"It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data”

This article was written by Edward Willis, sports business manager at Sports Marketing Surveys

"It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data.” These are not my words, although as head of cycling at research consultancy Sports Marketing Surveys, it is hard to disagree. In fact, the phrase belongs to Arthur Conan Doyle’s enigmatic genius, Sherlock Holmes. 

Sherlock’s stance is as applicable to the cycling industry as it is to any other. Your business may not be solving crimes, but you are solving problems and providing solutions for customers looking to cycle further, faster, safer and more comfortably.

Who are those purchasers? And, why do they come to you rather than your competitor? What are the factors that encourage a wavering customer to make a purchase rather than walk away? Is your marketing or your storefront or your workforce telling the story you want a potential buyer to hear? What about your product range? Does it match up to what your customers want to buy? If you can answer all of these questions, then you are in a minority. Even then, it is equally important to understand who your customers are not. Are there people who might actually be put off by your business?

What would you need to do, or offer, to attract that demographic? What would be needed to make your business stand out, or to appear more welcoming?

At Sports Marketing Surveys, we believe that the reasons for gathering and harnessing insight are as numerous as they are compelling. We have seen our research applied to drive real change and growth at sports brands, retailers, federations and events, and we are committed to working with the cycling industry to offer the same benefits. Sports Marketing Surveys provides the cycling industry with Smart Data and sports insight consultancy on sports participation, buying behaviour, brand image and lifestyle. In recent years, Sports Marketing Surveys has worked with cycling businesses on projects including participation analysis, shipment research, the international cycling consumer behaviour study, retailer satisfaction studies and mystery shopping.

As the bicycle industry continues to evolve, as retailers struggle and participation plateaus, it is critical to maximise your understanding of your own business. Don’t make Sherlock’s capital mistake of theorising without data, because that can very quickly become terminal to the survival of a business.

On the other hand, gaining access to high-quality research can lead to high-quality theorising, which can help you to improve on any weaknesses and tell more people about the best bits of your business. 

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