As the retail industry struggled through fluctuating COVID-19 alert levels over the past twelve months, Timaru bike shop The Cyclery has managed to retain its loyal customer base tapping into a range of digital marketing tools.
The Cyclery has been South Canterbury’s supplier of bikes and accessories for the last 40 years. Current owner James Smith is no stranger to adversity, having purchased the business in 2007 right before the global financial crisis hit.
“Our welcome to owning a business was pretty brutal. But we worked our way through it, brought in new services and built on our reputation as the premium bike store in the area,” he says.
When COVID-19 and lockdown arrived, Smith knew that he would again have to alter his business approach. He decided to go digital.
“I have always prided The Cyclery on providing great, in-store experiences, so I was initially hesitant about moving to an online format. But it has turned out to be a great decision.”
James contacted the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce for advice. They set him up with website developer Yellow Design and digital marketing company Nudge Marketing through the Regional Business Partner programme.
“They have been amazing. We built an e-commerce website and reviewed our relationship with Facebook and Instagram.”
The website, which cross-pollinates with The Cylcery’s social media accounts, now accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all sales. Customers can view The Cyclery’s extensive range on the website, view details about products, leave reviews, and even create a wishlist on their website profile.
“It’s allowed us to reach a stronger and larger market,” says Smith.
The Cyclery has also completed search engine optimisation to ensure they are featured prominently in web searches.
“We are now much more targeted on how we word things. There are new KPIs we have created and are hitting.”
“Our social media posts are also well thought out and strategised. We focus on giving the rider information, knowledge and support, rather than just transactional posting that offers little.”
Smith also uses Xero for accounting and Flexitime for payroll. Both are cloud-based digital tools.
“Both tools provide us with seamless reporting. It’s a far-cry from our previous laboured endeavours.”
Digital marketing assistance
In partnership with digital innovators from the private sector, MBIE has set up the Digital Boost programme.
In the go-at-your-own pace modules, participants are taken through six categories – digital marketing, digital tools, small business accounting, business insights and future technologies. It is aiming to train 50,000 participants across New Zealand this year.
Management consultants McKinsey estimated that in an eight week period, COVID-19 accelerated business adoption of digital skills and services by the equivalent of five years. Research shows that businesses who leverage digital skills have a distinct competitive advantage.
The Mind Lab CEO Frances Valintine, an innovator behind the Digital Boost Curriculum, saw this first hand. She stresses the instant opportunities digitalisation can provide small businesses.
“The benefits of digitisation are immediate. It’s not a slow burn. As soon as you get going the business will start to improve. It’s just taking that step,” she says.
“It doesn’t matter if you want to sell across town, across the country or across the world, you need to be digital. You need to be on social media, you need to understand digital marketing, and you need a really amazing website.”
The Cyclery’s ability to reach a larger market in an unprecedented period demonstrates the importance of digital upskilling. James encourages small business owners like him to try the Digital Boost programme and upskill their digital capability.
“If you want to go online, get some help. There is a lot of detail to make sure you do it well.”
“Having done so, we now have a strong presence that any rider can access.”
Digital Boost is free for any registered business to sign up www.digitalboost.co.nz. It is a self-paced learning journey, with no assessments, daily Q&A sessions, regular fireside chats and access to support people.