The digitalisation has completely turned our buying behaviour upside down - one might think. But in fact: the buying decision still only occurs following the same pattern and at the end of the day the customer is still a person.
Who wants to be respected and approached in order to be won over as a regular customer. But how? An intensive customer dialogue and personal added value can also be achieved online and thus lead to improved customer loyalty and identification with the store.
The German Association of the Sporting Goods Industry e.V. examined the development of the equestrian sport market in detail in 2018. It already became clear in this survey two years ago: there is a shift in the business towards the digital world. More and more goods are changing hands online, both on the wholesale and retail market.
Hence, the virtual shop seems to work. Customer loyalty remains to be the big challenge of the Internet. In the equestrian sport trade there are only a few online shops with a regular customer rate of 60% as in other industries. Furthermore, the digital equestrian sport trade is strongly price-oriented. And yet there still are a few dealers, who seek and engage in a dialogue with the customer.
Customer dialogue instead of a discount battle
"But it is no fun purely selling via the price," said Paola Mangone from Carr & Day & Martin . In her capacity as German Sales Director she is directly on the frontline and feels the industry has the need to catch up. "Online shops can learn a great deal from the stationary trade in terms of consulting. However, it is important to ensure a wide alignment and ask oneself how an online shop can be designed in a customer-oriented manner." There are by all means positive examples, notably the online shop kavalio.de that has in the meantime been distinguished with the HIPPO Dealer Award several times. The tidy and friendly layout of the web shop is particularly user-friendly and the personal, hand-written greetings reach the customers with each order. A very friendly consultant, who introduces herself personally, greets the customer on the telephone hotline – that whets one's appetite for more.
kavalio.de is a pure online dealer that has only been on the market for three years and which is growing rapidly. The headcount is to increase from 20 up to 30 by the end of the year. "Detailed product descriptions are an important factor for a successful online shop. We try to explain to the customer clearly what he can expect from a product. Where it makes sense, we actually write more detailed texts ourselves. We endeavour to reduce the returns rate in this way. This is all extremely time-consuming, but we are delighted that hardly anyone only orders from us just once - most of the customers are very satisfied and come back," said kavalio.de co-owner, Philipp Pfeifer.
EquiAmor is also considered to be an exemplary shop, which scores top marks with its expansive concept and independent presence. The owner Julian Becker observes among his customers: "If one offers a real customer dialogue as an online dealer, particularly older customers tend to return. The need for this among the younger target groups is less pronounced, but it is by no means unimportant here either.
Focusing on the price as a differential characteristic is dangerous as well, because one shouldn't kid oneself: someone is always a few Euros cheaper."
The challenge lies in offering the customer a home, a community, a point of contact. So that he doesn't just make a one-time purchase, but indeed returns, because he found himself understood and well-looked after during his visit to the (virtual) shop. Marketing experts always talk about the so-called "Customer Journey", which on the web begins with the speed and clear layout of the website and continues with the consulting competence that the shop offers. One can by all means excel here online too.
Underline the "we"
The "community" or "we" approach is an aspect that often gets a raw deal in the case of online shops, although it is so important. Riders live and love the community: their own stable community, the community of eventers, dressage riders, Friesians, gaited horses, working equitation, Western riders, trail riders or of whichever type of equestrian discipline. Talking book, the common interest in the sport unites people. Of course, a trail rider and a classic dressage rider don't necessarily have the same ideology - but there are nevertheless overlaps.
One can find shining examples in other industries. There are many well-designed online shops, which seek the contact to the customer and which transfer the well-founded consulting services of the stationary trade into the digital world. The outdoor industry for instance ensures its customers' loyalty very professionally. Online shops like Bergfreunde , Bergzeit or also Globetrotter have professional editorial teams that take care of tour tips, equipment tests, etc. – and they can be contacted directly. Often a chat window opens up immediately in order to enable easy contact. The product texters and authors including their names and contact addresses are visible. Chats enable communication at eye level. Scene influencers are given products to test and are involved – via the social media or also directly on the shop homepage.
In this way, the following message always reaches the customer: "We are like you" and "we stock this product, because we have tried it out and find it good for this or that reason". There are blogs worth reading that not only address concrete product themes, but which simply revolve around the hobby itself. Well-done (printed) customer publications are enclosed with every order and they convey much more than just product information. They provide portraits on employees, training tips, etc. In addition, there are also active Instagram and Facebook channels that activate the community regularly.
The message that is conveyed here is: "Hey, we are passionate about the same hobby and we offer you really competent answers to your questions regarding equipment." So there is 'human interaction' in the best sense of the word.
Customer dialogue is an economic factor
And in the equestrian sport? Without doubt the companies themselves offer an incredible amount of potential. Many employees dispose of good consulting skills, which they should implement as expediently as possible. Furthermore, for one's own Google ranking it is extremely important to create one's own texts for the website in addition to the workbook text of the supplier.
Online trade is time-consuming and expensive, however using targeted customer communications even before the purchasing decision has been taken, return rates and the number of samples can be reduced which in turn leads to the business becoming more profitable. Good consulting costs money – however for successful online shops good staff is a sensible investment in one's own credibility as a competent contact. An online shop can also pick up the customer from his current location – a loyal clientele base is the reward.