We like to think of ourselves as cyclist or perhaps as bike people. Perhaps that we are even a little superior to most retailers in that we thrive by giving personal customer service above and beyond. That's what got us where we are today, and most of us "dance with who brought us...".
But the music is changing. Drive down the street and see the bill boards and bus signs filled with consumer messages, many of them enticing you to take the next step... "log on to our website at www". Turn on the TV and we are told every five minutes "check us out at www", "visit us on the web".
My point? The consumer is being trained to go virtual. You are left with the feeling that if you are not shopping and buying by computer that somehow you are less informed and perhaps you are even paying too much.
The "I don't need that www thing" is the "My horse and buggy will get my goods to market as good as any auto-mo-bile" cop out, only revisited 100 years later.
If you see your market share dwindling because some virtual retailer has hooked your customer, what's the solution? How about get on the phone and see if you can stop his entire line of supply so that he will won't have any merchandise?
Whine, complain, and threaten suppliers. Write letters, send faxes (but for God sakes don't email... that's the whole problem to begin with). Spend thousands of hours and dollars to "STAMP OUT E COMMERCE". Now, when this "foolproof" plan utterly fails, I hope you are saying to yourself... "I have had enough, I am not going to take it anymore." If you can't beat them, then you need to out "dot.com" them!
Think about it. There is 3 feet of snow blocking the door. You have not had a single customer, but in the last hour, you took your digital camera and took a photo of a really cool sample of a new bike product a rep has
brought in. You uploaded it to your website and invite your customers (you have customers you know, because you have something new every day online so they come back to see what it might be and you are a good retailer, remember?) to place an advanced order at a special price. Two hours later you have your first order for your new product, and the only difference is there is now 4 feet of snow outside.
Maybe the order came from one of MY good customers, a bunch of MTB happy GI's stuck on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. (Its a 1/4 mile wide, 30 mile long island with nothing more than a landing strip for B52's and a 14 foot climb).
They ride the island every day then they buy stuff... on the internet.
Welcome to the first completely level playing field ever constructed - the internet. bikenuke.com might someday build a 30 000 foot retail store that you can't build, but they will never have more than 17" x 15" of display screen space in front of any online consumer. The same screen space you have. What you put on that screen can differentiate you from all the .coms and from other retailers. Very simple formula. Just like retail, what you get out of this depends on what you are willing to put in to it, and also like retail, its not just money, it's heart and soul.