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Bike Retailer Solves a Pandemic-driven Problem

Summary

Bike Retailer Solves a Pandemic-driven Problem A great deal of consumers wanted to get outside when the pandemic hit this past year. One of the beneficiaries was Erik’s Bike Shop, a Minnesota-based retailer, which experienced a huge increase in web […]

Bike Retailer Solves a Pandemic-driven Problem

A great deal of consumers wanted to get outside when the pandemic hit this past year. One of the beneficiaries was Erik’s Bike Shop, a Minnesota-based retailer, which experienced a huge increase in web traffic and client service requests — telephone calls, emails, and chats. The team was overwhelmed.

In the end, providing better stock info online reduced the service volume and solved the problem. However, the lesson goes beyond technology .

Many bicycle shoppers wanted to know which versions were available and available for curbside pick-up at particular locations. Erik’s solution was to display inventory availability early in the internet shopping experience. When it geolocates the shopper, the website provides pick-up information beginning on category and search pages.

The result is that the number of consumer discussions per order went down 44 percent, and chat interactions fell 68 percent.

Erik’s site now displays inventory availability early in the purchasing experience.

Past Software

The notion that the pandemic hastened retail’s digital transformation is accurate. But the transformation isn’t just about technology and software. A organization’s relationships with vendors and employees are equally significant.

Erik’s Bike Shop has been in business since 1977, when it opened its first shop in Richfield, Minnesota. But the provider’s founder, Erik Saltvold, started selling bikes before then — when he was 13 in his parents’ barn.

The business has grown to 30 physical shops across seven Midwestern states and a powerful ecommerce performance. This past year, however, Erik’s suddenly had a tech issue.

“When the lockdown went into effect in the U.S., we wanted to be very careful…so we cut back on store hours, making sure we were as efficient and effective as possible. However, it quickly became evident that people were looking for ways to get out and enjoy everything they could in a secure way. Cycling was going to be a way people can do this,” said Graeme Bloor, Erik’s vice president of electronic and information technology. “Within a few weeks, we began to find sales volume spike through all stations — in-store and online.”

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Ahead of the pandemic, customers who shopped at Erik’s might begin by taking a look at bicycles online, then seeing a physical store and talking with a salesperson. Inventory availability was evident for shoppers standing in one of Erik’s stores.

Then came Covid-19.

“Consumers were beginning their interactions online with our customer support staff, which had to do all the leg work that our salespeople do to get what sort of bicycles [customers ] needed, where these bikes are located, and how we can deliver them,” Bloor said.

The business fought to maintain popular models in stock and informing shoppers that stores had available stock. The solution wasn’t unique: Erik’s website needed better stock information earlier in a customer’s interaction.

As opposed to showing online shoppers a list of 30 shops, Erik’s team added geolocation that explains the nearest available stock to get a visitor. The geolocation app required some custom website development. And this took collaboration, which was based on a longstanding relationship.

“Our client success staff had worked with [Erik’s] over time, and since the pandemic hit, stock availability became a very real operational challenge for them,” said Jared Blank, chief marketing officer in VTEX, Erik’s ecommerce platform.

Bloor, Erik’s vice president, and staff identified the problem: a necessity to provide in depth advice earlier in the shopper’s journey. VTEX discovered a solution.

Bloor said, VTEX’s team told us”We have got this geolocation app. We believe we can work it in the stock lookup also,” said Bloor.

In short order, VTEX and Erik’s had a working solution so powerful that the two companies promoted the results. The pandemic compelled Erik’s and VTEX to do it on a tech issue. Nevertheless, the successful relationship between both companies made it possible.

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The lesson isn’t about the pandemic but about how strong relationships can be a competitive edge.

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