Citrus-Lime’s James Steel tells Rebecca Morley about the company’s Book My Bike In initiative and the value of bike shops offering online services
This piece first appeared in the January edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
Modernising their offering is key for any store trying to keep up with current trends in the retail environment, with the accessibility of technology being one of the biggest drivers of change. Customers demand convenience when they shop, and will now often look online in order to find it.
Change is essential to meet modern customer service expectations, and Citrus-Lime’s recently launched initiative, Book My Bike In, aims to make it easy to adapt and deliver by simplifying the booking process for customers.
The retail EPOS systems provider said cycle shops will be able to better manage admin around service and repair bookings, and it also reduces the amount of time staff are out of the workshop dealing with customers.
Citrus-Lime director James Steel recently spoke to BikeBiz on the benefits of offering this online feature: “[With] so many more bikes sold and so many more new cyclists added, the consequence of that is the demand on the workshop goes up,” Steel said. “There is a correlation with that knock on effect.
“Time on the workstand is important. If you can create capacity to do even just one more job, you might be looking at something like, for an average price of a workshop job, say £60 or £70. If you can create the capacity for that every day, just through reducing the avoidable administrative aspects, then logically you would elect to do that, right? Because you don’t have to increase your overheads and you can make more money as a result of it.”
It’s a necessary evil in the environment, Steel continued, that bike shops have to pick up the telephone with the hope that it’s prospective business and that a customer will soon be walking through the door. Either way, it can get in the way of the profitable work that’s already taking place.
Eliminating that allows a business to operate more efficiently and profit more as a result, which is what drove the ambition, Steel said. “When was the last time you wanted to pick up the telephone to book a table? That’s not part of the service you’re receiving, that’s just how you acquire that service. So if it’s convenient for you, and fast and easy, then you’re more inclined to do that. So it seemed like a natural extension of our integrated workshop module.”
Customers using Book My Bike In can complete the online process in five steps. After entering a postcode, the platform identifies the nearest workshops. Once selected, the customer chooses the service required from the list displayed. The next step is to opt for a date to drop the bike off, and the process is completed by entering contact details and any notes the bike shop should be aware of.
So why is it so important for bike shops to be offering this service online, instead of relying on picking up the phone? “That’s something that they wanted to be able to remove from their day if they could,” said Steel.
“It’s not that they have a lack of interest in talking to their customers or prospective customers, it’s that I think they recognise in the same way I do, it’s not adding any value. Book My Bike In seemed like an obvious thing for people to want to do.
“It helps the retailer be more efficient, and it delivers the consumer an improved experience,” added Steel. “That’s great – sometimes you develop solutions that only improve operational efficiency and then perhaps you as a consumer never really feel any notable benefits of that.
“Or sometimes it’s designed entirely with the end consumer in mind, because it’s just ‘give the people what they want’ and it might actually add a little bit of inconvenience to the retailer in order to provide it.”
Modern bike shops
The retail industry has faced many challenges in recent times, with the trend of consumers looking online for an easier way to shop starting long before the pandemic hit in 2020. But with the added pressures seen over the last few years, how important is it that bike shops modernise?
“Cloud POS Citrus-Lime is present in a high percentage of independent bike shops in the UK already,” said Steel. “There’s always a distribution curve of the early adopters, then the followers and then there’s everyone else.
“Change is really difficult. But if you understand what the outcomes are for people – what do they want? What are they looking to achieve? On a Venn diagram there’s overlap between bike shop A and bike shop B in terms of what their challenges are. But to say, ‘oh they’re all the same because they all sell bikes’ would be a mistake.
“Their aspirations and the things they’re aiming for are not uniform. One bike shop may be 25% workshop servicing and one might be 75% workshop servicing. They might make the same amount of money overall, but the challenge and the resource demands are different.
“Those perhaps who have held for as long as possible, I think even those individuals are starting to recognise the slightly quieter shop and fewer people arriving. It’s not that their service level has dropped, it’s that the attention has been drawn in a different direction, and that’s online. There are many things now where if it’s not found online, it’s assumed that they no longer exist.”
Be in the race
Steel continued: “Sometimes what we’ll hear is, ‘I don’t want to compete online’. They’re still in the race, they’re just guaranteed not to win. For us, the focus is how do we continue to keep the independent store because that’s what’s important – that hub, that space for cyclists and people passionate about the activity, driving them into that space builds that community.
“The nice thing about workshop services is you can’t get your bike fixed over the internet. I might start my workshop service experience online, but it always finishes in store. So it creates those reasons to return and business has always done better face to face.”
Customers are also more likely to buy other products when visiting physical bike shops, raising the average transaction value as a result. For online, the items per transaction could just be one, but in store, it’s probably two or three.
“It might just be small things like I’ll get some inner tubes while I’m here, or I’ll get a couple of energy bars,” said Steel. “If I visit the shop to drop my bike off I’ll then pick some of these bits and pieces up while I’m there.
“Visiting a store is critical and it’s a way to keep the high street thriving. Any opportunity we can take to do that fits right into the mission brief for Citrus-Lime.”