IF YOU'RE NOT SELLING ONLINE, you should be. That was the message to dealers at the MIC Communications Symposium — though no retailer was present to hear it. "The most important way for the aftermarket to sell is the Internet. Companies used to be worried about how it would affect their retail establishments. That way of thinking has gone by the wayside," Paul Leinberger told a room filled with about 200 vendor and OEM representatives.
Dealernews asked Leinberger, a market analyst, whether he believed powersports dealers no longer cared whether their suppliers sold directly to consumers. He gave a quick affirmative and left the stage.
Immediately following Leinberger's presentation, "Digital Life: Doing Business in a Connected World," Dealernews asked MIC president Tim Buche about the controversial statement. He said he believed Leinberger was speaking about the retail world in general and had likely misunderstood our question.
Leinberger later confirmed that he had been speaking generally, but that he believed the idea also applied to suppliers and dealers in the powersports industry. He qualified this by saying that supplier websites could link to dealership sites or incorporate dealers in profit sharing in some other way. When we noted that many — if not most — dealerships do not partake in e-commerce, he shrugged his shoulders.
The selling-online comment was a small part of Leinberger's overall presentation, which comprised numerous statistics supporting his belief that the Internet and digital media are the most important issues for businesses. He pointed out that 9 trillion e-mails were sent in 2006, up from 500,000 in 1996, and that more than 211 million (70 percent) of U.S. adults are now online. He outlined the type of customers who will emerge in the digital age: They will be more active (takers, not receivers) with a greater sense of community and social responsibility.
Leinberger's presentation was one of many given throughout the symposium. Here are two highlights:
- Membership stats: MIC membership stands at 307, with 43 members joining so far in 2007. The aftermarket and allied trades members and smaller motorcycle manufacturers have contributed more than $750,000 in dues in 2007, a 40 percent increase over the same period five years ago. V-twin companies account for one-fourth of new members joining since 2005.
- Tire Sales: Tire maker/distributor MIC members will soon meet to discuss a proposal for an MIC motorcycle/ATV tires sales report based on U.S. wholesale unit replacement tire sales. Such a report, the MIC said, would also provide members with a good measurement of motorcycle and ATV usage. There was no word on whether dealers will be able to buy this report. (Dealers can buy the council's statistical annual for $100.)