It wasn’t until a trip to Japan, when I stepped into Burton Snowboard’s Tokyo retail store, that I fully understood the effects of the Internet on the global retail marketplace.
The same board that we sell in the U.S. for $559.99, sells for 92,400 Yen (roughly $924 American dollars). Burton makes double the margin, and I finally understood why they’re so controlling over price and distribution.
Enter the real world of today with eBay, freight forwarding companies (international customers ship their items to a U.S. address and then have the item forwarded), gray market, coupon codes, payback programs, comparison engines, exclusive member pricing sites, global online communities and whatever the latest trend is with online retail. Simply put, online shoppers are going to find a way to get the goods they want at the lowest price possible. There is no stopping globalism and when companies do, only more problems arise.
I often refer to the book “StarFish and Spider- The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom when discussing what we at Sierra are faced with on a daily basis. In this book they review business case studies where industries attempt to control the marketplace rather than embrace current business trends. In the end, rather than cutting off the “Spider’s” head as they hope, they end up cutting off an arm of the “Starfish,” which then grows into a wildly new problem.
The Internet is one big starfish that is growing on a daily basis.
When the music industry went after Napster, they thought they won. Only to be confronted by its offspring – the free open source file sharing program BitTorrent and its imitators, which were even worse for the industry.
The snowboard industry finds itself with a similar dilemma today, with manufacturers attempting to control price and distribution throughout the Internet, and customers just trying to save a few bucks on gear in order to be able to afford ever-increasing lift ticket prices.
Our goal at Sierra Snowboard is to provide the best deal for our customers here in the U.S. and the world, because we know that if we don’t, someone else will through outlets such as those described above.
Our integration of community, e-commerce and manufacturing is a very unique combination that everyday provides us inspiration and entertainment. Our active community of 220,000 plus members from all parts of the world embodies what new age retail and brand management has become.
Our community has been built organically through our Meet Up To Ride calendar, our community forums and chat rooms, and the willingness of our staff to listen to the wants/needs of our community.
We've always placed more value on building customer loyalty by ensuring each customer has a great shopping experience with Sierra, than on any individual order that customer might place.
Embracing technology and a global marketplace as discussed in “The Starfish and Spider” will continue to build and destroy businesses of today. “Social Commerce” is the latest buzzword around the online world, but that will be replaced just as “Web 2.0” has.
Traditional manufacturers are moving into direct sales and retail, but as many have learned, it’s a whole new world out there and very few have adapted to this new market.
Customers rule in this world and if you don’t listen to their needs, business will struggle.
Embracing and maintaining open lines of communication with our community members and customers from day one has allowed Sierra to learn some amazing things.
Sitting right next to me as I write this, Creative Director Phil Wiles is typing away at a forum post responding to today’s termination of our Burton Snowboard Dealer status. We met Phil through our first online snowboard design contest that we posted in our community forums. Since that time, Phil has designed seven world class snowboards under the Sierra Snowboards brand name. The incredible thing is that Phil lives in London, England, and through our global community we have been brought together.
As we look around our industry, we’ve learned that very few manufacturers or retailers have been able to make this transition to the online world. This is not isolated to just the snowboard industry, but pretty much all industries. Many company executives are pleading with interactive marketing agencies for help getting on the social marketing thing. “We need a Facebook and Twitter page,” they say.
What they need to do is listen to the marketplace and adapt your business model to embrace technology or die. The world is telling you what to do on forums throughout the Internet, maybe you just need Google translate to help.
Track the progress of today’s events below:
Track the progress of today’s events below: