By Lisa Young
E-commerce is coming into its own as a standard in the powersports industry, enough, so to start showing some true sales trends.
“Five years ago at Indy, people wondered is this e-commerce thing was here to stay or is this a fad?” said Curtis Kroeker, director of vehicles for eBay Motors. “A lot of dealers didn’t even have a Web site then.”
In that light, John Parham was a very early adapter. Parham, who owns J&P Cycle, has been selling powersports products online since 1994 at www.jpcycles.com, in addition to producing a series of hefty catalogs and running a brick and mortar store in Anamosa, Iowa.
All those years of online retailing have given him a pretty good idea of what sells. At J&P, it’s non-technical gear, accessories people can add to their bikes on their own.
“We sell a lot of stuff that’s pretty straightforward: foot pegs, grips; products that don’t involve a lot of technical knowledge or information,” Parham said. “People want something they can add on themselves to personalize (their bikes).”
Stevens’ Cycle Sales, based in Bay City and Midland, Mich., is much newer to online retailing than J&P, having first offered products for sale online three years ago. But it has still had enough time to notice some buying trends among its online customers. For this dealership, OEM replacement parts have been most popular.
“Basically it’s a lot of hard parts online, not a lot of aftermarket stuff,” said Mike Stevens, general manager. “I thought more accessories would sell than they do, but a lot of people are fixing up their stuff and (e-commerce) makes it simple. They can look it up right there and order it or make a wish list, print it off and come into the store with it.”
Visitors can buy online from Stevens’ Cycle through its Powersports Network-designed Web site. The online services provider grants e-commerce capabilities to more than 2,300 powersports dealerships.
Mike Jackson, owner of Decatur, Ill.-based dealer/distributor World of Powersports, says his sales aren’t restricted to any particular vein.
“Anything that can ship UPS” moves online, Jackson said. “If you expect everything to sell, then you don’t get surprised. With a customer base of more than 6 billion possible personalities, there is someone out there for every product.”
The virtual marketplace is no different than the physical one, agrees eBay Motors’ Kroeker. Anything that can sell in a dealership can sell online, and trends are usually reflective of real life.
“In general, the mix that you’ll see on eBay Motors is representative of what you see in the industry at large,” Kroeker said. “Essentially, you can find practically anything you want on eBay Motors. As a buyer or seller, the stuff that’s selling is reflecting the overall industry. It depends on sales in the industry.”
To that end, Kroeker offers up some statistics. Harley-Davidson and Honda are top-selling vehicle brands on the site. A motorcycle is sold on eBay Motors (U.S.) every three minutes. A Harley-Davidson bike sells on the site every 22 minutes. A part or accessory is sold on eBay Motors every second. Granted, that last item includes parts and accessories for non-powersports vehicles, but it still illustrates P&A sales are more common than unit sales. The company does not track data on ATV, PWC or powersports parts, accessories or apparel sales.
Apparel and helmet sales online can be tricky, given potential fit issues and size differences between manufacturers. The key to a greater number of successful online apparel and helmet sales is having accurate sizing charts readily accessible to online customers, experts agree.
At World of Powersports, riding wear sales haven’t seen a negative effect from the inability to try things on online.
“Sizing charts are readily available, and we offer no hassle return/exchange for fitment,” Jackson said.
A reasonable return policy for such situations is a must to keeping up apparel and helmet sales, Kroeker sales. Many consumers have come to expect a return policy given their experience with other online retailers.
“(Return) policies are becoming more common and have encouraged buyers,” Kroeker said. “Increase a buyer’s confidence in buying that item online and buying it from you, and you’ll be more successful.”
Another key to getting online sales on the move is presentation. The more details the better, so buyers can make informed decisions. eBay Motors allows sellers to upload multiple photos, and there are no limits to the text sellers can add to their listings. Powersports Network dealers can use manufacturer photos and descriptions for their online product listings.
Many powersports e-commerce sites are expanding interactivity features to aid online sales. Given the versatility of the Internet, online retailers can become a true one-stop shop, giving customers all the tools they need to make informed decisions and helping their own business grow.
eBay Motors offers ratings and reviews and price research, something dealers can use to better understand what’s popular. These features are easier to use with the company’s redesigned site, which went live in mid-January.
J&P Cycles’ site has forums for enthusiasts to discuss riding, and there’s a thread for people to ask technical questions. There is also a riding events calendar and area where customers can send in pictures of them with their motorcycle. The company just added a video feature with how-to’s and bike makeovers. All these outlets are not only good for the site, but good for sales as well, Parham says.
“Extras keep (customers) on your site longer and keeps them more involved,” Parham said.
They might even stick around long enough to buy something. Don’t forget: If online sales reflect offline sales, online customer service should be just as good.
By Lisa Young