Shimano expands consumer-direct options, but not for components
Regardless of the industry, there’s no denying that traditional sales channels are changing. Once-faceless brands are now more directly in touch with their end consumers than ever before and recent world events have only accelerated such change.
When it comes to sales channels within the bicycle industry, Shimano has long stood as one of the more traditional operators. Depending on the region, the Japanese company imports and wholesales goods through a variety of direct subsidiaries and specialist distributors – and in almost all cases the customers are bicycle shops. But that looks to be changing, at least for some of Shimano’s products.
In recent years Shimano North America (USA and Canada) has steadily grown its portfolio of direct-to-consumer or business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce websites that aim to directly advertise and sell product to the end user. So far Shimano North America has dedicated websites for its wholly-owned brands Lazer and Pearl Izumi, and there’s also an e-commerce site dedicated to Shimano’s own indoor cycling shoes and pedals.
This week, Shimano Australia followed suit with an e-commerce website dedicated to promoting and selling its indoor cycling products – the first direct-to-consumer sales channel for the Australia division.
“This is an omnichannel retail approach and isn’t at all intended to replace our existing retail network,” said Shimano Australia’s cycling brand manager, Toby Shingleton. “It supports the retailers by increasing the profile of the brands online. If our soft goods have a strong online presence they’ll have a strong retail presence. In the US it’s grown the respective brands massively and it also provides a clearance channel online to take back unsold product from retailers.”
Such an omnichannel approach is already the status quo amongst fashion, outdoor, and mainstream sporting goods brands. Such brands have the ability to showcase their entire ranges, control messaging, and set pricing expectations. Meanwhile, independent retailers will typically handpick the most popular products to sell and find other ways to gain attention, trust, and sales from customers.
For Shimano, such a move makes a whole lot of sense. The Japanese company is arguably a market leader in indoor cycling footwear, but few of its retailers would choose to stock a full range of models and sizes intended for a customer who may not even own a bicycle.
That point extends to the dedicated cyclist, too. Few retailers would be willing to carry anywhere near the 35+ models of cycling shoes that Shimano has in its range, and that number becomes truly mindblowing when you consider that most are offered in various colourways and, of course, sizes. And the same could be said for Shimano’s other soft goods brands such as Pearl Izumi and Lazer.
“Our goal is to operate this indoor cycling goods site to learn,” said Shingleton in regards to managing the content, the local search engine optimisation (SEO) needs, the sales, the consumer returns, and so on. “It’s [also] really removed from our core audience. The people looking to buy spin shoes aren’t looking to go into a bike shop. It’s a good way to test things.”
At least for North America and Australia, Shimano’s direct-to-consumer endeavours focus on its soft goods products, something that loosely covers everything other than bicycle components. “We don’t set recommended retail prices for our hard goods, but we do for our soft goods,” said Shingleton of the Australian market. “Online we’ll stick to recommended retail prices.”
The big question is whether Shimano is using all of this to learn how to directly sell all of its products direct. That was something Shingleton quickly put to rest. “We’ve got no intention of ever selling Shimano hard goods consumer-direct,” he said. “It’s not on the cards for us.”