MONTEREY, CA (BRAIN)—We need to abandon our fear of the Internet and embrace the opportunity to service our customers online. That was the message yesterday morning from a panel assessing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths of the online business model.
“It is a very emotional topic of losing sales to the Internet,” said Jason West, VP of retail sales and aftermarket product for SRAM. “As we’ve seen with a number of data points, the actual number of sales conducted there may not be as high as the fear. Let’s not get carried away with what’s happening out there.”
Panelists suggested that as an industry, we need to cooperate to make the Internet a positive force.
Bernie Doering, senior VP of global sales for Easton-Bell Sports action sports division, gave the entire sporting goods industry a grade of a C+ for its coordinated online marketing efforts with retailers. He cited limited resources and budgets as an obstacle to working more closely with retailers.
“Why a lot of suppliers went and developed direct-to-consumer outlets is to tell the story the way we want to tell it, to tell that brand message the way that we want it to be told,” said Doering. “We’re doing a better job in terms of getting out in front and working with retail distribution partners to ensure they have the same information. But we struggle to have consistent message and supply on the Internet.”
Mark Graff, co-founder of Smartetailing and panel moderator, gave the industry an F in one area: the simple click-through from a supplier web site dealer locator. Graff suggested that every supplier should require a cobranded landing page. “Every retailer should celebrate that requirement because you’re taking care of that customer in a way they’re going to appreciate. That link has tremendous value,” he said.
The industry also needs to combat issues such as disruptive pricing and grey market sales of products. Doering said different legislation and rules in every country make it difficult to police sales worldwide. But he said suppliers must send a message that certain behavior won’t be tolerated.
“We’ve come to point it’s about writing very strict policies, communicating those policies, and making every distributor very aware of those policies,” said Doering. “And we have to have the courage to act when there’s a violation of policies.”
Panelists said the consumer is not necessarily looking for discounts, but rather for an enjoyable online purchasing experience. And they said we must support and create professional online shopping sites and provide the quality online experience the consumer is looking for.
Mike Cachet, founder & CEO Jenson USA, an online and brick-and-mortar retailer, suggested the industry set standards of service for online retail partners.
“A lot of online retailers hide; they don’t have phone number, they make it difficult to make returns and exchanges. That’s a horrible experience,” said Cachet. “I have a decision as a consumer as to where to spend my money. If I have a terrible experience, maybe I’m going to put my money in backpacking or another industry that has set standards. There needs to be similar set of standards or vetting process that takes place with online retailers.”
Photo: Mark Graff moderates a panel on the Internet at the BLC. (Credit: Brightroom)