Shopping for motorcycle leather online can be a daunting experience. There are literally hundreds of web sites that offer all types of leathers and styles. Who do you trust? Will your credit card and personal information be safe? How do you know if you’ll get what you want?
As more and more consumers turn to the Internet for their shopping needs, technology has kept the pace by implementing stringent security measures, providing for more bandwidth via broadband and warning consumers of suspicious activities of web sites via various software applications.
Search engine technologies offer increasingly better results making it easy to find what you’re looking for. Online shopping has never been more safe or convenient!
Pros and Cons of Shopping for Motorcycle Leather Online
As with everything, there are advantages and disadvantages of shopping for motorcycle leather online. Informed consumers know what they want and how to find it. They know what to look for in a reputable site, and are able to avoid the pitfalls of the unscroupulous merchant.
An informed consumer will find, do the research, and buy, coming out of it all with a pleasurable shopping experience the first time around.
As an informed consumer, you have a choice of shopping for leather online or locally, and understand the pros and cons of both.
First, to the Pros…
Consumers Have Choice
Probably the biggest advantage the online dealers have over your local biker shop is the huge variety of choice available to the consumer. Buy now, just about every manufacturer of leather motorcycle apparel is represented somewhere on the Internet.
Whereas a local bike shop may carry a number of leather products as a service to their customers, they are really more into the business of selling motorcycles. A true leather shop may have more variety, but where is one of those in your neighborhood?
Where to Buy?
Leather shops online are geographically independent. If you live in a place like New York City, then you’re pretty well set to buy whatever kind of leather you want locally.
Fortunately for the online dealers, not everybody does. How far do you have to go to find a decent jacket or chap? It might just be a fun Saturday bike ride, but again, your choice will more than likely be limited.
Today, thanks to the Internet, bikers living in areas from across the rural U.S.A. to the Outback of Australia all have the same choices available to them, provided of course they have an Internet connection.
More Bang for the Buck
Another huge advantage of buying motorcycle leather over the Internet is value. Ever walk into a Harley store and find the perfect motorcycle jacket for what, 399 + dollars?
Top quality naked leather motorcycle jackets from all the well known lines can often be found for hundreds of dollars less than what you would find in a brick and motar store. How can they do that, you ask?
Overhead! For some online dealers, their biggest expense is a web site! There is however a lot of time involved in both maintaining that website as well as servicing the customer base. As businesses grow, so will the overhead.
While no legitimate business person would intentionally seek to depress the leather market, a smart consumer would do well to look far beyond the first page of the SERPs.
How Safe Is It?
Along with shopping online come concerns of identity theft, fraud, and credit card hijacking. While many biker leather sites incorporate their own shopping carts into their websites, more and more are turning to third party processors such as Google Checkout, or the most widely accepted, PayPal.
In the case of third party shopping carts, the merchant never sees your credit card information, and protections are put in place for both the consumer and the merchant.
Giving your credit card to a waiter at a restaurant is far more risky than a reputable third party shopping cart.
Don’t Fall Into These Pits!
The biggest advantage a brick and mortar shop has over an Internet retailer is that you get to try it on! By far, the biggest problem with shopping for motorcycle leather online is getting the size right. Most leather motorcycle clothing today is manufactured in India, Pakistan, or China, and sizing standards will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Also note that it is standard practice that the consumer pays for all shipping costs in a size exchange transaction, the logic being that if you had taken the time to measure you’d have gotten it right the first time!
So take the time to read the size chart, and measure! Just because you normally wear a large is not going to cut it. Some very reputable leather clothing manufacturers recommend that you size up one, two, even three sizes larger.
The Female Body
Getting the right size of a leather motorcycle jacket for a woman can be especially frustrating. The size of a motorcycle jacket is determined by chest measurement. As you can imagine, women’s breasts vary tremendously in size! If you are a woman of average proportion, then by all means measure, use the size chart, and size up when appropriate. If you are a 44 Double D and 5’4” tall, you can bet it’s not going to be easy!
Most vendors genuinely want to get it right the first time, sparing their customers the expense of a costly size exchange. If you are a man or woman of extreme proportions, contact the merchant via the contact page. Indicate the item you’re interested in, and provide them with your chest measurement (normally in inches), bust measurement or bra size, and waist measurement where appropriate.
Sleeve and body length are pretty standard, so if you are extra tall, or have extra long arms, you may want to ask about tall sizes.
Just remember, if you normally wear a large, and end up with a 3XL, don’t take it personally! It’s not you, the jacket is meant to be upsized.
You’re Charging Me for Nothing?
Some merchants will charge a restocking fee for returned merchandise, which can be anywhere from 10% to 30% of the cost of the product. This is a legitimate practice that offsets the cost that the vendor incurs from the warehouse, and is also meant to discourage frivolous shoppers, of which there are many on the web. Warehouses don’t like straight returns, vendors even less so.
If you are browsing a site and see something you think you might like, you may want to see it first before you decide if you want to keep it. You may certainly do that, but keep in mind online shopping is not like going around the corner to your local Kmart.
