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Fred Clements: Grow your business - market to women!

Published April 21, 2014
A blog by NBDA executive director Fred Clements.

Editor's note: This blog post was written by Fred Clements, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Clements' previous blog posts can be read on bikedealerblog.wordpress.com.

Women sometimes say they are not comfortable in bike shops, but Bridget Brennan thinks this can change.

Brennan made the case for marketing and selling to women during a lively presentation "The Seven Deadly Sins of Selling to Women" at the recent IBD Summit in Monterey. Brennan is considered to be an expert on selling to women, is the author of the book Why She Buys, and is founder and CEO of Female Factor.

Why focus on women? Brennan noted that women drive 70-80 percent of consumer spending as both purchasers and influencers. She pointed to studies that show female spending was up 28.6 percent from 1990 to 2008, while male spending rose only 2.3 percent. She said that 60 percent of bike-owning people ages 18 to 27 are women, and added that 40 percent of U.S. mothers are either the primary or sole breadwinners in a household. There are also more women in the labor force than ever, and expectations for customer service are higher than in the past. Millennial women are now entering their purchasing prime, and view shopping as entertainment more than past generations. Women also dominate social media, presenting an opportunity to engage them on these platforms. They are also marrying later and having fewer children. As a result they have time on their hands, time that can be spent in bicycle retail stores. These trends mean opportunity for the bike business, Brennan believes.

"We don't talk about the differences between men and women that often because of political correctness, but while we are equal, we are not the same," she said. "Men and women can look at the same product but judge it by different criteria. It's 'guy' culture versus 'female' culture. In every society, women are also the primary care-givers for children and the elderly, and are positioned to be the gatekeepers for a lot of spending."

Brennan described herself as a committed cyclist who loves to ride but isn't interested in becoming part of the cycling culture. She just likes riding. "I feel like I'm seven years old again when I'm on a bike, but when I go into a lot of bike shops I feel that I don't belong. I don't race, I don't wear Lycra and don't use toe clips. The opportunity here is that women can be welcomed in your stores."

So what are the seven deadly sins that bike shops should avoid?

Sin One: A lackluster welcome or zero acknowledgement. Brennan urged employees to promptly welcome everyone who enters the store, even if they're busy with other customers at the time. A simple acknowledgement goes a long way in making people feel comfortable. Make eye contact. Women want to buy from someone who wants the business.

Sin Two: Uninspiring service. "A shopper can only be as enthusiastic as you are," Brennan said. "Use personal stories, customer stories, recommendations and show & tell demonstrations."

Sin Three: Lack of ambiance. "Women notice little things so pay attention to details. A lot of stores are industrial, a little overwhelming, cluttered, and with a focus on the mechanical," she said. Instead, create a shopping experience. Feature women's products on marketing materials, have female employees on staff, have music that is not super aggressive, and merchandise bikes with equipment that women would find appealing.

Sin Four: Not linking technical features to benefits. Concepts such as comfort and safety are more important than technical spec. If she wants specifications she can ask, but otherwise focus on what the bike can do for her, the experiences she can have. Provide a shopping experience that she cannot get on-line.

Sin Five: Ignoring children or companions. "If the kids are bored, it's not good for communicating or giving good service," Brennan noted. She suggested that stores offer places to sit for companions, refreshments, and even toys to keep children occupied.

Sin Six: Not emphasizing service. "Service can be your differentiator," Brennan said. Having enthusiastic and helpful people on staff is a powerful way to lure people away from the convenience of Internet shopping. Ask open-ended questions, share experiences, talk about the things the store offers.

Sin Seven: No visible signs of appreciation or follow-up. Etiquette matters to women, Brennan noted, especially mothers who are responsible for teaching manners to their children. "Saying please and thank you matters, and follow-up after the purchase so they know you care," she said.

Brennan summed up her advice as an Action Plan: Emphasize service. Focus on creative merchandising. Make the store bright and well-organized. Have female employees. Offer seating. Focus on benefits not features. Thank them for their business. Focus on the details because "little things are big things."

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