PYMNTS - Warby of X: roll: Bicycle Company Goes Omnichannel

Buying bikes online can bring up a lot of fears for consumers. When it comes to assessing fit, style and assembly, purchasing a bike online can be a daunting task.

But that doesn’t mean the experience has to stay that way.

Stuart Hunter, founder and CEO of roll: Bicycle Company explained how taking its bike sales online is helping customers not only overcome their fear of purchase, but also find a completely customized product that can be returned if it’s not the perfect fit.

In this week’s Warby of X installment, Hunter shared how the digital approach is helping to bridge the gap between wary online consumers and personalized bikes that can provide the type of experience they think they can only find in store.

Here is an excerpt of the conversation.

PYMNTS: How did roll: Bicycle Company get started?

SH: The idea for roll: Bicycle Company was born in our brick and mortar shops. The way that customers shop for and buy bikes is out of step with the way consumers shop in other categories, which often comes as a surprise to a customer when they step foot in a bike store. The ability to personalize and tailor to suit individual needs does not exist in an industry which largely follows an off the shelf approach. This was the spark for us to create a much more engaged experience, and personalized bikes for customers, and to use technology to deliver on that experience. More personally, we saw this as an opportunity to create and build the kind of bikes we wanted to ride ourselves, but couldn’t find, and to share them with people. Bikes with an incredible attention to detail, wonderful supple ride quality, and a modern clean design.

PYMNTS: It’s surprising that only 2 percent of bike sales take place online. Knowing that, what inspired you to pursue a direct-to-consumer eCommerce business model versus using a physical channel?

SH: It is a small number but also represents the opportunity. Buying a bike online can be a daunting prospect for customers. The three biggest fears are: Will the bike fit? Isn’t it expensive to ship and complicated to assemble? And what happens if I make a mistake? We address these concerns with our roll: perfect Fit online, our unique flat pack box, more like a large laptop case that facilitates assembly in four simple steps, and our 50 days to ride guarantee. We’ve worked extremely hard in our business to remove the fears or preconceptions that prevent people from getting on a bike, and instead allow people to focus on the excitement of riding a bike again.

PYMNTS: How does the roll: Shop fit into the business model? Can customers purchase bicycles there or is the physical location only used to fulfill orders?

SH: You can test and purchase roll: bikes in all our shops. We continue to see shops as part of the future of roll:, and look for opportunities for growth here as part of our belief in an omnichannel approach. We also know that as retail changes, the needs and expectations that the customers have for our shops also change. It’s exciting to be able to explore what bike shops become, as the traditional uses of square footage for inventory and stock recedes and the opportunity to create new experiences emerge in their place. ECommerce and brick and mortar often get painted in opposition to one another. We believe that we must meet the customers where they prefer to experience our brand, be that online, in store, at home or out on the trail.

PYMNTS: How has the company disrupted or changed the bicycle industry?

SH: I think this approach is allowing us to connect with customers who are not shopping in our industry, and ultimately to grow the customer base by inviting new riders into the community. Underpinning this, our ‘why’ has always been consistent. We want to see more people on bikes because we believe bikes can play a huge role in connecting people and building sustainable, engaged and vibrant communities. That gives us our purpose.

PYMNTS: How does the roll: Perfect Fit concept work? Did you face any challenges in convincing customers they could really create a customized, built-to-order bicycle online?

SH: It takes much of the fear out of buying a bike online, allowing a customer to be excited again. Fit is incredibly important. A bike that’s uncomfortable, or not fit correctly, is one of the main reasons we see people fall out of riding. So we place a lot of emphasis in our business on ensuring that not only are our customers riding the bikes that best suit their needs and lifestyles, but are also correctly fit to them and their riding preferences. In taking this approach online, roll: Perfect Fit lets a customer enter three simple body geometry measurements as part of our online bike builder. It combines with some simple selections on riding preferences, which in turn allows us to calculate the customer’s body geometry to correctly size and set up the contact point position of the new bike. It’s enlightening for our customers.

PYMNTS: What is the online bicycle market like? Do you have any direct competitors in the space?

SH: The space is pretty fragmented right now between companies that operate at the high end catering to existing bike enthusiasts, and companies that offer inexpensive, mass-produced bikes at the other end of the spectrum. We’re seeing that there is a lot of blue sky out there — to attract and to serve customers that don’t see themselves on the traditional cycling spectrum of novice to expert. People who want to ride and are looking for value, great quality, great bikes and a really great experience.

PYMNTS: How does roll: Bicycle Company differentiate itself and stay competitive?

SH: It starts with the bikes. We sweat every detail to make sure that what we offer and what we build is absolutely the best bike in its class and provides the best quality and value available. Then, being able to build those bikes to order and custom fit in 48 hours to suit a customer’s needs and desires is a huge win for people.

PYMNTS: What is your take on the “Warby of X” concept? Do you see direct-to-consumer evolving as sustainable business model?

SH: I believe people look for brands and people that they share common values with, and will stand behind the products and services that they sell. I think that’s also true online and in store, it’s not new. Particularly in categories that are very personal to the customer. Whether it’s glasses, or a mattress, or a bicycle, people want to know you have their back. For us our ‘50 Days to Ride’ program creates that assurance for people. It removes the fear of making a mistake to allows people to be excited about getting back on a bike. That’s a really good thing.

PYMNTS: What’s next for roll: Bicycle Company? Do you have any news or updates you can share?

SH: Stay tuned, we’re just getting started!

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