Understand that the merchant first has to buy the product before it gets shipped to you. A straight return can take a month to six weeks for the warehouse to open it, inspect it, and to credit the funds back to the merchant, who then in turn issues your refund.
Think of the time the merchant spends on the transaction, at least triple that of a successful sale the first time around. Then add in the time they have spent answering your questions, or helping you find the right size, or answering your emails and phone calls of “where’s my refund”?
Any online biker leather dealer would much rather sell you something else than to go through the tedious return process. The ones that believe in their product, and know it’s presented in an accurate and upfront way, have a hard timing accepting an “I don’t like it”, or “it wasn’t what I expected” as a reason for a return.
At the very least, even if the merchant doesn’t charge a restocking fee, you will be out the shipping charges both from and to the warehouse.
If on the other hand, the merchant is simply unable to accommodate the customer, a restocking fee should not be charged.
Contact your vendor if you think you have been charged unfairly. Most merchants of leather online want you to be happy no matter what.
The Ins and Outs of Stock
Think of a motorcycle leather web site as a catalog. As an authorized dealer for one or multiple manufacturers, they will naturally want to promote many if not all of the products of those manufacturers.
It is a fact in today’s world that most leather motorcycle clothing is manufactured overseas, with the company having distributorships located in various markets around the world. These distributorships are basically repositories, or warehouses that accept containers of stock from overseas, then distribute it to retailers in their geographical market.
Product comes in and goes out of stock all the time. Once a particular item goes into production on the manufacturing side, it can take six to eight weeks to reach the warehouse, a month of that time being spent on the high seas.
You can expect that not all items in all sizes in the catalogue are in stock all the time. Before you buy, it might be a good idea to contact the website (after carefully determining your size) to inquire about the availability of a particular item. In many cases, the vendor should be able to give you an eta of the replenished stock.
Shopping for motorcycle leather online can and should be a rewarding shopping experience. Online retailers like smooth transactions and are happy to take the time to assist the consumer in getting it right the first time.
As an informed consumer, take the time to read the policies, know the pitfalls, and by all means contact the vendor if you have any questions or uncertainties before you buy!
The Drop Ship Phenomenon
Since its inception, the Internet has brought us a number of exciting innovations, including the advent of a widely adopted business model known as Drop Shipping. The drop ship phenomenon has allowed business men and women to offer all kinds of products to a whole world of consumers without ever having to stock the first piece of merchandise.
The concept of drop shipping was neither born of, nor is exclusive to the Internet. Construction contractors, for example, would often enter into a special relationship with their appliance supplier to have a refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher delivered directly to the building site, long before the world became so widely webbed.
What the Internet has brought to the table, along with the proliferation of alternative shipping methods like UPS and FedEx, is the ability for an entity like a website to promote and sell a single product, with the wholesaler taking on the responsibility of shipping the item to a third party (who already has a massive shipping facility anyway). The sheer volume of traffic to the site generated from the Internet is what makes this business model economically feasible. Simply put, the drop ship process consists of the merchant selling a product at retail to the consumer, then buying the product at wholesale from the distributor. The distributor then ships the product to the consumer directly from the warehouse. The wholesaler charges the merchant for the shipping costs, which can either be priced into the product or passed on to the consumer. The consumer remains the merchant’s customer, and the merchant is the distributor’s customer.
A local bike shop might open up other avenues of revenue by establishing an Internet presence to promote the brick and mortar site, while offering an expanded line of motorcycle jackets to an audience that would never visit the geographic location anyway.
Having a physical presence however, is by no means a requirement for becoming a successful drop shipper. Many of the motorcycle leather shops you will find on the Internet are drop shippers. Many of the products you find on EBay and other auction sites are also being drop shipped. Craig list too!
So how does the Drop Ship model benefit the consumer? Low, deep discounted pricing! Drop shippers do have their expenses, but nothing like the rent, or the up front stocking of merchandise that a brick and mortar shop has to deal with.
Drop ship agreements vary between wholesalers. While the merchant is able to purchase product at wholesale, the price is usually not as low as the price offered a retailer that purchases in bulk. Some wholesalers will also charge the merchant a Drop Ship Fee, not on each item, but on the box regardless of the quantity of items shipped. This is the “handling” in the shipping and handling charges.
Even with these extra charges, there is plenty of room for the drop shipper to offer low Internet pricing to their customers, and still make a decent profit.
The Drop Ship business model has opened up a new tier of pricing for the consumer, and has allowed authorized dealers of leather to break away from local and regional confines. Anyone that has the mind to can become a drop shipper, and depending on the effort put into it, the potential to grow a thriving business is unlimited.
That said, it is incumbent on the consumer to practice due diligence to avoid the unscrupulous merchant or the fly by night web site.
Finding a Reputable Motorcycle Leather Web Site
It’s not that hard! Most biker leather shops online are legitimate, and offer fine quality products with excellent customer service. Here are a few tips to help you develop a process when judging a site.
Motorcycle Jackets SERP
Find Something You Like
This would be the first step. Use a Search Engine to find the sites that would most likely have the product you want. Searching for the term motorcycle jackets for example, will yield broad results and show you the most popular sites for that term. “Pink motorcycle jacket” will yield more specific results, if that is what you are looking for.
