Bike brands claim ExpertVoice can boost in-store sales
BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) – After an outside industry retail group spoke out against the ExpertVoice pro buying platform last week, some bike brands are defending the platform . They say it can attract new customers to stores while providing a variety of other services that don’t hurt the specialty retail channel.
“It helps us sell the product at a premium and that’s the only absolute reason we work with ExpertVoice and it always has been,” said Larry Pizzi, Commercial Director of Alta Cycling Group.
Pizzi said that ExpertVoice drives sales in at least two ways: by getting store employees to use Alta’s bikes and by generating user testimonials that Alta uses in marketing.
Alta offers Diamondback, Haibike and Redline products on the ExpertVoice program. Currently, these brands offer a limited number of products with a 20% off MSRP discount, available only to industry members. The former distributor of these brands, Accell North America, also used ExpertVoice and offered larger discounts.
Last week, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance – a buying group and advocate for outdoor specialty retailers with around 100 retail members – released a position paper on ExpertVoice. The statement did not urge GOA retailers to stop doing business with vendors who use ExpertVoice. But he said he finds ExpertVoice “incompatible” with specialty retailing because it contributes to a culture of discount.
“It’s a site that goes against the health and wellness of specialty retail,” GOA executive director Rich Hill told BRAIN on Friday. He said GOA had been working on the post for several years and warned ExpertVoice last year that it was doing so.
GOA has brought two specific charges against ExpertVoice – both challenging ExpertVoice.
First, the group accused ExpertVoice of offering discounts to consumers who are not in the cycling industry, including professionals in other fields, such as trackers and firefighters, and members of cycling consumer groups. like IMBA and USA Cycling.
GOA also charges that once qualified, legitimate industry members remain eligible for discounts on ExpertVoice “permanently”, even if they leave their jobs.
In a statement, ExpertVoice noted that brands can choose which members are eligible for discounts and tailor the level of discounts to different groups. Participating bicycle brands confirmed this to BRAIN. ExpertVoice also said it regularly removes thousands of names from its eligibility lists and requires members to requalify themselves regularly.
A variety of goals
ExpertVoice addresses a variety of needs for brands in the industry, some of which use the platform in very different ways.
Some brands, including Alta, have said that ExpertVoice is a cost effective way to outsource an industry / store employee purchasing program that would be expensive to run in-house for a small business.
For others, including Marin Bikes, it is an outlet for troubled goods that are still in the bicycle market. Sean Walters of Marin, vice president of brand business development, said Marin only sells products on ExpertVoice that have already been offered to its specialty resellers for months at prices below the ExpertVoice price.
Currently, Marin only lists two products on ExpertVoice: two mountain bike frame kits priced at $ 1,500 and $ 2,000.
On the other hand, other brands use ExpertVoice to launch new products or new product categories. A well-known brand used ExpertVoice this spring to educate employees at a retail store about a new product category it was entering (although the lack of inventory this year made it difficult for the brand to gauge success. in the countryside).
While some brands, such as Marin and Alta, limit sales exclusively to the bike industry, others see the platform as a way to go beyond the industry.
Sock brand DeFeet, for example, sees ExpertVoice as a way to expose its brand to new riders from other activities, said Paul Willerton of DeFeet.
“I’ve always seen it almost as a marketing cost, not really a profit center,” Willerton told BRAIN.
“For a brand like DeFeet, there is always the question of how to reach more markets. We make products that can be used beyond cycling, and new market entrants are finding cycling, whether they are firefighters, tactical users, or the military. It is difficult to be in front of these users and that is what attracted us, ”he said.
ExpertVoice also has an optional EduGames educational platform that requires potential buyers to read or watch videos about the brand and its products and take a quiz or two before they can make a purchase.
DeFeet’s Willerton said he came to enjoy the EduGames.
“This is perhaps the most redemptive part of their entire program,” he said. He said EduGames are valuable whether the participant is in retail or as a consumer ambassador, and is a convenient way for the brand to provide this education.
