At bikebiz, we go to a lot of events.
In fact, we’re meeting with distributors, attending house shows, demo days, previews, shows and PR events multiple times a week and whilst that presents us with a wealth of interesting information from the cutting edge of the industry, it’s simply not possible for the average dealer to dedicate their time to such a packed calendar without shutting shop for days at a time. Like it or lump it, it’s almost impossible to make the key decisions that will influence the success of failure of your business without truly getting to grips with the product, and this puts the onus on your distributors to take up as little of your time as possible with events that are packed with truly informative seminars, product rundowns and demos.
In an ideal world these would take place maybe a couple of times a year, and provide you with an abundance of subject matter to mull for the next few months but in reality, this is far from how many shows play out. In fact, in various cases, event’s we’ve visited have been so information heavy and little else, that dealers leave not only completely disengaged with the product, but also actively annoyed that they’ve dedicated time to a largely fruitless endeavour. At one such recent gathering, we asked some dealers if they felt like the event was beneficial. One shop owner told us: “I know it’s important that I’m here, but all I can think about is how I’m out of work for the entire day, I’ve travelled for ages and now I’m here, I don’t feel like they have any idea what dealers are looking for in a meeting.” When asked what it was that made the event un-engaging, he said: “Anyone can read a pamphlet with the technical specifications on it, I want to know how the bikes ride and how stocking these products are going to benefit me as a dealer.”
This accounts for a relatively small amount of cycling industry events, but it begs the question – what type of event best benefits the dealer? How do you balance a potentially vast amount of new information with true immersive experiences? A lot of companies are ditching the traditional house show concept and instead choosing to take their dealers on guided rides, experience trips or simply putting the latest models in their hands at a demo day. Rutland Cycling is one such company that organises various bike demo days with suppliers each year, offering customers the opportunity to try the latest top brands available – from MTBs to e-bikes. Head of category management Alex Woollen told bikebiz: “Achieving a high level of customer interaction, building a good customer-brand experience and relationship is important in today’s competitive marketplace. The link between suppliers and our customers is such an important part of our business; our demo days allow customers to try as many brands as possible over a full day of demo bike activities.
“Having all the major brands at one event, in an informal, interactive environment creates a vibrant, positive atmosphere – a great opportunity for attendees to test ride, with expert advice direct from our suppliers. It’s also important to choose the right locations for these demo days – having the right bikes in the right location for good test rides is key to a successful event. These events also provide Rutland with valuable information and feedback on the brands and also for future events.”
The concept not only truly gives the dealer real experience of each product’s capabilities, features and handling; it also ensures that when making sales, their personal knowledge will cut through the marketing jargon and connect with the customer on a personal level. Last year we caught up with distributor Chicken Cycle Kit on a trip to Venice to meet Italian born and bred wheel brand Miche. Over the two days spent on the trip, dealers received an immersive and truly fascinating insight into the creation of prestigious Italian wheels, and even met some of the employees literally making the products that end up in their shops. I spoke to many of the dealers on the trip to gauge their experiences with events such as this and not one of them had a bad word to say about the way Chicken chose to get them involved. In fact, many had since agreed to stock Miche products, having revised their opinion of the brand’s range. Of course, the benefits to the brand didn’t stop there. A good hour of the trip was dedicated to discussing Miche’s image and branding; time and insight that the dealers were more than happy to provide – after all, a product that they value is far more likely to be a product that the customer also values.
Chicken CycleKit’s Alex Rowling tells me why the company thinks it’s important to bring the brand and the dealer together in this way: “We are lucky to have many of our suppliers still manufacture their products in Italy, these brands often have a rich heritage and some factories such as Cinelli and Columbus are considered a cycling ‘mecca’, so for cycling aficionados to be able see these factories is amazing for them. We regularly takes dealers out to factory visits, there is no better way to ignite a dealers passion for a brand than taking them to a factory and seeing everything first hand.”
So where does this leave the industry? Well, the traditional house show is far from dead. In fact, with the move away from the bigger shows in the calendar, it appears that more and more are cropping up around the country. This doesn’t, however, have to be at the expense of the dealer’s engagement. Plenty of distributors are seeing the value in getting dealers out of the traditional ‘show’ environment and connecting the potential in their product range with that classic reason that enthuses people to enter the cycling industry in the first place – riding bikes is fun.
(Photo: The halls of the Cycle Show in Birmingham – an example of an immersive event.)