This Internet Retailer Wants to Work With You, Not Against You

marketing Internet superstore website sales

Motorcycle Superstore has a new initiative that may help you make more money. Now, you're thinking, "how could the largest of the evil Internet retailers offer anything to help my business?"

Well, Motorcycle Superstore's Preferred Installer Program allows dealers to sign up to be an installation "partner" for the products it sells online. When a customer buys a qualifying product from its site, the part gets shipped directly to your dealership where you install and configure it on the buyer's bike while getting the service dollars and possible future business.

If you are familiar with Tire Rack, the automobile-tire-and-accessory company, then this program may sound familiar. Motorcycle Superstore's Don Becklin followed the Tire Rack model in developing the program. While it only covers tires, exhaust systems and Power Commanders, the Preferred Installer program may be expanded in the future based on findings from customers and participating dealers.

So is this some kind of wooden horse that you'd be letting into your shop only to have a bunch of Motorcycle Superstore invaders come pouring out? Not quite. You see, Motorcycle Superstore gets at least a half-

million visitors per month (per Internet Retailer's estimates; I think the real number is much higher) and only 2.5 percent of those people buy something. Where do the rest of those people go? The exact numbers are unknown, but most powersport purchases still happen in brick-and-mortar retail stores.

Now, I've heard for years how the Internet destroys dealerships and other powersports retailers. Customers come in, shop around, try some stuff on and then leave to buy online for a few bucks less. But Becklin says that his company sees millions of people researching online, only to buy elsewhere. How do we resolve this paradox? The truth is, you can't. Customers are going to choose the retail channel that best suits their needs.

Motorcycle Superstore realized this and developed a program designed to help it sell more stuff, make it easier on customers (yours and theirs), and help support dealers and independent retailers at the same time.

Take tires, for example. Motorcycle Super store is probably the largest retailer of motorcycle tires on earth, so it makes sense for it to build its business on tires. But, what do the customers do once they get their tires? There's no way anyone is mounting or balancing modern sportbike tires on a new Ducati 1098 with a couple of tire irons and some Vaseline. They need you for that. And what about things like tuning setups for exhaust systems and Power Commanders?

This concept brings me back to when I wrote that if someone comes into your shop carrying a new set of tires freshly delivered from a website, you should be welcoming and even go so far as to mount them for free in the hopes of making an impression on that new customer. Boy, did some of you have issues with that! OK, so maybe free was going a little far to make my point, but I stand behind my primary idea that someone else's website sale got a new customer through your door. And I'm willing to bet that your typical cost of new customer acquisition is a lot higher than you'd make off that set of tires.

Here are two scenarios to imagine: A lifelong Kawasaki rider buys new tires from Motorcycle Superstore. Let's say the site makes $30 net from the sale (likely generous depending on shipping charges, etc.). The customer has the tires shipped to your Suzuki-and-Honda shop because you signed up for the P.I. program.

You get a confirmation e-mail that the tires are on their way, and you proactively call the customer up to set up a time for the service (you will do it that way won't you? Surprise customers with a level of service they weren't expecting?). The customer comes in for the tire service, and because your advisers have been reading Dave Koshollek's columns on selling service, they are able to upsell another service function.

While customers are waiting, they check out the new Gixxer and maybe take a test ride and like it. They leave your shop remembering your great service and possibly knowing where they're buying their next bike.

Did this cost the same as a TV campaign or a local newspaper ad? No. You got all this because you lost the sale of a set of tires, and you executed flawlessly once the ball was on your side of the court.

Or go to Tire Rack's website ( and find an installer or two in your area. Go in and talk to the managers there and ask them how that program is working for them in the automotive arena. Then go back to your shop, log on to Motorcycle Superstore's website and sign up for the Preferred Installer Program. I'll bet one of your competitors is thinking about it.