Statistics compiled by retail trade
organizations indicate that there has been an overwhelming
increase in e-commerce and other forms of “remote”
retail where consumers are buying something from a
location other than their own and having it shipped.
At the same time rising costs of brick and mortar
storefronts along with busy schedules of consumers
have meant modest growth for traditional retail at
best. This trend is prominent in the cycling/triathlon
demographic who are also in the highest end of the
internet use demographic. As such e-commerce, mail
order and remote sales of cycling and triathlon items
including complete bikes are growing much faster than
traditional sales of the same items.
Advantages to Remote Buying.
There are clear cut advantages to buying
anything over the internet or the phone. First, you
simply don’t have to go to the store. For busy
people who would rather spend their time doing anything
but shopping this is attractive.
Internet retailers vary in quality and
level of expertise usually by product category. In
the sport of cycling and triathlon the most prominent
website retailers also tend to be the most experienced
with the highest degree of expertise. These retailers
can offer a better buying experience and more experienced
advice over the phone and via e-mail than most non-specialty
retailers could in person.
The best internet retailers not only
provide a venue for buying product but also provide
a resource for product research and comparison, analysis
and commentary. You may not always agree with their
assessments, but their learned opinions can be a valuable
part of your decision making process. Be careful with
websites that rely on buyer’s reviews of products
as they are subject to the “vocal majority”
syndrome of internet users who may be long on time
to review a product, but short on actual expertise
to offer a valid opinion. Look for web reviews that
compare one product specifically to others and offer
statistics and verifiable numbers as a basis for their
Another advantage to internet buying
may be availability, especially for people living
in rural settings or any area with low population
density. If you live in the sticks it is hard to find
specialty items like triathlon equipment and bikes
and high end road bikes. Internet retailers can offer
vast selections and deliver esoteric products that
may be completely unavailable in your area.
Price may be another advantage to buying
via the internet. While a discount price can come
back to haunt you if products aren’t as represented
(see: Disadvantages to Remote Buying, below) the internet
does give you a ready basis to see if the price you
are paying is fair.
While some retailers complain that discounting
is rampant on the internet the fact of the matter
is actually the opposite. Modern e-commerce has had
the affect of unifying prices and setting consistent
values on given products. Most vendors require bona-fide
internet retailers to maintain minimum pricing standards
in internet advertising. Additionally, most qualified
internet retailers know what their prices need to
be in order to compete, and are already at those levels.
With four or five clicks of a mouse you can do more
comparison shopping for price in five minutes than
in an entire day off work. More importantly, you can
compare from one of the country to the other and even
outside the U.S. Even if you don’t buy over
the phone or internet and do buy at a brick and mortar
retailer this knowledge will serve you well.
In modern retail most brick and mortar
stores, especially specialty stores like triathlon
and road bike dealers, have an online and mail order
component. This means your internet store is also
your local store.
Disadvantages to Remote Buying.
While the internet and an expert phone
retailer can offer some benefits there are also some
real world limitations.
Firstly, you aren’t there
where the product is. You simply can’t see,
feel and touch it in the same way you may be able
to in person. For some people this is an important
part of the buying experience. While internet technology
provides an excellent interface with the product and
the retailer it still isn’t live and three dimensional.
Fit and position are the key component
and most important factor in buying a new road or
triathlon bike. Selecting the right frame size and
geometry is a relatively straightforward process that
can be done accurately and dependably over the phone
but positioning the rider is more complex. With current
internet technology positioning the rider is still
a cumbersome project. Web cams and digital cameras
combined with motion capture software used to analyze
a rider’s position are helping with this, but
the shop employee is still not there in your basement
or garage with you to swap out handlebar stems and
adjust aerobar lengths for that perfectly tuned fit.
Because of this you will usually need to take your
new bike purchased remotely to a qualified fitter
who will save you time and trouble in getting the
fit just right and can work with you as your position
The logistics of buying a bike remotely
include assembly of the bike once it arrives. It is
always recommended that a new bike shipped to you
be assembled and tuned by a qualified bicycle retailer
with trained mechanics. This insures correct mechanical
assembly and safety.
Another logistical concern in remote bike buying is
shipping. Shipping is expensive on bikes since they
are large and relatively heavy. The costs of shipping
have to be added to the additional costs of assembly
and fitting the bike once it reaches you. These can
Bikes can sustain minor cosmetic damage
in shipping. A minor scratch in the paint won’t
affect the performance of your new bike but may detract
from the emotional experience of getting something
new. There are two ways to look at this: If you are
willing to pay for return shipping and restocking
fees your dealer may be willing to replace the bike,
but this comes at a price. It may be better to simply
realize that all bikes have minor scratches from reasonable
and customary use and that these don’t affect
the primary reason why you bought the bike: performance.
If I buy a bike over the Internet/Phone
will my local bike shop be less cooperative when I
visit them for assembly and fitting?
When Internet and mail order sales began
two decades ago most local retailers viewed them as
a threat. As technology for internet retailing has
become less expensive and more sophisticated every
retailer now has the opportunity to become a good
internet retailer in addition to the local bike shop.
Smart, forward thinking retailers view
the internet as a powerful tool for marketing their
business, reaching new customers and increasing sales.
The local bike shop can use the internet to grow.
Forward thinking retailers offer internet specific
services such a special assembly/tune-up package for
bike bought remotely brought to their shop for assembly.
If your shop is a qualified bike fitter they will
benefit from your remote purchase by selling you a
complete bike fit and positioning in their store.
When your local bike shop develops smart ways to work
with the internet they will welcome you and your new
bike as a great opportunity to provide service and
build a relationship while generating valuable, high
profit margin revenue. A good local bike store servicing
your needs when you buy a new bike on line or over
the phone will make as much or more profit as they
would have had you bought the bike from them!
As a result of these factors bike shop
attitudes toward mail order have changed and forward
thinking retailers are embracing internet customers-
both on their site and from other sources- as a new
and profitable market.
Support you Local Bike Shop
(LBS) when buying remotely.
Your local bike shop may not have the price, selection,
expertise brand or model you want in a bike, but having
them assemble, tune and service your new bike bought
over the phone or the internet is an excellent way
to support your local bike shop with high profit margin
labor and accessory business. They may actually net
a higher profit than they would have if you had bought
the bike from them!
Buying a bike remotely over the internet
is an excellent resource for finding what you need
in the size that suits you. It is an opportunity to
consult with industry experts before you buy. You
have the luxury of talking to people who specialize
in the type of riding you are doing everyday and at
the highest levels. They can offer a level of expertise
unavailable at the local general bike store. It insures
the price you pay is competitive and fair and enables
you to select who will build and fit your new bike.
These are a strong set of advantages when you are
deciding where to buy your next bike.