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State of the Hub: Tech Steps Forward & Back

by Josh Lipton

cass-gilbert-flagstaff-trailsFall is definitely in the air here at the Bike Shop Hub. We’re enjoying some nice fall mountain biking. Our friend Cass Gilbert is in town for the next month visiting with his family who decided to fly out after not seeing Cass for over a year while he has been bike touring the Americas. We’ve had a chance to do a few mountain bike rides with Cass and we are going to be doing some interviews with him about his travels and his interesting mountain bike touring setup.

In other shop news, we got the truck decaled up last week. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see our friend Gary Thompson’s handy work.

I thought I would mention our switch to Macs. After growing the company on PCs, with much thought and deliberation we’ve finally decided to make the move over to MACs. We had several reasons for doing this. One of the main reasons was that we feel that Macs offer a more stable system that require a lot less maintenance. Our programmer, Frank, is a strong advocate of open source Linux based systems and uses Kabuntu for his office computer. While this is a great platform for a developer, being even more stable and configurable than a Mac, it doesn’t offer the user-friendly side that everyone else in the office does much better with. With Macs being Unix based at its core, Frank was in a comfortable zone with it and relieved to be moving away from having to support Windows boxes. Our other motivation for moving to Macs is that many of our employees doing the more creative side of the business our quite comfortable in this environment. We have not completely left Windows behind and we have a few reasons to continue to use it to some degree including having our accounting system in QuickBooks, but we have made a major leap into shaking free.

bike-shop-hub-appleWhile we’ve made forward progress into the Mac environment, we’ve taken a backwards step of sorts with our phone management. For about 6 months now, we’ve been experimenting with using Ring Central as our primary phone service. Our goal was to be able to have our entire phone system through our internet connection and no longer be reliant on Qwest land lines. We’d been using Ring Central for several years for our 800 number and decided to try their full VOIP system. To get it going, we had to configure their soft phones on all of our computers and get underway. Getting started was quite simple. We just had to set our answering rules and before we knew it, all of our computers were ringing. The problems came quickly though. We had trouble with dropping calls and transferring calls. We spent quite a bit of time working on tuning the Ring Central soft phones, configuring our computers and configuring our network. We were able to eliminate some of the issues, but we couldn’t get fully stable. And on occasion, the problems would flare up. Finally, we decided that we were spending to much time trouble shooting. We requested that Ring Central offered us dedicated support. They simply bounced our request through their awkward customer service, not seemingly getting the point. If they had dedicated support, even if we had to pay twice as much for it, we probably would have stuck it out, but with the lack of support, we decided to go back to good old fashion land lines. We bought an AT&T 4 lines phone, got 4 lines hooked up and moved away from VOIP phone management.

Coming at you like a Herd of Buffaloes, Our Bike Touring, Commuting & Family Cycling Gear Selection:

  1. Adding to our lineup of messenger bags at BikeBagShop.com and balance bikes, and trailer-cycles at BikeKidShop.com.
  2. Introducing video to our product listings. We’re starting out by uploading available videos from our manufacturers and will be adding in some of our own videos as well.
  3. Building a photo booth to do our own product photography as well as photography for our expert article “bike setups” pages.

Like a Rattlesnake Strike, Our Smooth & Fast Web Platform Implementation:

  1. Fine-tuning all of our content editing tools including the link massaging tool, the product and category editors, the blurbs (for sale and other messages), the expert pages and other content pages.
  2. Working in tools into our shopping cart flow to direct customers towards the web store review sites that we are participating in
  3. Integrating a more dynamic flow through our product’s options and accessories page “Choose Your Options” page.
  4. Continue setting up a new Drupal website to update the BikeShopHub.com. This site will include a new forum, our blog, a feed from all of our blogs, and pages that feature products that we represent in the USA such as Extrawheel products.

Smooth and Strong as a Galloping Horse, Our Innovative Product Development:

  1. Continue developing ideas for the BONGO rail system. Stuart’s back this week from 2 weeks in Hawaii and we’re excited to get started.
  2. Begin designing our 2nd bike cargo trailer with integrated rail system, lower center of gravity and lower overall weight.
  3. Continue brainstorming ideas for integrated front fork/rack/lockable box/stow-away panniers/fender & rear rack/lockable box/stow-away panniers/fender systems.

Gliding Gracefully as a Hawk, Our Shipping & Customer Service:

  1. Settling in our organization of our inventory.
  2. Integrating all of our inventory management and shipping management into one role.

Clever as the Fox, Our Internet Marketing and SEO Strategies:

  1. Developing a good set of reporting tools to establish a baseline for our internet marketing success and progress.
  2. Continuing to fine tune and further develop or shopping network feeds. Currently we our using GoDataFeed.com to feed out to Google Shopping, Bing Shopping, TheFind, Price Grabber, NexTag and Shopzilla.
  3. Maintaining our current channels (currently Adwords, Twitter & Facebook).
  4. Looking ahead towards joining the affiliate network Share-A-Sale and possibly setting up our own in-house affiliate network.

The Super-Duper Deals:

The Bike Shop Hub’s Blogosphere:

bike-shop-hub-truck

 
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3 Responses to “State of the Hub: Tech Steps Forward & Back”

  1. Ted says:

    The round emblem on the door gives the truck a slight rent-a-cop look. Are we getting a siren and cherry lights on the roof? (Please?)

  2. Rod says:

    Just a quick Mac note…QuickBooks is available in Mac. When i need to send our books to our accountant, I export it as a Windows backup file. When he sends it back to me, he exports it as a Mac backup. It works perfectly and you don’t have to have a PC laying around just for QB. The interface is apparently different, but I’ve read they are the same under the hood.

  3. josh says:

    Ted – Perhaps we can for Halloween.
    Rod – While some versions of QuickBooks are available in Mac, the Premier Wholesale & Manufacturing Edition that we use isn’t. I hope they get all of their editions on Mac soon as we’ll be glad to make the switch.

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