Amid the gloom surrounding UK retail we’re all aware that there have been winners and losers; that some retail categories have grown through the last 12 months while others have seen revenues plummet in the face of store closures and lifestyles put on hold. 

Cycling is one of the growth categories, aided and abetted by an unprecedented explosion in cycle lanes, low emission zones, and government encouragement to avoid public transport wherever possible. Cycling and walking are seen as critical to the future of urban mobility, with ebikes especially seen as a game changer in terms of the audiences they can attract to cycling – and the commuting distances they enable. 

My local store has had a good pandemic experience and appears to be riding the crest of the wave with new store openings expanding their profile, reach, customer base, and growth potential. And yet as a long-standing, relatively high value, customer I’m left feeling like I’ve lost some love in my life.  

More accurately I was left feeling that all my custom counted for nothing when I needed a quick brake repair in advance of a long-distance journey. I got the job done by another shop where I have a far less valuable history. 

Discussing a recent communications failure relating to a bike on order (first Covid then Brexit, still no bike), I tried to articulate my feelings, explaining that I really do sympathise with the difficulty of scaling a highly personal proposition, but also that data and systems are central to the way forward. 

In response, it was clear that my argument was lost amid the recognition that personnel changes (good staff going to support new openings) meant that they are slower to recognise local, regular, customers than they may have been in the past, but that in time the new staff would be able to offer the same quality of service (so bear with us). 

A couple of days after that unsatisfactory conversation I saw that Econsultancy had published a guide to CRM. The resource includes the following lines within the introduction: 

as your business [grows], it becomes a lot more difficult and less practical to try and memorise all the individual details about each customer. There are simply too many of them, and you can’t always have a direct and personal relationship with each . So, either you simply lose those details and that nuance in your interactions with each customer – or you develop some kind of centralised system for managing those relationships. This is CRM – customer relationship management 

And that strikes me as the perfect starting point for building a data led business. What could be more important and vital to your future than being able to provide the highest quality customer service across every channel and touchpoint, maximising the amount of repeat business you generate and wrapping services around your product proposition? 

In addressing this starting point, you will rapidly realise that you need visibility and integration across your customer service, sales, and marketing functions (at the very least) with each feeding into your single view of the customer. As the Econsultancy piece suggests this really is Retail 101 today. 

By way of simple example, my own cycle retailer has an attractive weekly newsletter, that suffers from a total absence of any personalisation – not even a personal salutation, let alone any relationship with my recent purchase history or products owned. Even more basic is the failure to clean the database such that I receive the newsletter to two separate email addresses and had multiple store records.  

Resolving these issues doesn’t require huge investment or skills, it should be at the forefront of any retailers’ mind in 2021, particularly in those sectors where you’ve benefited from an influx of new customers as a result of the pandemic. 

Many of these people may be new to cycling (or your category), not just to your shop – how are you going to keep them engaged with you, how are you going to make sure their next service is through you, or their next children’s bike comes from you, or that they recommend you to their friends and family? 

You have no control without a CRM approach, and as a result, while you may be winning in the immediate short-term, I suspect you may lose a lot more than you gained over the medium term. 

To make CRM the first piece in your data business jigsaw, speak to Profusion today…. 

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