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Chris Mele

Adding online scheduling and payment to your bicycle rental business is a savvy business move, and simplifying your offerings online will make a seemingly impossible task—to migrate and maintain those online options—achievable.

If you think you can't offer online booking features to your site because of the sheer number of options you offer, you're not alone. This is an all-too-common reason why activity rental companies stick to pen and paper for far too long.

If you're offering too many choices, you're actually limiting your business success and your customer's ability to make a decision. Below are three tricks to implement to simplify your options and, in the process, eliminate the headaches that go with keeping your online customer experience smooth and easy to understand.

Too many bike options can confuse customers

Offer bike rental options that tie to categories

If you own a bike tour and rental business, instead of offering 40 different bike options for your customers to sort through, think of the more common characteristics of the bikes that everyone can relate to (without having to be an expert).

To do this, put yourself in your customers' shoes and ask the questions they would ask. For example:

  • Will the bike be used for touring, sport, or mountain biking?

  • Will it be used for dirt biking, racing, or street biking?

  • Will the bike be electric or a two+ seater for family fun?

The types of activities your customers enjoy on your bikes, as well as the general type of bike, can give you insight into grouping what may seem like an endless array of bike options into just a few. For a rather simplistic example, assume for a moment that you offer bike tours and carry multiple bicycles. In inventory you have the following bikes:

  • Trek 920

  • Schwinn Searcher 2

  • Trek Superfly FS

  • Trek 720

  • Schwinn Super Sport CX

  • Trek SuperFly

  • Trek 520

  • Schwinn GTX 2

  • Trek X-Caliber

You could give customers the choice of renting any one of these nine bikes. But that's a bit confusing, especially if the customer isn't familiar with bicycle brands and their characteristics. Now let's group the bikes by category/activity:

Touring & Adventure (I prefer sticking to the roads!)

  • Trek 920

  • Trek 720

  • Trek 520

Mountain Biking (I want hard-core off-roading, yeah!)

  • Trek Superfly FS

  • Trek SuperFly

  • Trek X-Caliber

Hybrid (I want a little bit of both, but nothing too crazy!)

  • Schwinn Searcher 2

  • Schwinn Super Sport CX

  • Schwinn GTX 2

Notice the descriptors in parenthesis next to the categories. This let's new customers know what kind of experience to expect on these types of bikes. Think of it as matching a category of bike to an activity all in one. (Note: each of the three bikes in each category were picked from three very different price points and listed from most expensive to least expensive for illustrative purposes only).

Now, instead of prompting customers with nine different bikes to choose from, just ask this question first:

What do you want to do?

  • Touring & Adventure (I prefer sticking to the roads!)

  • Mountain Biking (I want hard-core off-roading, yeah!)

  • Hybrid (I want a little bit of both, but nothing too crazy!)

Once they pick the category, they'll have three bikes to choose from. This technique can cut down dramatically on the number of options your customers have to choose from.

For an example of a similar type of structure, check out this San Francisco based Bicycle Rental and Tour business.

ZOZI Guru Chris Lieto takes the ZOZI team out for a bike ride

Offer options that tie to general bike characteristics

If you've rented a car recently, the first question you are asked is the type of car you're interested in (i.e. compact, mid-size, etc.). Just this one question allows the car rental companies to significantly reduce the number of customer choices.

As we move up in size, performance, and space inside the vehicle, we pay slightly more. And, as we select a classification of car, we in essence select ourselves out of the other categories. This is an important concept because you're interested in a mid-size car to rent, there isn't much value in presenting a bunch of compact cars that you don't want to rent.

For example, you can stick to just a few bikes under each of these categories:

  • Basic – no frills biking

  • Better – biking without your legs going numb

  • Bells-and-Whistles—the latest and greatest bikes on the market

This is an example of packaging in the Good/Better/Best model. It's also an interesting approach if you offer a wide variety of biking activities and a wide variety of bikes (i.e. electric bikes, two+ seater bikes, etc.).

If you still have too many customer options, you can combine this technique with the previous section in this article and further reduce the number of options.

To do that, first ask:

What kind of experience are you going after?

  • Basic (I want a good bike ride for the best price!)

  • Better (I want great experience and don't mind paying little extra!)

  • Bells-and-Whistles (Nothing but the best for me, budget is no obstacle!)

Then ask:

What do you want to do?

  • Touring & Adventure (I prefer sticking to the roads!)

  • Mountain Biking (I want hard-core off-roading, yeah!)

  • Hybrid (I want a little bit of both, but nothing too crazy!)

Now you can show them even fewer options (one in the fabricated example above)! Take some time and work through these examples so you get comfortable with how they can work to your advantage.

For an example of this type of structure, check out Arizona Outback Adventures.

Let the customer choose their bike

You don't even have to offer the exact model of the bike you are renting online. Think about Enterprise and how you rent a “class" of vehicle, then when you walk on the lot you get to pick any of the available cars on the lot. Or think of Southwest and how you don't actually buy a seat.

You can do this with your equipment, too. First, you need to think about your pricing. This technique wouldn't work in the example provided above because of the various price points for each bike in the category are too wide. When you package using this technique, you have to group bikes at similar price points.

Once you do that, you sell customers a "class" of bike online which allows them to show up the day of their rental, avoid the long lines, and pick an available piece of equipment on the lot they day of their activity.

The customer would be able to try on bikes of various types in their "class" and upgrade if they like. This allows customers to rationalize upgrading to a better experience for just a few extra dollars.

For limited availability bikes (i.e. electric), the online transaction is similar to making a deposit so that their bike is available on the day they requested. If for some reason you overbooked that day, offering a free upgrade (never a downgrade) is a way to build customer loyalty. It also allows you to run special promotions.

Conclusion

Simplifying your activity rental business options will make it easier to offer online booking options, and it will make your business life easier in general. Just make sure the choices you offer are priced and structured correctly so that the value your customers expect is met.

Remember, just because you are managing lots of equipment, doesn't mean they have to translate that exactly to your ordering and booking experience.

Create a structure where your customers have three or fewer options and you'll make everyone's lives easier.