We met Jon Lancaster, the General Manager for both Gotham and Toga in October at the Crain’s Business Expo. We wanted to know what he thought were the challenges and benefits of taking their shops on line.
Jon tells us that co-founder Luis Viera was the driving force behind getting the shops on-line, and they have created one site to represent both of the separate but interrelated companies. The motivations to create the Internet presence were twofold: Gotham Bikes would benefit from having an additional advertising tool which also heightened awareness of the city’s active cycling and racing communities, and the Toga site would spark interest in the shop’s merchandise and drive people into the store by showing some of the popular items available.
E-commerce was the next logical step for the site. "Any sort of exposure you get, you’d like it to be a profit tool," Jon reminds us. Since the company didn’t have, or need, a technical team, they sought an outside company to create their back end and host the site. They enlisted the services of SmartEtailing.com, and Jon has no regrets about their choice. SmartEtailing.com became a major player in the creation of the current site, and he credits them with being helpful and reliable as they developed the site from "a very minor marketing tool" to a commercial and informational site.
"Now, we want to be much more thorough with what we show on the website. We didn’t just want links to the manufacturers’ sites, we wanted the actual products on our site. In addition, we wanted people to be able to purchase from the site. So whether they were already a customer of ours or if they just found out about the site, we wanted to make it as easy as possible for someone to make that first purchase on-line."
Despite the fact that the site is a point of sale, the shops continue to leverage their relationship with the suppliers by linking to their websites. "It’s a win-win situation. The manufacturer gets more exposure and the consumer can see what they’re getting. It’s easier on everybody." But what’s in it for the shop? The photos and specifications for all products are taken directly from the manufacturer, which not only guarantees the accuracy of the product descriptions, it saves Gotham/Toga the time, money and effort necessary to create their own catalog shots.