Most likely, you’re about to come across two basic types of big online shops. We can divide them into shops offering exclusively cycling products and then the shops with a wide range of different kinds of goods. Just because an e-shop doesn’t focus solely on cycling doesn’t mean you can’t find a great bike there. On the contrary, a purely cycling shop may not automatically be the right choice. Price is a significant factor in making a buying decision. If you’re interested in a particular bike model, it’s easy to compare prices in different shops. When choosing a serious online shop, you may pay attention to the first impression, design, range of goods, search engine, user reviews and many others.
Manufacturers deliver bicycles to e-shops in large boxes. Unless they are assembled by a professional mechanic, they tend not to work well. It’s not just a matter of putting bike parts together but also of checking, adjusting and precise settings. Ask your shop who provides the pre-service for their goods. The e-shop can do it either by themselves or collaborate with contracted partners. “All the bikes we sell undergo a professional assembly and inspection before being handed over to the customer,” says Petr Florian, a product manager for the cycling section at Alza.cz.
Alza is the number one e-commerce player in the Czech Republic, with large operations also in Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Hungary and other EU markets. Last year, the company sold almost 43 million pieces of goods worth 1,75 billion euros. On top of the e-shops, Alza.cz operates a network of physical shops and showrooms in four countries, and 2,000 smart-locker collection points. According to Petr Florian, the mechanics in the pre-sale service focus on the frame quality, the joints, the brake functionality and the accuracy of the shifting. Electric bikes, for example, need to pass through 48 quality touchstones.
Customer preferences vary in many ways. Some people know exactly which model from what brand they need and are perfectly aware of their size. Such a customer may go straight to the brand’s e-shop. Because of shortages and delayed deliveries caused by Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, a customer loyal to a certain brand may wait a whole season for the desired product. The undecided customer, on the other hand, has a certain advantage. If he or she does not insist on a particular brand, the retailer can offer them an alternative model from another manufacturer. Finding way too many bikes out of stock is a sign to leave for another shop that has bikes available right away.
Choosing a proper frame size is a crucial step when buying online. Whereas some cyclists are confident in the size, less experienced riders won’t make a mistake when making a decision based on manufacturers’ specifications. Some bike shops offer online calculators that make it easier to decide by automatically calculating the size based on personal measurements.
Every customer has individual requirements or questions that an e-shop should be ready to answer. Don’t hesitate to ask whether the e-shop has a customer service line or online chat to answer your questions. If the response takes up to several hours, it’s probably fine. Should you wait for days, you’d better look elsewhere, though.
Many customers are afraid that the bike they bought online will not fit their size or liking. A guarantee of returning an unsuitable bike is one of the major advantages offered by reputable online stores. Be sure to check whether the shop offers the option of purchase return for free or for a fee. “If the bike is not damaged, the customer can return it within 14 days, free of charge,” says Petr Florian of Czech e-shop Alza.cz, which sells 15,000 bikes a year.
Make sure you are entitled to warranty service if something on your bike stops working. Ideally, the e-shop should provide you with a service not only at the point of sale but perhaps also at the service shops of the contracted partners. “We get warranty and post-warranty service from the Kolofix company, which has 15 workshops in the country, and its employees provide service to Czech national MTB team at the world cup events,” says Petr Florian.