None of the bike brands BRAIN has spoken with see ExpertVoice as a profit center; Willerton said DeFeet could break even on the program, while Pizzi said the program was “quite expensive” for Alta.
In the outdoor industry, however, some brands would rely on ExpertVoice to provide a significant portion of their sales, GOA’s Rich Hill said.
“It’s just another sales channel for these brands, that’s it,” Hill said.
Many bike shop managers and shop owners criticize professional offerings like ExpertVoice, although many employees clearly use the programs.
Dan Hughes, owner of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop in Kansas, serves both industries. While he said employee purchases in the bicycle industry appear to be more “locked in” than in the outdoor industry, he’s not a big fan either way.
The exterior of Hughes’ business participates in GOA’s Connect trade shows and he received the GOA statement last week.
“I would agree with them, I think the sibling deal has gone too far,” Hughes said.
Hughes said he believed employees were “browsing” EduGames for the discounts as quickly as possible, without keeping the information. They often order material that his store doesn’t sell, which he says doesn’t benefit his store at all.
“It’s so much the Wild West in terms of brands they can access, and ExpertVoice is opening it up to anyone on the planet who’s even a little connected to the outdoor industry. I wonder who is paying the full price. Nobody pays the full price, ”he told BRAIN.
Hughes also pointed out that offering discounts is a key benefit in attracting and retaining employees. But if many consumers receive the same discount, the employee benefit becomes irrelevant.
Kent Cranford, owner of the three-store Motion Makers Bicycle Shop chain in North Carolina, said he had spoken to several of his suppliers asking them to stop using ExpertVoice.
“I begged Yakima, in particular,” Cranford said.
Cranford opposes the opening of discounts to consumer groups.
“There are people over there who are peripheral: the firefighters, the EMS teams… they are consumers of our sport and suddenly they have a reduced price and they no longer need us, except to come. inform and decide what they want. , then order it, ”he said. “Because it’s free, right? “
Cranford, a board member of the National Bicycle Dealers Association, said the board discussed ExpertVoice and similar programs, but took no position on them.
He said few of his employees use ExpertVoice.
“None of them really use ExpertVoice. It seems to be more of the former employees who have things shipped to our store, the IMBA and SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association) members that we see more than anything.
Response to response
ExpertVoice CEO Tom Stockham wrote a response to the original GOA article and provided an additional paper to BRAIN that challenges the claims in the GOA article and in an article in the Outdoor Business Journal.
Stockham stressed that brands can choose which groups to benefit from discounts and that experts must regularly reapply.
He also said that ExpertVoice did research with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania that showed that salespeople who engage with ExpertVoice sell 82% more than their peers who don’t.
“Other research conducted by The Wharton School in collaboration with Keller Fay Group shows that professionals who interact with brands on ExpertVoice have 22.2 times more weekly shopping conversations that include product recommendations than an average consumer. “Stockham wrote. “And in third-party optimization studies, product reviews written by ExpertVoice experts and displayed on branded product display pages have been shown to improve online sales by 15-30%.
The GOA document used some of ExpertVoice’s own marketing claims to show that the platform permanently keeps former industry insiders in its books. He noted, for example, that ExpertVoice reports that it has over 130,000 Dick’s Sporting Goods employees in its system, while Dick’s currently only has 50,000 employees.
But Stockham said the 130,000 figure is the number of Dick’s employees who have already been signed up to ExpertVoice.
“There have been 130,000 Dick’s Sporting Goods associates who have already registered with ExpertVoice, but in the past 12 months 22,000 were active (out of 50,000 employees) and only 7,000 made a purchase through ExpertVoice “, wrote Stockham.
When asked if Stockham’s fact-checks were detrimental to GOA’s argument, Rich Hill replied to BRAIN, “absolutely not”.
“We pulled all of this data from their website and took screenshots,” he said. “They have no evidence that they excluded anyone from this list. … There is no way for a retailer to know if these lists are being cleaned.