Driving diverse engagement post-COVID

COVID-19 is currently the focal point of most businesses, and rightly so. But it’s vital that key cycling industry issues don’t fall by the wayside, writes Amelia Morgan

It’s no secret that cycling is a sport dominated by men, and although latest research shows the number of women playing sport, in general, is at a record high, the gender gap is still sizeable. With 20% of men regularly cycling compared with 8% of women, it’s a predominantly male customer base. So it’s unsurprising that, even subconsciously, some bicycle dealers often lean towards marketing themselves to men.

But as many IBDs will already know, like lots of things in life, it’s important to get the balance right. So, when life returns to ‘normal’, how can IBDs that don’t already have a loyal female customer base play a more active role in empowering women to ride, create a more gender-inclusive approach to marketing when selling bikes, parts and accessories, and in doing so capitalise on a growing customer demographic?

Female engagement across all sport is growing, which is fantastic. Businesses should now be adapting to the growing demand and accommodating women more to ensure it continues. Various diversity campaigns have been powerful, but we shouldn’t just rely on these to drive engagement; there is plenty that all members of the cycling community can do to help.

Aside from getting fit, a lot of women pick up a new sport to socialise or grab some much needed “me time” away from the pressures of a busy work or family life. Research shows that as many as 43% of women already own a bike, but eight out of ten never cycle at all. So why not combine the two? IBDs can encourage women to dust off the bikes that are sitting in their garages by starting a women’s- only cycling club, where there’s plenty of opportunity to meet new people. 

By doing this, dealers can bring added value to customers and develop a loyal, self-supporting community of female customers, who, as a minority and as beginners, may perhaps feel alienated by well-established, fast-paced and predominantly male groups. Groups like these can attract women who wouldn’t have otherwise visited a bike shop; women who have never cycled or are rediscovering it after years out. Accompanying the rides, offering support and guidance will not only provide dealers with better insight into what customers want, but will provide ample opportunity to recommend parts and accessories to meet their specific needs.

It will take time to organise but can really help build relationships and bring financial benefits. For example, bikes can be rented out for a small fee for those who don’t already own a bike and are looking to dip their toe in the water before committing to buying, or targeted promotions can be offered for members.

There’s a saying, “it’s as simple as riding a bike,” but as experienced riders will know there’s a bit more to it than that. New customers, regardless of gender, probably won’t feel confident changing a tyre or carrying out everyday repair and maintenance. Filling this skills gap will offer something extra to the customers who enter your store, and is a relatively cheap way to drive more women, or cycling newbies, through dealers’ doors. Sharing expertise by offering regular, free and friendly tutorial sessions for customers will soon pay for itself and yet again nurture a loyal, returning community of customers.

There are still a number of dealers out there who are missing a trick by simply not stocking enough female-friendly products. Put yourself in the shoes of a female, novice customer, walking into a store looking for inspiration and direction and being met with rails upon rails of items that don’t meet her needs. It’s safe to say that it limits her chance of returning. But this can be simply tackled by introducing new stock and altering the way that products are merchandised in-store. Dealers should try looking at small changes that will make a big difference.

For example, putting women’s clothing in the shop window and towards the front of the store, alongside with men’s, or running some eye-catching POS promotions that feature female riders and send the right message to customers of all genders. 

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