The Piaggio Group is shaking things up in the US, building e-commerce sites for Aprilia and Moto Guzzi.
Why move business online? Traditionally, the local motorcycle dealership has been the centre of the motorcycle industry, the point of contact between buyers and sellers. That’s changed in recent years, as parts/accessories and clothing sales have moved online. Although the change was much less noticeable with motorcycles and ATVs, smaller operations selling Chinese-built machines also branched out online over the past decade.
COVID-19 accelerated that change, and in the US, almost all the major OEMs had some sort of online retail presence available. You could buy a proper Japanese motorcycle over the Internet, and have it delivered to your house, often by a local dealership.
As COVID-19 recedes in the US, its aftermath remains; indeed, the coronavirus pandemic exposed major problems in the supply chain system, and a recent email from Moto Guzzi says the move towards e-commerce is supposed to address that: “2021 has posed some new challenges for dealerships in terms of retail. With strong demand of new vehicle purchases, and general variety logistics delays, customers are looking for new ways to shop and confirm their orders. Rising to this challenge, Moto Guzzi has launched its online eCommerce to better serve customers by connecting them directly to dealers with a variety of shopping tools, including accessory and financing options.”
The press release seems to indicate the online retail platform will be where the actual shopping happens, with the local dealership serving as sort of a pick-up hub:
“With the addition of an online retail platform, Moto Guzzi USA supports the needs of future owners with resources to shop models and accessories, customizing their purchase experience, and ultimately connecting with a dealership that can manage their needs with clear direction, and in a timely manner from a digital storefront accessible 24/7.“
The plans for Aprilia’s e-commerce site in the US sounded very similar, when announced back in March.
So what does that mean for customers who still want to go down to their local dealer and shop around? No doubt dealers will still have the ability to stock their showrooms with bikes, accessories, and clothing, but there will probably be less incentive to do so now.
What about Canada?
We haven’t seen any similar announcements from the Piaggio Group for Canadian dealers. Like the US, some Canadian jurisdictions make dealerships an essential point for new vehicle sales. As well, online moto retailers still aren’t as dominant in Canada as they are in the US—although they’re getting there.
Really, a shift towards e-commerce would actually make more sense in Canada than it would in the US, at least from the dollars-and-cents perspective of big corporations. Canada’s lower population density and larger spaces between dealers introduces inefficiencies to the supply chain. Yet, Canadian riders may not like the idea of shopping online, and Canadian dealers may resent losing revenue streams. No doubt the bigwigs of the Canadian industry are closely eyeing developments in the US, and preparing their own plans accordingly.