From Mamils (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra) to regular city-goers, COVID-19 has sparked an interest for bikes like never before. We sat down with James van Rooyen, Co-Founder and Director of Bicycles Online to discuss the result of the pandemic.
Cycling is one of the most popular forms of exercise and transport for Australians. In Australia, it was once hard to buy bicycles online. “There were no good quality bikes being sold online (direct to consumer),” van Rooyen told Power Retail. “The bike industry was very slow with online penetration, with all bikes being sold through store.”
When van Rooyen found a ‘world-class’ factory brand, Polygon, Bicycles Online then became its sole distributor for it in the region online.
It has taken the retailer to develop and refine its offering, but when it came to the pandemic, Bicycles Online ensured it was prepared for the possible shift in the supply chain.
“In anticipation of this, we ordered up a huge supply of excess stock,” van Rooyen said. “What we weren’t expecting was the enormous surge in demand for bicycles – our supply chain has been largely unaffected but our excess quickly sold out and we’re now having to receive multiple containers of shipments each week to fulfil demand which is still in full swing.”
“Almost all of the new stock has already been sold before they land in the warehouse,” he said.
The pandemic has seen a worldwide bicycle boom as gym doors remain closed due to tough restrictions. Across the entire country, there has been a boom in bikes. As a solo sport, there is a lower risk of infection and an easier way to get around town. Moreover, the roads have become safer as cars stay home.
For Bicycles Online, this phenomenon has not been unfelt. “In Australia, we have definitely witnessed a sharp increase in sales,” said van Rooyen. “We’ve experienced a huge 300 percent increase in sales of both bikes and accessories online, and I’ve heard bricks and mortar is up around 60 percent.”
“The increase in sales means an increase in people cycling which is extremely positive and helps towards making Sydney a cycle-friendly city,” he continued.
Bicycles Online is now selling more than 3,000 complete bikes per month, and seeing a 310 percent increase in e-bikes, 225 percent increase in commuter bike sales, 170 percent increase in mountain bikes and 60 percent lift in children’s bike sales.
“Overall, more than 300 percent increase in sales of bikes and accessories,” van Rooyen explained.
Bicycles Online prides itself on its customer experience, which admittedly took a few years to perfect. “It’s taken us a decade to develop and refine the online buying experience for bicycles, and the feedback we’re getting is we’ve got our modelling right,” van Rooyen told Power Retail. “We have also proven that consumers can buy bicycles online in Australia with confidence.”
Connecting to new and existing customers in the midst of a pandemic isn’t as simple as some may think. However, Bicycles Online makes it look easy with its ‘seamless’ buying process.
“Here at Bicycles Online we have always worked towards creating a seamless and informative buying process online,” van Rooyen explained. “So far, this process has been extremely positive for our customers. We strive to ensure we are always listening to the needs of our customers and we regularly issue surveys to allow the customers to voice their bicycle needs.”
Staying active on social media and having ‘excellent’ customer service are some of the tools the retailer uses to stay connected with its customer, even after the purchase journey is complete.
Will bicycles remain a popular choice for commuters even after the pandemic is over? Although it’s tough to say for sure, one thing is certain: online retail is experiencing an unprecedented and enduring boom.
“In the past, 90 percent of all bikes in Australia were sold through bricks and mortar retail which is well behind the curve of other markets including the UK, US and China,” van Rooyen explained. “An expedited shift in purchasing behaviour to online shopping was a result of the Covid-19 situation and now that people see the convenience and benefit, we expect growth to continue.”
In the future, even as the pandemic becomes a thing of memory’s past, Bicycles Online aims to continue to encourage this flourishing market.
“We expect to continue to experience growth as customers become more aware of the many benefits of buying a bicycle online,” said van Rooyen. “An increase in competition is also expected as the opportunities for bicycles to be sold online grow.”
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