Will the web work for you? How many IBDs are online and when will real cash be made from website investments?
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In a future issue of BikeBiz well be conducting a national survey to find out how wired-up the trade is but for now we asked Simon Watts, webmaster extraordinaire and northern rep for Moore Large, to estimate how many of the IBDs he calls on are web savvy.

Of 78 regular clients...

25-30% are equipped to access the internet either by staff members or by the actual shop

18% regularly use the web (but generally not for business purposes! says Watts).

20% have websites

These percentages are quite a lot higher than I think will be the general usage across all shops," believes Watts.

"I call on primarily higher profile shops who are inevitably keener to try new things when it comes to promoting their business. They may already be involved in mail order and the step into www is a relatively easy one. The hold back at present is that a

large proprtion of shops can see no benefit to them because they do not do mail order, have no intention of doing mail order and it will therefore be a waste of time to them (in their view).

The simple fact is that the internet can be just as good at promoting you in your own locality as it will in the wider forum.

For example, Birley Cycle Centre went online (with my assistance) approxiamately 6 weeks ago. He has sold 3 bikes already and none of them have been via mail order! This is all before the full search engine registrations have been carried out so hit rate is relatively low compared to the expected traffic we should be getting in about 2-3 months time. One of these customers lived just 5 miles away, never knew that the shop existed, had visited Halfords to buy a Saracen Raw2, Halfords didn't have one so he looked on the web. Found Dave's shop and subsequently rang, found that he had one in stock and went in and bought it!

I don't think there is a business out there that can say that 100% of the population within a 10 mile radius knows that they exist. The internet is primarily a medium for the exchange of information and more and more people are using it for exactly that.

As witnessed by the recent BikeBiz News well be pushing hard for IBDs (and suppliers) to get clued up about the internet. Hopefully the numbers above will double within the next year.

Its now hard to escape the internet every second ad on the telly either features a URL or is advertising a website and if little old ladies with Tuscan olive oil shops can be on the net, then UK bike shops have no excuse!

Naturally, America is 18 months ahead of the UK and a major trend there is for the portal sites to be doing some major advertising. Outside magazine (500 000 subscribers!) carries five or six full page ads from generic outdoor web portal sites. BIKEmagic.com is attempting to be a key UK portal and there are others ramping up their promotional efforts too.

E-tail is still in its infancy and it will take a while before clicks and mortar shopping will outperform bricks and mortar shopping if ever but its clear that despite all the hype, the internet is going to become a key retail channel.

And check out the new Specialized site (www.specialized.com if youve got Shockwave that is!) for how one supplier is funnelling customers to web-literate IBDs.

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