In August, Trek announced it would begin selling its bikes and accessories online via a program known as Trek Connect. According to Trek spokesman Eric Bjorling, the company plans to launch the program before the end of 2015. This is a first for a major US-based bike brand, but it’s likely just the start of a new business model that will become commonplace in the coming years.
How it works
As the name implies, Trek Connect will connect potential customers with local Trek dealers. Riders can browse bicycles, components and other accessories on the company’s website and make purchases. Some items, such as Bontrager components and apparel, will ship direct to the buyer, with a percentage of the purchase going to the local Trek affiliate.
Bicycles will ship to the nearest authorized Trek retailer for assembly and customer pick-up. According to Trek, customers have 30 days to return the bike, provided it’s unridden.
It’s no secret that a growing number of brands are focusing on removing bike shops from the equation to sell directly to riders. Start-ups such as YT have shown how effective consumer-direct sales can be and European brands like Canyon, a company looking to enter the US market in 2016, will take a similar approach. Even small but established North American brands, such as Yeti, Ibis and Santa Cruz, rely heavily on online retailers.
Part of this is due to the control that larger brands hold over many brick-and-mortar retailers. But even if these if these smaller brands could make significant inroads with local bike shops, consumer tastes are rapidly shifting and the cycling industry is starting to react accordingly.
Trek’s program seeks to harness the strength of its dealer network to bridge the gap between online and in-person sales.
It's worth noting that Giant has used a similar 'Click to Connect' program for several years in select markets outside of the US.
Potential program benefits
Trek Connect works in favor of shops by allowing them to do less guesswork when stocking product. It helps riders by allowing them to buy what they want, when they want it, which is what we’re all increasing accustomed to; be it bikes or books, we want to be able to make purchases with the click of a mouse.
This is a significant shift for US riders, shop owners and bike companies. Not every bike shop is keen on the program. A survey conducted by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, North America’s leading cycling trade publication, showed a majority of respondents were opposed to the plan.
Trek Connect signals a sea change in US bike sales. There are still many unknowns with Trek’s forthcoming online sales model, but rest assured that every other company will be watching closely, waiting to see how the program is received and very likely making plans for their own online launches.
What do you think?
Do you value in-person experiences or prefer the ease of online shopping when making cycling purchases?