Freewheel: How to support UK bike dealers

Freewheel now has 417 retailers on board, growing from 62 since its launch four years ago. Kellie Parsons, marketing director at Madison and Sportline, tells BikeBiz how it works and the benefits it has for dealers

This piece first appeared in the November edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

Freewheel launched back in August 2018 after many months of planning and building. It was an extremely challenging project from the word go but one that was incredibly important for us to get right.

Freewheel is a huge part of the future for Madison and Sportline, and the main purpose has always been and will always be to provide a vehicle to support our network of specialist bicycle retailers throughout the UK.

The website launched with 62 specialist retailers on board which has now grown to 417 – the largest network of independent bike shops in the country.

Initially, the website used a ‘Reserve and Collect’ process but after reviewing feedback from dealers, this was changed to ‘Click and Collect’ in February 2019. Not only did this simplify things for all parties but it allowed us to open up the platform to a larger network of dealers quickly without the need for them to have specific EPOS providers.

“We expect Click and Collect to build share again as the enthusiasm for meeting face-to-face returns back to normal. The site review feedback is really positive and shows that consumers do value visiting their local bike shops – this is something that we are continuing to promote as much as possible.

“Freewheel adds another sales dimension to our stores, allowing consumers to view the entire Madison range and order directly to our shop adds valuable sales and increases our customer base too. It is good all round for us to work with Freewheel and the breadth of brands make it an excellent contributor to the business.” – Richard Balfe, Balfe’s Bikes CEO

Since 2019 revenue is up over 110%, quantity of products sold is up over 200%, transactions are up 170% and traffic to the site is up over 240%. It was a big job to launch a completely new e-commerce platform with so much competition in the market but the growth and figures have shown that there is a real need for Freewheel in the industry.

Covid had a big impact not only on the website but also on consumer shopping behaviours and we had to adapt like any other e-retailer. There was a big increase in demand for online shopping but since the easing of restrictions, we’ve seen a slight shift in the balance of Click and Collect versus home delivery. This is now 80/20 in favour of home delivery.

How it works
The way it works is really very simple. Retailers can sign up to the programme at no cost to themselves. Once they are set up on the website there is very little else that they have to do. Consumers shop for the brands and products they want like any other website, then at check out nominate a chosen local bike shop.

Shoppers can select either home delivery or Click and Collect and a percentage of the sale will then go to that local bike shop. All a retailer needs to do is log into the platform to accept the sale and get paid. In addition, when the retailer gets paid we cover the marketing, cost of shipping, credit card transaction fees, finance fees and returns.

While retailers do not necessarily need to do much to be part of the Freewheel Union they can make the most out of it by actively promoting the network. This might be as simple as a small window sticker, some POS, or promotion on social media. The more the Freewheel brand gains recognition, the more consumers we can attract and ultimately encourage more people to shop from their local bicycle retailer.

“Freewheel has helped with customer footfall, particularly when new people have come to the area and did not know where their local shop was. Yesterday a Click and Collect customer bought a light set while browsing, a sale we probably would not have got.” – Moore’s Cycles Twickenham and Teddington

Being part of Freewheel has many benefits for dealers, the biggest of which is benefitting from the amount of marketing we do for the Freewheel brand. We invest heavily in digital marketing across the board to drive traffic to the website, which results in sales for retailers.

We appreciate that not all local bike shops have the time or resource to invest in digital, so we do it for them. This helps to attract new consumers, drive footfall and increase sales to those businesses. The Madison PR machine secures specialist and lifestyle media coverage which increases awareness of the brand and directs consumers to the site.

Being part of the Freewheel brand will expose retailers to many thousands of potential new customers. Freewheel also activates several high-level sponsorships to grow the brand across different categories in the sport.

This year Freewheel was the headline sponsor at the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William and are a retail partner with British Cycling too. Over the last few years, we have sponsored The Tour Series, Tour of Britain, New Forest Spring Sportive and many other events and riders to grow the brand and drive more cyclists to our stores.

There are a host of features that consumers can take advantage of by shopping on Freewheel including free 14-day Bikmo bike insurance, finance options, student discount, order tracking and increased delivery options. In addition to that we have added product Q&As, an affiliate scheme and reviews to help promote the website and help shoppers with their purchasing decisions.

“Some of our previous Click and Collect parcel collections have turned into regular customers for sales and repairs. You can’t put a value on that!” – Baker Street Bikes, Brighton

Signing up
There are 417 stores in the Freewheel network across the UK. We are currently looking to reopen dealers based in the Republic of Ireland which has been an ongoing challenge since Brexit. We would encourage any dealers that want to sign up to Freewheel or would like to find out more to contact us by either emailing or getting in touch with their local Madison sales manager.

The website has come a long way since it started over four years ago but we have ambitious growth plans and the end goal will always remain the same – to support our network of specialist bicycle retailers.

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