By Jeremy Carr
There are few more iconic brands in the United States than Harley-Davidson.
For more than a century, this company, founded 1903 in Milwaukee, has played a prominent role in wartime military maneuvers and has helped define an era of easy riders eager to seek freedom on the highways of America.
Now, however, the motorcycle mainstay is facing a new challenge: the changing demographics of its consumer base. And Harley isn’t alone. Other brands of motorcycles, both foreign and domestic, and reaching out to new riders in ways that are themselves evolving with the times.
Not surprisingly, digital technology is key.
“Our dealership’s mission statement centers around building long-term relationships with our customers,” states Brian Ruiterman, general manager with GO AZ Motorcycles. “Certainly, social media plays a part in that process, particularly with the younger customers. We’re very active on Facebook and Instagram and also utilize Twitter and YouTube.”
The video streaming site, Mr. Ruiterman observers, is a particularly good resource, in that “we can inject a bit more of our dealership’s culture/ personality and provide great value to the audience than we can we just a post or photos.”
With this new mode of communication and promotion comes an inevitable connection to the generation commonly known as “millennials.”
“In general,” states Mr. Ruiterman, “the industry is very aware that therider population isn’t getting any younger and that we need to bringnew riders to the lifestyle.Manufacturers are responding with new models that appeal to the younger riders – Triumph’s Bonneville Bobber, released in 2017, and Ducati’s Scrambler, which came on the market in 2015, come to mind.”
GO AZ Motorcycles has sites at 16844 N. Arrowhead Fountain Center Drive, in Peoria, and 15500 N. Hayden Road, in Scottsdale.
“As a dealership, we’re definitely getting out in the community more – taking our brand to the masses rather than waiting for them to find or come to us,” Mr. Ruiterman adds.
Millennials make up an undeniably different demographic than more traditional riders, and are subsequently entering the market with different expectations.
“Millennials are, in many ways, more pragmatic than their Baby Boomer counterparts; they’ve had to be given the environment in which they’ve come of age,” Mr. Ruiterman stated. “So, they’re often looking for apractical mode of transportation to get them around town, back and forth to work or whatnot. And they’re often very focused on how the purchase fits their budget. Very often, they start with a pre-owned motorcycle as their initial bike, before moving on to their first new bike purchase.”
Consumers in general are also shopping more online, before they ever call or visit a dealership.
“In response,” notes Mr. Ruiterman, “we’re making sure our online platforms, most importantly our website (www.goazmotorcycles.com/index.htm), are user friendly and offers the tools these customers will find useful. For instance, we just rolled out a feature on our website that allows customers to shop by monthly payment or even pre-qualify for financing within minutes.”
Additional outreach also extends beyond younger people, including to women riders.
“Women are the fastest growing demographic in the industry,” states Mr. Ruiterman, “and we’re proud to have been the first dealership in the Valley to organize and participate in Women’s Ride Day (an annual event held internationally each May).”
A previous general manager at GO AZ Motorcycles, now vice president Gina Marra, is a woman and so, as Mr. Ruiterman comments, the organization has been very female-friendly.
They understand that “women and other groups that haven’t traditionally been viewed as motorcycle riders often approach the lifestyle from a different viewpoint or may even be hesitant to make that first visit to a dealership.”
Part of the Harley-Davidson strategy also involves collaborating with other companies.
Last month, according to the Associated Press, American Crew, a supplier of men’s grooming products, announced its teaming with Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.
“This collaboration with Harley-Davidson is a milestone in the life of American Crew, which is very close to its 25th anniversary of serving professionals and consumers,” said David Raccuglia, founder of the American Crew brand. “We’re looking forward to connecting the brands through our shared values of freedom and self-expression.”
To kick-off the collaboration,American Crew filmed and produced a short film, featuring both iconic brands, which can be viewed on American Crew’s Youtube page.
“Both American Crew and Harley-Davidson, two leading brands in their categories, will have mutual benefits through the digital collaborations and exchanges in consumer and professional events,” stated David Carvalho, Global President of Portfolio Brands at Revlon. “Over the coming months, our new campaign, Style for the Road, will bring together the strength and values of both brands, supporting our key American Crew initiatives” Fans can follow the journey of American Crew and Harley-Davidson by visiting www. americancrew.com and on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube with hashtags #stylefortheroad and #HDxAC.
In the end, though, it all comes back to good old fashioned customer service.
“We do our best to make everyone feel at home and start building those relationships as early in the process as possible,” Mr. Ruiterman stated. “We’re fortunate to have a great relationship with Team Arizona Motorcycle Training which operates on-site at our demo track and classroom facilities. So we’re meeting new riders and helping answer their questions and make them feel comfortable right from the start.”
And it would seem these diverse strategies have paid off.
“I think our efforts, as well as our general business philosophy centered on the relationship not the sale, are seeing results,” he stated. “We continue to grow and expand each year and we’re definitely seeing more young riders and women visiting the dealership. We’re always excited to introduce people to the lifestyle!”