Barry Meehan of Worldwide Cycles explains where to begin with creating an online profile for your business

“Business by blogging? It worked for me,” says Clonmel retailer

There are many myths surrounding the use of social media and of course, it’ll not be often that the press picks up on the benefits of services that “cost businesses millions” – £130 million per day, one study concluded.

For those in charge of marketing a business, however, a thing or two could be learned from those in the know. Firstly, being switched onto the web’s most visited websites needn’t be a timesink, as many may believe. Once registered, these things often grow organically. Groundwork to establish a few connections is needed, but if your store keeps track of its key customers, a few email addresses will already be filed on the EPOS system. Using these you can establish some connections online and from there on in, organic growth often follows.

If the above sounds a little too ‘stalkerish’ for your liking, follow the route favoured by Clonmel bicycle retailer Barry Meehan.
He told BikeBiz: “We began at first by starting a blog. In the beginning we weren’t quite sure what should be in its contents, but over time found our feet and added social connections. With the variety of customers who walk through the door there is rarely a shortage of material for a blog post.”

Spending two to three hours per week updating its content, Worldwide Cycles soon found customers referencing the blog’s entries, which aim to strike a fair balance between educational and witty content, as well as occasional promotions.

Meehan continued: “By adding a blog to our website we brought some of the atmosphere of the shop to our online customers. It has also instilled a sense of loyalty among customers in store too, many of whom are regular readers of the blog. For those customers in particular I feel it has given us credibility as knowledgeable cycling experts and bike mechanics. Within hours of posting a YouTube trailer of the Chasing Legends DVD onto the Cycleworld blog and Facebook page, stocks sold out.”

Coming from a bike shop and its staff, a review of a product can generate sales spikes, something Meehan has experienced.
“There is, however, a fine line between increasing product awareness and being seen as just another advertising site. For this reason we try to keep reviews well spaced out among all other blog posts to retain credibility.”

Interestingly, Cycleworld’s online portal no longer lists a product catalogue or offers online sales. In fact, the site itself traded in a costly externally designed build for an €80 construction. “Nowadays online customers want live stock checking and the lowest price possible, which is difficult for an independent to achieve,” explains Meehan. “By taking control of the site I was able to do everything myself and was amazed how easy it is for someone with no clue about HTML or CSS to build a professional looking site.”

A blog, despite the benefits to website traffic, is perhaps one of the ‘old school’ approaches to interacting with customers.
“In the 18 months we’ve been on Twitter there’s been a marked shift in customer communication. We regularly now handle customer enquiries and sales via direct message on both Twitter and Facebook. By having a good number of cyclists as followers on Twitter, or fans on Facebook, we have a fantastic method of communicating with our target market, and all for free.”

Converting sales from online interaction, according to Jack’s Content:

Simon Tapscott used to work for Future Publishing, though left last year having noted a trend toward consumer influence being dictated no longer by editorials, but by social media.

Now MD of Jack’s Content, he told BikeBiz why he believes moving with the times is essential for smaller shops who often have to fight for business.

"Social media has definitely helped brands and customers build closer relationships. 55 per cent of Facebook users have ‘liked’ at least one brand and the number is growing as brands realise the benefits of being invited into the social world of customers," said Tapscott.

"And there’s no denying the power of influence. 87 per cent of shoppers say they trust the opinions of their friends over independent editorial reviews. The conversion rate of online sales stemming from visitors to social network sites is ten times higher than the overall average.

“New interactive media has changed the traditional rules of content and truly democratised the web and brands have to engage with this new business reality."

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