Brace yourself; it’s almost March.
And yes, while the vernal equinox, college basketball, and shamrock shakes are all good things, perhaps the month’s most appealing attribute is the fact that it represents the unofficial start of the cycling season.
For the record, that’s not just an anecdotal talking point. In 2016, the Outdoor Foundation reported that cycling constitutes the 2nd favorite outdoor activity of both adults and children in the United States – meaning that if you’re feeling passionate about the upcoming riding season, chances are there are around 36 million other people who are, too.
So the next logical question is: if you’re one of the 3,700 local bike shop owners in the US, what are you doing to prepare for it?
Of course there’s new inventory to stock, and seasonal employees to bring back on board, but beyond the routine prep work lies an array of smart, simple strategies you can implement to capitalize on this early-season excitement. At a loss for ideas? Not to worry – we’ve taken the liberty of listing a handful of our favorites below.
1.) RENTAL DISCOUNTS
Let’s start with the wallet. Most retailers are (understandably) reluctant to dig deep into their discount bag this early in the year, particularly if it’s been a long winter. Similarly, knowledgeable consumers recognize that the start of the riding season isn’t the ideal time to go hunting for bargains. This combination of high market demand and low consumer expectations is the perfect opportunity to hit your customers with a surprise markdown where they’re least expecting it: your shop’s rental equipment.
There are several reasons why this strategy works in your favor, especially at the start of spring.
- First, and most importantly, it brings customers in your door, giving them a tactile introduction to your newest bikes and cycling gear.
- Secondly, it allows them to ride early, before having to take their own bikes apart for an annual spring tune up.
- Thirdly, it creates a positive financial rapport between you and your customers to kick off the year – without lowering your retail prices.
Conveniently, Spinlister Pro offers bike shops the ability to create unique discount coupons in seconds. Simply set the parameters, share the custom code with your customers and let the rentals happen.
2.) SPRING MAINTENANCE WORKSHOPS
Whether your customers are club riders or greenhorns, spring is the ideal season to roll up your sleeves, bust out the bike stands and gear brushes, and share some of that coveted maintenance know-how. Not only does the practice solidify your shop as a center of community engagement in the neighborhood, but it helps to establish an early bond of trust with new customers as well.
If you’re looking for ways to implement this strategy, you may want to consider taking a page from Revolutions Bicycle Cooperative’s playbook. Aside from weekly open-shop hours from 6:30-9 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, this staple of the Memphis cycling scene offers a range of spring classes from basic bike assessment to flat tire repair.
Keep in mind that your online calendar doesn’t have to be pretty, just functional.
3.) COMMUNITY RIDES
Group rides are an excellent community-building strategy no matter when you plan them, but they’re particularly effective at the start of the spring season. That’s because, according to the National Institute of Health, around 20% of Americans suffer from some sort of seasonal mood change from November to March.
In other words, 1 in 5 of your customers is most likely itching for an opportunity to get out of the city and into the great outdoors right about now.
For Joe Nocella of 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn, events like his shop’s upcoming 138-mile Spring Tour are an opportunity to build the kind of seasonal connection with his customers that online retailers simply can’t compete with. “There are always going to be people who want an adventure,” he says. “Some of the people who feel like they’re trapped here don’t understand that we’re on the ocean. The idea is simply taking that lifestyle and putting it in front of them, and we don’t charge for that.”
4.) RE-CONNECTION EMAILS
Of course, the previous three strategies won’t prove particularly successful if no one knows about them. Use the onset of the riding season as an opportunity to reach out and contact your customers via email, even if you’re not in the habit of doing so regularly. Whether you’re sharing a spring newsletter, sending a complimentary discount code, or just saying thanks for their continued patronage, a proactive first contact opens the door for another year’s worth of positive engagement.
And as it turns out, it’s pretty effective means of doing it. As of April 2016, MailChimp benchmark data found that emails dealing with hobbies such as cycling had the highest open rate of all available categories at 28.85%, with sports not far behind at 25.95%.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and is simply intended to highlight the vast array of possibilities open to your shop this March. Decide what best suits you and your community, and make the most of this all-important start to the cycling season.