Technology is key to success for IBDs, says Citrus-Lime

Citrus-Lime director James Steel has voiced his concerns for independent bike dealers that are yet to adopt extended payment and fulfilment options for customers.

“The UK retail sector was undergoing a structural shift before the pandemic,” he said, “but the rapid uptake of digital services means retailers need to have a greater sense of urgency in adopting new technologies.

“All shopping now starts online, so an e-commerce site with integrated stock is a must for any retailer. But it’s not just about having a website; to survive and thrive, retailers need to be agile and offer their customers choice.”

In a recent report, Bicycle Association valued the UK cycling market at £2.31 billion. There has been double-digit growth across all the main categories and, as cycling continues to play a part in transport, health and fitness, the trend is forecast to continue, said Citrus-Lime.

Aside from the challenge of matching supply with demand, Steel believes independent retailers need to ensure that customers can access products in a way that’s convenient to them.

“Cycling may be enjoying a renaissance, but IBDs need to ensure they keep up with the way consumers want to buy,” he said. “Cyclists spend meaningful amounts of money on their passion, so it’s not cash that most people can just pluck out of thin air.

“In addition to card transactions, cycle retailers should be offering multi-channel payment provision, such as PayPal, Apple Pay and Klarna. Equally, they need to provide services that enable customers to pay for their bikes on finance or through instalments.”

Steel also believes that giving the customer options on to how they take ownership of their new wheels also plays into the hands of a good customer experience. “It’s not just about selling bikes in isolation, it’s about helping people to buy the right bike for them in a way that suits their needs. Good service builds loyalty.

“Coming into store still offers all the excitement it always has, but retailers need to extend the fulfilment options with Click & Collect and delivery services. Click & Collect, in particular, is proving to be really popular as people can pick up their goods at a time that’s convenient to them.

“There’s no doubt there’ll always be a place for face-to-face in retail – it’s the heart of every independently run business – but IBDs do need to move away from a traditional store-centric business model. The opportunities presented by digital services can’t be ignored, so retailers need to embrace them if they’re to keep pace with changing consumer behaviour.”

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