What Flipkart and Snapdeals of the world can learn from a brick & mortar bike retailer?
It all started on a regular Saturday afternoon at Nine Star Suzuki, a 2 wheeler bike dealership based out of Bangalore. There were fewer customers than on a normal Saturday as it had rained all day long. Mr Dharma Gorrepati, Founder of Nine Star Suzuki in Bangalore, recalls “It was a rainy day and a person called us for a particular bike model that he wanted to buy. He was not keen on visiting the showroom because of the weather but needed to buy the bike the same day as the day was very auspicious for him. Since this was a unique requirement, Mr Dharma consulted hisstaff, and he decided not to disappoint the client. Being an avid online buyer himself, Dharma decided something unusual. He asked his team to load 3-4 scooters on a LCV and take the shop to thecustomer.”
This small incident changed the way bikes were getting sold at the Nine Star Suzuki. Within few days, Nine Star Suzuki enabled online buying of bikes from their website with free home delivery. Regular e-commerce features of free returns and cash on delivery were a part of the package. They are even present at the online marketplaces such as PayTM and Snapdeal to occupy the mind-space of millennial.
In a business where servicing is animportant aspect and more profitable than selling, Nine Star Suzuki has addedpick up and drop facility and providing replacement bikes at a small cost to their offerings. “No one wants to waste their weekend standing in a long queue to get their bike serviced. Moreover, I need my bike the most on the weekend”, says Vinod, a regular user of Pick up and drop feature introduced by Ninestar Suzuki.
Ninestar Suzuki in its current avatar boasts of a robust online store, and main dealership on Hosur Road which houses a huge facility spanning over 11,000 square feet that is capable of accommodating several vehicles and servicing 100 plus vehicles every day.
Bringing online commerce to bike buying
It might seem strange that someone would want to buy the bike online considering that most people would like to visit a showroom to experience and drive the bike before making a decision. But, millennial’stoday are far more informed than the earlier generation. They spend time researching online the product they want to buy, consulting with friends and experts even before they step out in the showroom. Often they are so clear about what they want to buy that a visit to a showroom seems like an irritant. 60% of the buyers are pre-decided about the product they want to buy by the time they arrive at the showroom. Online booking reduces the number of visits from 4 to Zero or 1 .
While there are several start-ups like Cardekho.com, Gaddi.com, etc. addressing the new and used vehicle buying market, the traditional dealership-based model of vehicle buying is yet to adapt to these changes in an aggressive manner.
The road ahead
Nine Star Suzuki is aggressively targeting burgeoning market in Bangalore and parts of Karnataka but it will not be anonline only strategy for sure. “Online selling is creating an extra sales channel then being the only sales channel”, quips Dharma.
Dharma adds“In this highly competitive segment, the only way to stay relevant isproviding customers a choice both in terms of products and how they want to shop. Innovation was never a choice in the business, it’s a compulsion. ”
He believes brick & mortar businesses still have an edge over pure online companies in bike retailing. While it would be agradual shift from in-store purchase to online purchase for bikes, servicing where the money is, would require a physical presence. He sees a good combination of online selling and offline servicing the way to go forward.
With likes of Flipkart and Snapdeal, trying to tap into the huge auto segment, it will be an interesting space to watch. They are up against a much-preparedbrick & mortar retailer segment,Nine Star Suzuki is one of them.