Jan. 21, 2008 – Shopping sources differ dramatically by segment

John Resciniti sees the difference in shopping habits of new bike buyers first hand.
Just recently, the vice president of Motorcycle Mall, Belleville, N.J., witnessed a metric cruiser consumer enter the store with his hands filled with three different magazine clippings on the Yamaha Raider, the Road Star Warrior and the Suzuki Boulevard M109.
But if Resciniti takes a walk across the Motorcycle Mall showroom into the sport bike section that particular customer segment is likely to be carrying printouts from Web sites, not magazine articles.
Those marked differences in consumer shopping habits were recently brought out by the J.D. Power and Associates’ 2007 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study.
New buyers of Asian motorcycles were much more likely to peruse a magazine article — 30 percent of the time — than their counterpart who purchased a domestic brand (17 percent), the survey found. Perhaps hinting at an older rider, buyers of European bikes were even more likely to view magazines as a shopping source, looking at those nearly 57 percent of the time.
As Resciniti said, it’s not whether consumers are educated on the product, “it’s just a matter of how they do their research.”
As a group, new bike buyers are much more likely to view a manufacturer’s Web site (more than 38 percent of the time) than a magazine article (nearly 25 percent of the time), something that did not surprise industry officials.
“We know there’s a new generation of shoppers,” said Jim Booth, owner of Independence Harley-Davidson/Buell in College Station, Texas. “For the last three years we have been downsizing our Yellow Page ads because we know that even the older generation, the Boomers, are learning the Internet, and they’re Googling things. They’re not going to this big old, heavy book to look something up and make a telephone call.”
Again, there are differences in the amount of online shopping being done by the different types of motorcycle consumers. Sport bike buyers go to the Internet more often
(46 percent) to view a manufacturer’s Web site than a cruiser (34 percent) or touring buyer(37 percent).
Mark Blackwell, vice president of Victory Motorcycles, believes big cruiser and touring buyers use the Internet less frequently than their sport bike counterparts and find other sources — visiting the dealer and talking to other owners — important.
To big cruiser and touring buyers, “styling and comfort are very important and those are far better assessed in person,” Blackwell said.
Something motorcycle buyers say they aren’t using very often as shopping sources are shows and rallies. Only slightly above 8 percent of the new bike buyers said they used shows and rallies as shopping sources, a figure that has dropped compared to five years ago. The 2003 J.D. Power and Associates’ survey asked the shopping information sources question slightly differently so an exact comparison can’t be made.
“Doing a lot of what I used to do isn’t reaching them,” Jerry Lenz, general manager of Beaverton Honda-Yamaha in Tigard, Ore., said of his dealership’s marketing efforts.
Lenz says he has nearly stopped all of his print advertising, although he is doing some direct mail marketing.
“The two things that ring the telephone are Cycle Trader and the Web site,” he said. “And the Web site is seven to eight times more than Cycle Trader is even.”
Buyers of European brands are much more likely to use the Web as a shopping source than their counterparts, the survey found. European brand consumers used the manufacturer’s Web site 56 percent of the time, more than the Asian consumer (40 percent) or the domestic buyer (34.5 percent).
New bike buyers are showing some interest in the fuel economy of motorcycles. Slightly more than 50 percent of buyers said they were somewhat interested in fuel economy, three percentage points higher than last year. Cruising and touring buyers were more interested in fuel economy than sport bike buyers.
— Neil Pascale

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