2016 is over, and for most of us in powersports we are letting out a large sigh of relief for closure on this year. For most of us last year started off strong but by the second quarter began tapering off with the market constricting at least in part to a vicious election process. It took its toll on our industry in all sectors: as consumer confidence fell their willingness to spend dwindled quickly.
Over the last several decades we have seen our share of election cycles and also the buying trends after their conclusions and typically we have seen a major uptick in consumer purchases. The aftermarket has been especially vibrant in the aftermath of an election year so based on history things look hopeful for an improved selling season.
Looking at retail industry trends there are several factors that play well for powersports business, unique buying experiences, personalized service, smaller and more focused specialty stores on the rise, at its core much of this is what our industry is about. There are also some trends we are struggling with and that definitely need to more attention from us as businesses competing with everyone.
- Smaller stores & a more focused selection of products for your market are in.
There are already shifts in retail giants like Target, Ikea and more. They are investing in smaller stores with a more focused selection of products. Driving this is competition like Amazon offering delivery in days or sometimes hours now. The important thing to consumers is convenience and accessibility of goods because what they want is a quick and easy shopping experience. Give them a reason to come and satisfy their wants when they arrive — it is what they are looking for.
- Specialty stores will be gain in popularity over department stores.
Specialty stores that focus on specific categories and stock selected items that fit their market and clientele will be considered trendier than big retail. These are some of the top reasons millennial buyers seek out retail establishments. Specialized stores also tend to provide a better in store experience, with knowledgeable staff and a more personalized experience for their customers. Does you customer have a feel for the “personality” of your dealership through use of video or storytelling in your media? Stores with unique buying experiences or “retailtainment” will flourish. We should be selling “fun” at every level top to bottom, as we are a want industry and not a need industry.
- Personalization is going to be important to the millennial buyer. Are you selling a stock unit or are their options to upgrade, change, customize or are you offering accessories to complete the deal so they are not going online or to other competitors stores? Is there anything on your shelf that will excite the buying experience and keep this customer coming back for more? Are your team welcoming customers by name or even with a warm hello? Remember the simple cup of great coffee or fun action videos playing on well-positioned TVs? Is staff paying attention to the customer in the store or simply looking at their mobile phones?
- The customer will be smarter and so will the technology tracking these customers and trying to get their business electronically. From ads following you around the Internet to the Facebook feeds you receive, large retail is tracking your customers and seeking their business. Are you doing your part to reach your customers and what reason have you given them to come buy from you lately? Have you reminded them that your store is the source for their powersports products? Do you know your customers trends? Do you work to know your customers by name? Because big online does.
- Mobile friendly sites and mobile payments are key areas to improve.
Business Insider estimates that $60 billion will be spent this year in the United States through mobile payments. It is estimated that 70 percent of mobile users will make at least one payment in 2017 through their mobile device. It may be time to revisit your web and mobile platforms to make sure you are best capitalizing on these trends. Companies will rely more & more on apps and third party solutions to manage their online presence and sales. If you want to stay competitive in brick and mortar business you should make sure your virtual presence is up to snuff as well.
- Data will be more important than ever for your selling success.
From large to small retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers will continue to invest in more and better data. Those companies that make good use of data will outpace those that do not, it is that simple. Even using data in the smallest way like purchase follow up surveys and customer sampling will give you valuable insight into improving your business that can give you an edge.
Our industry arose out of mom & pop stores and we have always been a very personal business. Traditionally we worked to build generations of riders mostly by being part of our communities and getting to know the people we sold to. We ride with them, sponsor them and race with them. We are a cottage industry that grew into a larger business but the bones of that cottage industry and the things that made it great and very personal are still here. The pendulum is swinging back as customers want a smaller and more personal buying experience from people they know and trust, much of what the foundation our industry was forged from. If we want Powersports to remain a vivid business and not be reduced back to just to a cottage industry we need to recognize both our strengths and our shortfalls as companies. It can be a painful process if you are an owner and often a very personal one as well but it is necessary.
Whether motorcycles or parts & accessories or service it is time to evaluate and invest if possible in training your staff and updating your digital presence. As we head into 2017 consumers will once again begin to pull the rope and your ease of doing business, creation of a unique buying experience and your employees will be the cornerstones of their great shopping experience.
Tim Calhoun is the president of SpeedMob Inc., a boutique distributor and brand management company that offers personalized service, expert technical advice and solid after sales support for quality brands. As a recognized powersports leader with over 30 years experience in dealership management, sales management, business development, distribution management, brand building and marketing, Tim has worked with or for the three largest distributors in Powersports (WPS, TR, PU) in an outside sales role, as a national sales manager and as a manufacturer/vendor. With experience in the aftermarket, dealer and the OEM sector he has a well rounded perspective on the interactive roles and impact each of these sectors has with one another.