How to start a bike rental business: Running shop operations

by Eliisa L.

24 July 2020
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In the second part of this series, Roll Outdoors will help understand the most important processes while running a rental shop, and what makes a good renting experience from the customers’ point of view. Check out the first part, where Roll Outdoors walked us through on how to open up a rental shop

Running your rental shop operations

 

Successful and well-kept processes help keep things like inventory management, customer service, equipment maintenance, and so on streamlined and under control from the shop’s point of view. At the same time, streamlined processes have a direct effect on the customer experience - when a rental shop’s processes are in line, it creates a professional and reliable image for the shop, all while allowing the staff to focus on providing the best and smoothest service for the customers. 

Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at what advice our industry professional has regarding the essentials of running a rental shop. 

 

The essential processes & operations: 

✔️ Promoting your rental business

✔️ Establishing a social media presence
✔️ Running an e-commerce website
✔️ Customer service
✔️ Equipment maintenance
✔️ Utilizing different tools 

Promoting your rental business  

The importance of marketing cannot be highlighted enough - particularly during the time period before you even open up your rental shop’s doors. You want to do as much of awareness marketing as you can in order to let people know of your existence and convey a good vibe about your shop in advance. You already win half of the battle when potential customers are aware of you before they even realize they need your services.

Just like we mentioned in our previous post, balance is key. You don’t want to over-promote yourself and end up not being able to meet the demand. 

Establishing a social media presence

Before Roll Outdoors had even opened their first location, they were already running an Instagram account. One of the founders spent his time filming his biking trips, while the other one took care of the editing and posting online, and slowly they gained an audience who were interested to see what they were up to. Now, even the newest members of the crew are in on creating more content for their online marketing channels.

‘’Especially for a smaller business, it pays off to put in effort into social media - even with a zero budget, you can do so much and ultimately find your target audience.’’ 


Even if you’re not putting in a lot of money into the promotions and ads, if you take into account the working hours that it takes to create the materials and content, you'll see that you actually do spend a considerable amount on marketing. However, investing in marketing and content creation pays off. Roll Outdoors’ have experienced a clear interest and demand for the content they produce, and it’s evident in their stores’ activity levels.

‘’Honestly, I don’t know if we would even have a business to run without any marketing or content creation. Even though the cost of a marketing person might seem too much for a small rental shop, it pays itself back.’’ 

 

PRO TIP: Utilize videos in marketing

‘’If you have the opportunity, create, and use videos. If I had to choose between images or videos, I’d probably only use videos. ‘’ 

According to Facebook, videos get double the engagement than images. 

Running an e-commerce Website 

A part of effective marketing is maintaining a good, solid website that you direct your followers to. In addition to the visual side of the website, make sure to have all the needed, accurate information available on your website. Things like general store info, opening hours, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. are things potential customers will be looking into. 

To make running your store even more efficient, integrate a booking system onto your website. Not only offering the opportunity to book gear straight away but also providing the customers with detailed product descriptions and clear instructions, makes the renting experience so much easier and smoother for the customers. 

Taking your time and putting in effort into the website’s content will also benefit the store’s staff greatly. The more information is available online, the less time your staff will spend answering the phone and emails. Allowing customers to independently find what they need, book the gear, and even pay in advance, makes the in-store processes much lighter and streamlined.  

Take a look at what makes an e-commerce website successful and how to write accurate listings

PRO TIP: Invest in your website

''Invest in your website - find someone you know or a company that can handle the website’s development side for you.''

75% of consumers admit to making judgments on a company’s credibility based on their website design. In other words, your poorly designed website may cost you customers. 

 

Customer Service 

One of the most important aspects of a successful customer experience is customer service. Who your customer will meet when going into your store will be a make-or-break moment: even if the premises themselves aren’t as polished as they could be, having friendly employees who are happy to help and know what they’re talking about makes the biggest difference.

''Making the customer feel welcomed, giving tips on routes, helping with the equipment, making sure they have the right equipment, and overall taking care of them will never stop being important.''

Being available to answer questions or concerns, does not only provide better customer experience and a better reputation for your business, but it also increases the probability that the customer will go through with their booking. 

This applies for both offline and online - being able to get back to a customer’s call or email in a timely manner is extremely important. Again, by providing enough information on the website, you're making sure your employees can focus on walk-in customers, rather than keeping up with calls and emails. 

 

PRO TIP: Invest in chat service

''If you can, invest in chat service & a dedicated employee to take care of the customer service online - until then, make sure your website content is up-to-date.'' 

 

Equipment maintenance 

Since the rental equipment is the center of the business, it’s really important to prioritize and really take care of the equipment. If there was something to happen in the midst of a customer’s rental period due to the lack of maintenance work, or if the product was not up to par with what they expected to receive, it might ruin the customer’s whole trip.

Letdowns do not only have a negative effect on the overall customer experience, but also on the reputation of the rental shop, which leads to losing potential customers. 

Utilizing different tools 

Don’t hesitate to try out different systems - for each process you should have some kind of tool that will help you manage the process better and keep it systematic and streamlined. 

For example, Roll Outdoors utilizes multiple platforms and systems in order to keep their processes in check - Rentle for bookings and inventory, separate one for scheduling the equipment’s maintenance work, another one for employee shifts, and so on. 

‘’Don’t get stuck on the same old systems - when your business starts to grow or change, make sure you always choose the tools that are suitable for you and that can meet your needs.’’

What to keep in mind 💡

One of the biggest things to keep in mind while running a rental shop are the maintenance times. For Roll Outdoors, when they opened one of the other locations they weren’t prepared for the demand that they received. While being a good problem, a poorly managed gear maintenance schedule can lead to either the rental equipment running out, leaving some customers without gear, or the equipment getting damaged while in use. 

Another thing is to do some research and be able to offer information on where the best trails are for example.

‘’If you’re able to offer interesting or new locations where to go to, it will most definitely show in your customer traffic.’’

 

 

Stay tuned for this series' third part: scaling up & expanding your business! Again, huge thanks to Roll Outdoors for the expertise. 

👉 Learn more about E-Commerce for rental shops by downloading our free e-book here.

Eliisa L.

The storyteller that spends her time in the studio, outdoors, or creating the best, most relevant content for rental shops.

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