The COVID-19 pandemic crisis might hopefully be over, but some of its effects are still to be seen in the present and the near future. And evolutions have to be also expected in the World of sports.
At Vitesse, we have been working in cycling for roughly 30 years as Press Office, PR, Media Relations, event organizers, and digital strategists. Our substantial background enabled us to give a wide-angle look at the two-wheels World and spot ten remarkable trends that might establish themselves in the coming months or years.
Our predictions will come in different blogs. Some of those might sound bold, but we believe they all have chances to become a reality, sooner rather than later.
Here comes the second episode:
The evolution of cycling stores
Companies going direct to the customers (we have talked about this trend extensively in our previous issue) is also a consequence of another very sensible theme, which regards communication. In a highly competitive market with a substantial disparity in price points, companies feel the urge to communicate their technologies, innovations, and values accurately and strategically. Such a goal can only be achieved with significant training and a high degree of competence by the persons who deal with the customers in the first place, retailers.
But in a market dominated by direct sales, as we have predicted, what happens to stores? In our opinion, they will not disappear - although probably decreasing in number - but will go through a transformation.
The rise of pedal-assisted bikes is not an effect of COVID-19: it was an existing trend, and the first figures on post-lockdown demand tell us that the ratio compared to traditional bikes has not changed dramatically compared to the past. This trend brings two consequences: increase in the average value of bikes (an e-Bike costs more than a muscular counterpart in the same category, and increase in two-wheels used as a means of transportation, therefore employed as part of a daily routine rather than a leisure activity.
These two effects make the aspect of maintenance and assistance as delicate as ever. How many of us would choose the first mechanic around the corner to repair our car, possibly a luxury car? And, on the other hand, how many of us have chosen the brand of our car because we knew we could rely on official assistance points in the nearby?
e-Bikes will confront mechanics with more complex problems on average than traditional bikes, issues that not everyone is and will be able to solve: not the user independently, and sometimes not even the "basic" mechanic. If e-Bike is your main option to go to work, then you see why maintenance and assistance are critical for users to decide which company to entrust for the equivalent of a couple of salaries.
In the wake of what brands like Shimano have done in recent years, we would not be surprised to start seeing authorized Service Centers of the leading brands on the market. Stores where the maintenance and availability of spare parts of one or more brands are guaranteed promptly, and with advanced knowledge of the models that only constant training by the parent company (even remotely) can provide.
Specialized and authorized workshops will share the scenario with the flagship stores that some brands will undoubtedly continue to have. Service centers will also be collection points for bikes ordered online. Clients will be able to get them assembled, do the bike fitting and any necessary adjustments, immediately creating a trust relationship that can easily lead to long-term relationships, both with the service point and with the brand itself, especially for high-ticket vehicles
What about bike sales? It will also remain a component within the physical store, albeit realistically smaller. Instead, privileged relationships with the brands might lead to valuable placements for clothing and accessories brands and the spare parts sector.
In a not-too-distant future, shops might be part of a sustainable process for the recycling or disposal of bikes and components: exhausted batteries in the first place.