is perhaps the best known of these, with the huge benefit of extending your customer base, but setting up your own online shop may be daunting for some. And what about those that have a bricks and mortar store and an online shop, but are looking for another option to reach out to customers?
How about marketplaces like eBay then? Too generic and vast? Four of the UK’s best-known bicycle market-specific online marketplaces think so. And there’s more to them than selling stock too. Some can cater to the holidays and services market and even trade-ins. Intrigued?
‘Better than eBay’
Let’s start with the basics. What do these bike-focused sites have over other auction sites and marketplaces?
“eBay is just too generic,” says Linds of the Gorilla Firm. “If you’re selling an amazing bike worth over £1,000 you can’t have any confidence in it being seen by the right people. A search in eBay for ‘road bike’ turns up anything from mudgards to car number plates.
“By using The Gorilla Firm, you’re appealing to a market that already understands bikes and is much more likely to understand the value of what you’re selling. You put your item for sale in exactly the right location so it’s easy to find and also keeps the buying process clean and simple. You ask for a price, and the buyer either pays it, or they don’t. Simple, and all without the fannying about of auctions, ‘buy it now’, reserves, not to mention the ridiculous fees.”
Antony Auty, MD of Bikesoup, also picks out prohibitive costs as a reason to avoid generic auction sites: “eBay is a very expensive way to sell a bicycle. Once PayPal fees have been added to the ‘Final Value Fee’ it will cost nearly 15 per cent of the selling price. Selling a £400 bike will cost between £55 and £60 if the buyer pays with PayPal. Selling a £400 bike on Bikesoup.co.uk will cost a flat charge of £7.50.”
Cost was a driver for Bicycles for Sale too: “We are a lot cheaper than generic auction sites. We charge from £25 per month to list an unlimited amount of bikes, along with a company profile and images. Secondly, we have spent a lot of time and effort to rank highly on search engines.
“One of the main reasons we started Bicycles for Sale, was to help the small retailers get heard. They can sometimes become lost among all the big bicycle retailers. They have either not a large enough marketing budget or have never in the past been given the opportunity to explore different avenues.”
Going Going Bike believes that dedication to the bike market is where the sites win out over generic sites like eBay: ”We’ve got better knowledge of bikes, more relevant content, dedicated functionality and personal service from fellow cyclists. We’re not a faceless corporation – we’re five guys dedicated to making this happen and if you’ve got a problem we’re just an email or phone call away.”
The Gorilla Firm, which eschews the auction model, added: “There’s also a notion that placing an advert for a high-value item on eBay immediately diminishes its value. There are many buyers out there so desperate for an ‘eBay bargain’ that your bike is not as likely to reach its asking price, let alone its reserve price.”
Talking to the trade
Each of the sites interviewed by BikeBiz see the involvement of the trade as key factors in the success of their sites – and in turn feel they can offer retailers a service unavailable elsewhere.
The Gorilla Firm said: “We advertise to the trade and are building relationships with many retailers, particularly to support the smaller independent shops and workshops. A number in our area have recently closed and it’s a great shame. We want these shops to use our site to showcase their deals, clear their ex-demo stock and keep the cash flowing.”
It’s a similar situation for Going Going Bike: “We are talking to and being contacted by retailers all the time. We’re always looking for retailers, distributors and independent brands that we can build relationships with.”
Bikesoup has forged links with the ACT to access the trade. MD Auty tells BikeBiz: “We offer all dealers two months free advertising and the success of Bikesoup is built around positive engagement with bike retailers, understanding their needs and tailoring our website. As official ACT partner all dealer stock on Bikesoup is fully integrated with The Cycling Experts and accessed by circa four million users per annum via a number of well-known sites.”
The online marketplace sites also provide dealers with another tool to encourage a sale, according to the Gorilla Firm.
“We got really great feedback at our stand at the Cycle Show this year from shop-owners who all loved the idea that they could use us not only to sell their own stuff, but to give their customers a more positive reply to the question ‘Can I trade this in?’
Instead of answering with the usual ‘No’, they can now give a useful message to customers looking to upgrade – buy this bike, and you can sell your old one with The Gorilla Firm, to people who know the value of what they’re buying.”
“If a shop has great deals then it’s fantastic to have them on the site, but we are not a price comparison site. We want businesses to show their offers and get sales.”
Going Going Bike has found the trade response encouraging: “We never imagined that so many different players in the industry would be interested in what we’re doing. We have new retailers coming on board all the time and we’ve got to work on exciting projects with great people like Team Sky, Sky Ride and Brompton.”
Bicycles for Sale, the newest of the marketplace sites, added: “We have had a very positive response, but being the new kids on the block it takes a lot of hard work to gain credibility and their trust... We have found some retailers have their set way of advertising which do generate sales and so why would you change something that is working OK? It is these retailers who we are trying to make aware of BFS and the greater opportunities our website will provide for a competitive fee.”
Antony Auty, MD, Bikesoup added: “The trade has responded to our strategy by delivering a comprehensive inventory of consistently high quality bikes. Our focus is on working with quality retailers who accept that they need to get their product as visible as possible to attract new customers and generate sales from outside their existing customer base. We currently have nearly 100 dealers who have subscribed to use Bikesoup and they benefit from low cost local and national advertising. Our research suggests that many dealers are baffled by the number of online advertising options being offered to them – we aim to simplify that situation.”
And it’s not just about selling bikes either, the Gorilla Firm explains: “Given that we only launched in May of this year, our traffic and uptake has been superb. We think that this is also due to the diversity of what we offer in that you can also use us to find Bike Doctors in your local area, holiday venues in the UK and abroad, clothing, accessories and more whilst keeping the focus on bikes, snow and surf.”