How Trek Bikes helped novice riders make up their minds with digital advice

Trek Bikes--the largest bicycle manufacturer in the US--used intelligent digital advisors developed by SMARTASSISTANT to decrease decision paralysis and increase consumer purchase confidence, leading to an increase conversion.

We’ve all struggled with making a purchase choice at one time or another. The feeling is often more pronounced when shopping online, where it is hard enough to decide on everyday products to purchase, let alone big-ticket items like cars, computers or bikes. 

When buying complex or expensive specialist products, consumers want to be absolutely sure they are making informed decisions. Without guidance and support, it can create a situation where consumers feel lost, confused and gripped by decision paralysis, leading to low conversion rates. 

"We offer more than 300 bikes on our US website," says Trek’s Marketing Project Manager Curtis Bice. "That’s a lot for shoppers to sort through, and for customers without much bike knowledge, there wasn’t a good way of narrowing down the options." 

"We have categories and classifications to help users filter through the results, but they require some familiarity with the products to use it effectively. As we start shifting our focus on the consumer, it became clear that these were not the right tools for our key audience. We needed a better way to inform, inspire, educate and excite our visitors about the Trek brand."

The challenge was clear: find a way to educate less knowledgeable shoppers and streamline the bike selection process for all customers. To satisfy the criteria, Trek turned to Digital Advice.

Digital advice (or guided selling) enabled Trek to build interactive product advisors that have the capability to match customers with bikes based on answers they give to questions. Thus, Trek’s Bike Finder was born and integrated on the US and UK versions of its website.

The Bike Finder takes the user through a couple of important questions to uncover their preferences and motivations. For example, it asks if the customer wants to ride on the open road, dirt trails or city streets, and also tries to find out about preferred riding positions, or if the bike needs to be woman-specific. In the end, they receive a list of personalized recommendations suited to their specific needs.

But the Bike Finder doesn’t ask the same questions in the same order to every customer. With SMARTASSISTANT, Trek’s Digital Advice technology partner, the company could create digital advisors that are dynamic and flexible, and intelligently adapt question flows to take answers to previous questions into account. As a result, each customer received a personalized and real-time decision support experience. Trek was free to concentrate on choosing the questions, answers, imagery, language and methods of integration.

"We’re now able to educate and guide our customers in a way that simply wasn’t possible in the past," says Trek’s Director of Digital IT, Steve Novoselac. "The Bike Finder cuts through the confusion, gives users confidence in our expertise, and helps them reach the point where they’re ready to go to a retailer with the Trek brand on their minds." 

Trek quickly decided against using images of people during the first few questions of the Bike Finder to avoid a situation where people may think: "I’m not that person, I don’t want that type of bike." Nuanced language was also a priority when devising questions.

"One of the early questions we considered for customers looking at mountain bikes was ‘How rad do you want to get?’ On reflection, we recognized that most novice cyclists aren’t really thinking about getting rad—in fact, they might be put off by that kind of language," Bice said. "So, we refined the question to ‘How do you want to ride on trails?’"

For all the work, testing and implementation, a digital advisor cannot be effective if customers can’t find it. To give it the best possible chance of being seen and used by its target audience, Trek integrated the Bike Finder across several touchpoints on their brand website.

It’s one of the first things customers see when they arrive at the website. But not all customers will feel they initially need it. Some may decide to browse Trek’s selection of mountain bikes, for example, but become overwhelmed by the choice once they get there. To keep them from dropping off the site, Trek integrated the Bike Finder on category overview pages, so support is visible throughout the customer journey.

Trek has also projected its Bike Finder across its social media channels.

"For us, conversion includes customers who click out to find a retailer. And we’re finding that people who use the Bike Finder are twice as likely to convert than those who don’t," says Bice. "Uptake and engagement are also strong: 4 percent of all site visits use the advisor, and the average session time is about three and a half minutes." 

"Judging from the answers users select and the price ranges they focus on, we can tell that it’s primarily novice riders that are using the digital advisor. It’s great to see that we’re reaching our target audience." 

Overall, Trek’s conversion rate has doubled since it implemented the Bike Finder on its website. After testing the technology in the US and UK, Trek is now rolling the Bike Finder out internationally in a further 15 markets. 

Trek will also use the technology to advise customers in additional product categories, such as through a Saddle Finder.

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