The Experience Of A Bicycle Built By You

The Tour de France just ended and the Pan Mass Challenge, a huge event where people raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute by biking across Massachusetts, was held this past weekend. So biking is in the air.

That’s probably why an email from Peter Merholz, President of Adaptive Path,  caught my eye. He sent me a link to a blog post about work that his firm is doing with a bike store in San Francisco. It turns out that Mission Bicycle Company was selling fixed gear bikes online, but decided to open a retail store where customers could easily assemble their own custom bikes.

But “easily” is not something that’s easy to accomplish — especially when Adaptive Path had less than 2 weeks to design the in-store experience.

Despite a HEAVILY time-constrained project, Adaptive Path followed a user-centric approach:

  • Interviewing cyclists to understand their needs and expectations of a custom bike retail experience
  • Clearly articulating the Mission Bikes process in a way that aligned with cyclists’ needs and expectations
  • Sketching and generating experience concepts quickly
  • Prototyping the experience design concepts in their studio

The final store design (which is very cool) was based on 4 components: Instructions, Wall Mount Displays, Table Displays, and Build Kits. ap_mb_system1-1023x514

Here’s what Zack Rosen, CEO of Mission Bicycle Company, told me about his new bicycle shop:

The visceral experience of being in our store surrounded by beautiful bicycles and parts laid out like artwork was what made the sales system and process work. If our customers are excited by the prospects of designing a custom bicycle they will happily go through the process Adaptive Path careful designed.

It’s worth taking a look at the case study they pulled together on the effort. It shows the evolution from sketches, to designs, to implementations. For example, this is how the Table Display evolved:


The bottom line: There’s always time for good user-centric design

Brands Are Dying; Deal With It

In my presentation at Adaptive Path’s Mx Conference earlier this week, I mentioned that brands are dying. This turned out to have more of an impact than I thought. Helen Walters from BusinessWeek (who was in the audience) ended up interviewing me and posting a video of our conversation on her blog.

Why did I say it?

I often discuss Experience-Based Differentiation (EBD), a blueprint for customer experience excellence, in my blog (and in every other forum where people will listen). In my research, I track how large companies progress towards EBD. It turns out that they’ve actually regressed when it comes to the second principle of EBD: “Reinforce the brand with every interaction, not just communications.” Here’s one of the data points from surveys of large North American firms:


Why are brands dying?

It’s simple: Companies have let profits replace purpose. As firms optimize left-brain management techniques for squeezing out additional profits, they’ve lost something very important — their raison d’être. True brands are more than just marketing slogans, they’re the fabric that aligns all employees with customers in the pursuit of a common cause.

This quote from Mohatma Gandhi gives insight into how companies should think about their brands:

All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.

The bottom line: Don’t let your brand slip away.

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