Your customers need help when buying snow gear that’s expensive and technical in nature
Nobody can predict the weather for the upcoming snow season. This means it’s too early to tell whether we’re in for a big or poor season for the Snow Sports industry. Only time will tell. However, there are a few things that are known in the industry, no matter what the season. Buying snow sports equipment is expensive and increasingly technical in nature and your customers are looking for help. According to the SIA Snow Sports Participant Study, 2014, the average price paid for ski systems at a specialty shop was $432.29, and for alpine boots it was $320.02. Add to this, the cost of ski helmets, gloves, clothing and other accessories and it makes for a major cash outlay. Buying snow gear is also more challenging for consumers as production advances push the feature, performance and high tech boundaries of snow sports equipment and create a myriad of choices.
Consumers still buy most of their snow sports equipment in stores from real people
It’s also known that consumers will do some of their buying homework online. However, because of the technical and big ticket nature of snow sports products, be prepared for most consumers to come to your stores to learn more about this year’s gear before they’re willing to buy. Of the $4.6 Billion in snow sports equipment sales for the 2014/15 season only about 22% of sales came from online purchases.
Sell the snow sports lifestyle with passionate and knowledgeable sales associates
When your customers do come to your stores, they’ll be expecting to interact with knowledgeable sales associates who can help them select just the right gear and who can identify with them as snow sports enthusiasts. According to a recent retail survey, nearly 90% of respondents indicated they are more likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable sales associate.
This makes it critical for snow sports retailers to ensure that your store associates are the right kind of people who are properly trained. They must be skilled at greeting the customer in the store and understanding their needs. This includes understanding what gear they’re looking for, their skill level, the terrain and conditions they’ll be encountering, and how often they’ll be hitting the slopes? They should be able to educate the customer on the most suitable products that match their needs in a way that helps them understand clearly and simply what they should buy. It helps also if they can explain pricing and value on a comparative basis, and any associated discounts or promotions, warranties and returns policies. Your store associates must do all of this in a friendly and professional manner that builds trust and makes the shopping experience a pleasure rather than a chore. When your store associates identify with your customers’ passion for the sport, you won’t just be selling sports equipment, you’ll also be selling the lifestyle of snow sports and preserving your relevance in the industry.
Proper Retail Training requires investment but will deliver more sales
To ensure that your store sales associates are properly trained, snow sports retailers should make training and knowledge sharing a part of the company culture. This will require an investment in an online training platform that must be highly engaging for the store associates. The online platform is needed to provide on-demand training, and effectively measure training uptake and any correlation to increased sales. It’s also important to quickly train up your teams when staff turnover is high and many new products get delivered by your brand suppliers for the new season.
For sales associates, their time spent on training should reward them with success in the retail and snow sports industry, not just with pro deals from a select few brand suppliers. This means the training platform should be geared towards high engagement with short form, snackable video content that is mobile friendly and that is natural and familiar to today’s sales associates, most of whom consume similar content on Youtube and Facebook everyday. When effectively trained, studies have shown that sales associates who make suggestions to customers are known to sell up to 40% more in stores.
The training platform should also be open to brand suppliers who can easily connect their product knowledge content to your stores and associates. Finally, someone should be ultimately responsible for managing training within your organization who can easily assign training across stores and teams and who will have access to meaningful reports that show the impact of training on snow sports equipment sales that will justify the training investment.