Q&A: Recapping 'The Future of Shopping' at Interbike 2015

This September in Las Vegas, Tom Flierl, VP of Marketing & Business Strategy at Hanson Dodge Creative, was a featured speaker at Interbike for the third consecutive year. His session, “The Future of Shopping: Implications for the Bike Industry,” explored how rapidly growing digital and social usage by consumers has impacted the path to purchase and outlined strategies for brands and IBDs to capitalize on the evolution of shopping.

The Future of Shopping: Implications for the Bike Industry

Below, Tom answers questions about the current state of the bicycle industry and his experience at Interbike 2015. Scroll down to download his presentation.

You first spoke at Interbike in 2013. What has changed the most since then in the bike industry?

In 2013, the idea of e-commerce and digital marketing was not well received by the IBDs, and brands were also still fighting the concept of e-commerce as they did not want to disrupt their current IBD channels. With Trek's recent announcement that they're going to sell direct [], it's clear this year that IBDs have accepted the fact that e-commerce is going to occur in the industry and they are looking for where they add value in the customer experience. The bicycle brands are rapidly trying to figure out how e-commerce and digital marketing is going to be part of their overall strategy as well.

What is the current dynamic between brands and IBDs?

I would say that everybody is cautiously trying to figure out how to work together. IBDs are trying to figure out how they can use digital marketing to drive more traffic directly to their stores and how to use digital marketing tactics to engage more consumers. Brands are trying to figure it all out too because there aren’t easy omni-channel solutions in an industry with independent dealers that work with multiple brands.

How are social and digital shopping trends impacting the bicycle consumer’s path to purchase?

I think there's an overall acceptance of the fact that the path to purchase starts online. There's an acceptance of the fact that younger generations aren't participating in biking compared to previous generations and that in order to engage younger generations, we need to engage them where they spend time researching, purchasing, etc. — which is online. The younger you go, the more social media influences the path to purchase, what people do, how they think and where they shop.

Looking forward, what is the biggest mistake a brand can make?

To me, the biggest mistake a brand could make is waiting to put together a strategy for digital commerce and consumer engagement. Content marketing is going to continue to drive sales and engagement, and younger audiences are going to be shopping and researching in different ways. The longer a brand waits, the tougher it will be for them to recover.

What about retailers? Takeaways or mistakes to avoid?

The biggest takeaway for retailers is that if they can show real-time inventory online on their own website, retail traffic will increase. People do not want to drive to a store to find out that something is not in stock. Now, there's a whole series of strategies and tactics to get to that point, but the idea is they need to be online to get traffic into their stores.

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