During the past twelve months, many people have experienced just how convenient a tool the internet can be which has resulted in a distinct seed change in consumer buying habits. Some companies are adapting to this better than others. This week, we headed to Ribble Cycles to test out their new showroom which seeks to blend more than a century of tradition with cutting-edge technology.
Ribble Cycles started its life more than 120 years ago on the banks of the Ribble River in Preston. Since then, the company has expanded greatly and along the way, continued to build on its reputation as one of the finest quality bike makers in the country.
The company has always tried to set new standards for the industry, however, their latest masterstroke has taken innovation within the cycle industry to a whole new level.
The challenge they faced was to take a predominantly online customer experience and create a new physical retail experience that complements what it does online and adds value to those engaging through the company’s website.
On a warm April morning, we drove the 10 mins from the motorway into a seemingly unassuming retail area on the edge of Clitheroe, Lancashire. As we turned the corner, the new Ribble Cycles store stood proudly with gleaming letters above a glass door. However, the exterior offered few clues as to what was to come inside.
Moving in through the glass double doors, it felt more like walking into a luxury car showroom and less like entering somewhere selling bikes. It is deceptively spacious (a massive 2000sq ft) and is modern and dramatic with plenty of space provided for each bike to shine. Needless to say, it was an impressive start.
One of the biggest (literally) visual impacts in the showroom is the massive nine metre-long 4k display, which I discovered was a high-tech interactive screen and the largest of its kind ever to be installed in Europe.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that this was much more than just a beautifully designed showroom. David Stacey, the Commercial Director of Ribble Cycles, said, “We’re the first bike company in the UK to create this level of experience for customers. We wanted to not only bring the website experience into the showroom but also take the incredible experience of our showroom direct to anyone visiting our website to add value both ways.”
Taking the website into the showroom
I browsed ‘doe eyed’ at the range of bikes and the digital display’s that allowed you to look at everything from facts and stats to reviews and thoughts from other customers.
It wasn’t until speaking with Laurie Stobbs, the showroom manager, that I discovered these screens received live updates, mimicking the website which results in a consistent buying experience across all platforms.
Impressive stuff… but it didn’t stop there.
Moving further back into the new showroom, we stopped in front of one of the biggest tablet computers we’d ever seen. The tablet allows you to choose from a multitude of parts and options which you can put together to create a bespoke bike tailored to your personal preferences.
Laurie explained, “Everybody is different and has different requirements whether it be their body shape, their riding style, their planned use of the bike, even just personal preference. Starting with proper measurement and sizing, through to discussing all the additional options, we have a team of riders with amazing knowledge who can discuss the benefits and options as you build your individual bike.”
“The beauty of the showroom is that we’re not here to sell a bike. We’re here to help teach visitors and guide them through the process of getting the best bike set up for them. We can create a number of options, each of which we will have a unique code for that customer can take away, access online, amend if they so wish and ultimately make decisions at their leisure.”
With all the optional parts, frame colours and seeing the bike being built in front of me, it was a real “kid in a candy store” moment – which I’m sure would be the same for any cycling enthusiast.
Taking the new showroom online
As we were moving around the showroom, I couldn’t help but notice a team of staff walking from bike to bike holding a camera and talking into an earpiece. They were the Ribble LIVE ‘Go Instore’ Experts – taking the new showroom experience global.
These virtual showroom visits allowed cyclists to discuss the finer details of bikes they were considering with four experts on hand from 9 am – 8 pm daily. Connecting in through the website, anyone, no matter where in the world they are, can get the same detailed knowledge whilst being taken around the store and shown details of the bikes and customisation process.
“We physically have people coming here from as far away as Cornwall and northern Scotland. However, the ‘Go Instore’ team take the experience much further afield,” says David.
“It can be anything from discussing the right bike for them, right through to those final questions or decisions they are making on customisation. Either way, having the ability to virtually walk around the showroom and discuss the options is a great addition and massively growing in popularity.”
A community hub with a global reach
As well as all the technological wizardry that’s gone into the new showroom, there will be a long list of organised rides in the stunning local trails, talks and events using the new space and impressive wall-to-wall 4k screen.
For me, this is more than a showroom to display bikes. If you are into cycling, this is an experience, a day out even, a chance to see and understand more about your hobby and learn from genuine experts who not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.
Looking around the store, you can easily see there has been no corner cut or expense spared. “We wanted to create a real wow factor – and I believe we have done just that. It’s not at odds with our website but compliments and adds to it,” says David. “The design and concept all started with the customer and how they would want to use the space both in-person and online. It’s a real reflection of the brand today.”
Although this new showroom in Clitheroe will remain the flagship store, the new concept will be rolled out to the two existing stores, with additional showrooms planned for later this year – watch this space!
Andy Smallwood, Ribble’s CEO, adds, “This exciting state of the art digitally-focused showroom is the culmination of incredible work by the entire team at Ribble. Whilst we have been trading since 1897, this absolutely represents our vision for the future of the business as we continue to innovate and disrupt the Cycling and Leisure markets building on our position as a truly world-class brand.”
Ribble Cycles – Where and How?
Anyone looking to visit the new showroom in Clitheroe can find the new store at Ribble Cycles, Unit 1, Barrow Brook Trade Park, North Road, BB7 9BQ, or for those little further away, visit www.ribblecycles.co.uk.