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9 tips to ensure your dealership is women-friendly

Steve Jones, Columnist
April 2, 2012
Filed under Columns

It has never been more important to maximize sales to all our available customer bases. I’m sure you are all aware that women represent one of the largest potential growth markets for powersports unit sales. You must also recognize the impact that women can have on the purchase of a new unit, major clothing or accessory item. According to Ford Motor Company, women influence 95 percent of the purchase decisions of others. Almost any married man can confirm this statement.

Recently, I researched some of the factors that are significant to women customers and “influencers.” My information sources included women dealer principals as well as my wife, who has worked as a manager in a motorcycle store. She now helps multiple dealers with their advertising programs.

According to industry experts, women are more likely than men to utilize dealership financing. They are also less likely to do their own repairs or take their bikes to outside repair facilities. They generally purchase more expensive safety gear and apparel than men. Women tend to be very loyal customers as long as they are treated fairly. This means that they can be solid, profitable long-term customers for your business.

Developing and promoting special women’s-only events including special sales and service maintenance clinics will help you attract them to your store. (In some states, be sure to stay within the law by offering the same discounts to men.) After they arrive, the atmosphere of your store and the quality of your staff will determine whether or not they choose to become your customers.

If you want to grow this part of your business, one of the first things you must do is identify whether your dealership is considered “women-friendly.” This is where many dealerships fail to meet a woman’s expectations. How does your dealership compare to this list?

1. Is your store clean, organized and well-lit?
2. Are there colorful, inviting clothing displays visible from the entrance?
3. Do employees present a professional image in every department, and are they wearing uniforms and name tags?
4. Are there women working in your showroom and/or accessories areas?
5. Do you have quality displays of women’s clothing?
6. Is there a well-defined, well-organized “On Sale” area?
7. Do you have changing rooms with full-length mirrors?
8. Are the women’s bathrooms clean?
9. Do you provide demo rides for women customers?

When a woman enters your dealership, does she get the initial impression of a boutique, a parts store or a “man-cave”? Most women won’t shop a store that does not look and “feel” inviting, clean and well-lit.

Do you have relaxing low-volume music playing or is it full-throttle heavy metal? Loud, obnoxious music is a turn-off. Statistically, women purchasers tend to be over 40 years old with high income levels. They require a department-store type of atmosphere in order to be comfortable. Strive to maintain a fun shopping atmosphere and encourage smiles and humor. Women must not be intimidated or afraid to shop alone in your store.

Does your staff tend to stand around in a group telling tall tales, using foul language and ignoring women customers? Greeting all customers promptly and treating them fairly is just good business. It is essential to customers who are women. They tend to decide very quickly whether or not they will like a particular dealership or salesperson. The appearance of the dealership and a prompt, friendly greeting play a major part in this decision. While the perception of value tends to be the deciding purchase factor for men, women are more concerned with their level of trust in the salesperson and the dealership.

One of the worst offenses your staff could make is to ignore a woman when she is accompanied by a man. She needs to be acknowledged and addressed, regardless of her part in the sale. Additional offensive things include poor appearance, off-color jokes and foul language. Seeing a “huddle” of male salespeople in the showroom, being called “sweetie” or “darlin’”, or a general lack of enthusiasm on the part of the salesperson are also likely to send a women customer away.

The ability to try the product is very important to the woman buyer. Many of them have never had the opportunity to experience powersports products, and they will not be comfortable purchasing them until they do. This reinforces the value of conducting periodic dealership demo events. Including women salespeople or riding instructors is a big plus.

It is not that difficult to attract and retain these customers. All it takes is for a dealership to look and act professional, stock and display the right products and have a staff that is conscious of the wants and needs of the women shopper. If you want to verify whether your store fits the bill, invite non-motorcycling women to visit your store. Ask them for their observations and opinions. Would they be comfortable shopping in your store?

Steve Jones is senior projects manager at Gart Sutton & Associates. He has worked in the powersports industry for more than 30 years, for dealerships and manufacturers, and as a consultant and trainer.

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