Pink Motorcycle Jacket
Find at least two or three sites and compare prices of similar items. Look for good descriptions and accurate depictions of the product. The picture on the product page should be clickable for a larger image (turn your pop up blocker off!). Make sure the web site gives you all the information you need to make an informed decision.
Things to Look For on a Motorcycle Leather Web Site
Get as much information as you can about the type of leather and its tanning process. Find out if the leather is Buffalo, Light Weight, or Cowhide, and if it is top grain, naked leather, or split. A good website should be forthcoming with this information, and even provide you with the thickness of the leather, usually in millimeters.
Avoid sites that use the term “Genuine Leather”. If you encounter terms like Aniline, Soft Milled etc., make sure you understand what that means. If the website defines those terms somewhere easily found, chalk that up to points for up fronted ness.
Look for detailed descriptions that provide you with all of the features of a particular motorcycle jacket, chap, or vest. Type of hardware, snaps, zippers, braiding or embossing, right down to the number of pockets and if they zip or snap shut.
While some written descriptions are all business like, others will highlight a particular feature that the merchant would like to point out, or even try to inject a little humor into the site. That’s all right! If the written description doesn’t itemize every feature of the product, look for a bullet list that does somewhere on the product page.
How Far Should I Go?
“Maybe I should stay on the first page of the search engine results to be safe”. Sure, go right ahead! But you’ll be sorry! While it has often been said that most online searchers only look above the fold on the first page, anyone that is looking to purchase a top quality product reaching well into the $200 range would behoove themselves to search further!
The first page for the keyword term motorcycle jackets will certainly get you to the big boys, but not necessarily the best product, most scrupulous vendor, and for sure not the best deal. Think about it. I’m on the front page, got tons of traffic, why should I lower my prices? Do yourself a favor and explore beyond.
Read the About Page and take note of any contact information. In fact, to get an idea of their quality of service, go ahead and ask a question via the contact page. Speed of response should not be the only factor here. It may take a day or so, but did the representative actually answer your question? Suggest products you might be interested in? You get the idea, customer service!
Search engines say that two determining trust factors for a website are a physical address, and a phone number. That’s a great idea for a brick and mortar bike shop with a web site. Which brings us to…
The Web 2.0 Motorcycle Leather Shop
Social Media opens up a brand new marketing frontier for small businesses of all types. Given the propensity for motorcyclists to join clubs, gather at rallies, and organize charity runs, building a community of like minded bikers that offers entertainment, communication, and collaboration gives the leather merchant an opportunity to build lasting relationships with potential customers world wide.
A Web 2.0 motorcycle leather e-tail store might take the form of a blog, with static pages being the basis for navigation, while the product pages are added over time as chronological posts. Each page and post is interactive, in that the visitor is invited to post comments on the content at the end of the page.
The consumer is now able to ask questions, comment about a product, give a testimonial, or note where there’s room for improvement, right there on the product page for all to see!
Customers are invited to collaborate by offering product reviews, stories of their own experiences, even suggesting things they would like to see on the site. For the merchant, the sense of community the people feel translates into a sense of trust, establishing the company and the customer as one on a level playing field. A potential customer can subscribe to comments and to newly added posts via RSS feeds, or have the content delivered directly to their Inbox. A great way to stay informed about newly added products, what people are saying about a particular subject, or to keep up with an item they might be interested in as it comes back into stock.
Web 2.0 sites are all about building community, and as such you will find many leather shops expanding into more general fields of entertainment, adding articles, video, and news feeds on topics of interest not just to lovers of leather, but to the biker community in general.
Look for these sites to utilize all the other social media web sites as well. Staking out a presence on Facebook and Twitter, joining and creating social networking groups, posting Video and Photos on YouTube and Flickr, and tweeting about things of interest to motorcycle enthusiasts all over the world are what broaden the audience of a Web 2.0 business.
These merchants of the Web 2.0 world may not want to post an address on their site simply because they do not want to be seen as local. After all, the entire world is their stage.
With all the forms and forums of communication available in the Web 2.0 format, some sites may not want to post a phone number. The concept of Web 2.0 dictates that questions and answers, comments and queries be posted for all to see, and are indeed themselves the seeds of discussion and conversation.
As a business person, the leather merchant must be able to differentiate between the general community and the potential customer. Most e-tailers also understand that many potential customers want to hear a voice behind the product. In the interest of building trust, no reputable merchant would deny them that.
If you do not see a phone number on the site, use the contact form to ask for a private conversation, going in to as much detail as you can so the representative can do the research. Ask to exchange phone numbers, and they should reply with there own toll-free number.
The social media frontier calls for a new relationship between business and the consumer. As the community grows, comments and replies by members take on a life of their own, generating threads of informative and entertaining conversations relevant to both product and lifestyle alike.
The role of the merchant morphs from salesman to moderator, as sales become generated by peers of the community itself.
The motorcycle leather shop web 2.0 style: If You Build the Community, the Sales Will Come!