Amazon, eBay and... QBP? Those are three nouns I never thought I'd see in the same sentence. Quality Bicycle Products
is one of North America's largest cycling wholesalers, and arguably, the most influential when it comes to making money and setting trends. The Midwestern mega business prefers to operate quietly behind its widespread base of brick-and-mortar retailers, and a surprisingly diverse group of bike builders and custom fitters. QBP's portfolio includes an in-house wheel-building factory, at least four bike brands, a clothing and gear brand, and two component ranges. Until now, the only way ordinary folks could buy those things was through a QBP-certified retailer's own store or website - until now.
John Sandberg, Marketing and Communications Manager at QBP, says that well over 50 percent of all product searches begin on Amazon. And, while less than half of those who make a purchase will do so on Amazon, the site has become the universal go-to for price and feature comparisons. Sandberg put it simply: "If Amazon is the first stop for shoppers, then a QBP brand like Whisky has to be there."
QBP chose its Whisky Co
component brand to launch the program, which is called "3P Select." Whisky produces things like carbon wheelsets, handlebars, carbon forks, and a variety of specialty items for elite mountain, gravel and fat bike enthusiasts - all of which are a good fit for on-line shoppers. Sandberg says the two key aspects to 3P Select is that QBP maintains control of the product's presentation on Amazon and eBay by curating the photos, graphics, and product information in order to present the most accurate and useful customer interface possible.
"We curate the products and ensure that all pricing is MAP (minimum advertised price)," says Sandberg. "But, the retailers make the sale and ship the items from their inventory."
How would a Whisky purchase on Amazon would transpire? Say you searched for a Whisky Number 9 Carbon Fat fork.
It would come up on Amazon with Whisky branding, along with specs and an MSRP of $540. Only qualified retailers who stock a full range of Whisky products and have a well-proven on-line presence will be approved for the 3P Select program. Amazon's algorithms would arrange and display a Number 9 fork from each of those shops. You select which retailer you want to buy from and a few days later, your fat bike fork arrives at your doorstep.
Sandberg admits that QBP expects some pushback from traditional store owners who vehemently oppose any form of on-line sales, many of whom view Amazon and eBay as the great Satans of retail. QPB's 3P Select system, however ensures that all their retailers will benefit in some way, whether they choose to sell online or not. According to QBP's most recent press release, "there are 310 million people who use Amazon and 177 million on eBay, many of whom are there to purchase bicycle products." If you divided that sum evenly between QBP's 5000 retailers, that works out to 97 thousand more opportunities to sell Whisky components. Reason enough for both QBP and its retailers to adapt to Amazon and eBay's third-party sales models.
At present, a number of bike stores also host sister outlets on eBay, so QBP's move to standardize the pricing and presentation of their products in that market may be more contentious. Consistent pricing will be paramount to keeping QBP's core retailers on board, and it also takes some of the stress out of the purchase process.