How Evans Cycles makes in-store experience count in a digital world

A photograph of an Evans Cycles outlet in Stricklandgate, Kendal.

Photograph by Kenneth Allan, made available under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Evans Cycles has been selling bicycles since 1921, and has had a presence online since 1999. Although 30% of the business is now digital, in-store experience is still an extremely important part of the brand.

At Internet Retailing Expo 2016, Multichannel Programme Head Will Lockie talked about the ways that Evans Cycles provides a stellar in-store experience for customers, while also making sure it works seamlessly with their online presence, making sure that each provides customers with a service they can’t get elsewhere.

Here are some of the key ways that Evans Cycles is making the most of in-store experience in a digital world.

Providing great customer service

Customers today have ever higher expectations when it comes to customer service, said Lockie; whether for a showroom experience or simply coming to collect an order. For that reason, Evans Cycles has gone to lengths to make sure that customers receive excellent service when they come into the store.

For instance, each store has a dedicated ‘setup zone’ where a customer can be fitted to their bike. This is the kind of specialist service that customers really appreciate, and which you can’t get online; it is available to customers whether they bought their bike in the shop or used the online click and collect service.

Providing advice and recommendations, both online and in-store, are key for enthusiast customers – that is, cycling hobbyists who might not know exactly what they want from the outset. For customers who know what they want, Evans Cycles provides an element of self-service, which then frees up their representatives to spend more time helping enthusiast customers.

A picture of a serious cyclist in the middle of a bike ride, wearing a helmet and sunglasses with Evans Cycles-branded lycra. THe number 787 is attached to the front of his bike.Photo by Andy Carter, made available via CC BY 2.0

The company has also put a great deal of thought into showroom layout, so that the physical experience of entering the store is as good as it can be. Lockie stated that it is important to keep some “theatre” in the store layout, with aspirational items to inspire people as they walk around. Each shop floor is designed to resemble a shed environment, making it functional and also immersive.

Wherever possible, Evans Cycles has tried to remove the barriers to the shopping experience to make it easy to shop. They make sure that each store is easy to navigate with no huge queues, that the layout and navigation is consistent across ranges, and that items customers want can be located promptly.

Click & Collect

The ‘buy online, collect in store’ or ‘click and collect’ model is on the rise, and home delivery is on the decline, according to Lockie. This trend saves the business money on delivery while also giving customers an incentive to come to the store, and Evans Cycles has made it a core part of their business.

A photograph showing the wall of a Selfridge's, painted yellow with a huge cursor-style hand pointing to the right. Large text reads, Click & Collect, next day delivery in store'.‘Click and collect’ is a rising trend in ecommerce, while home delivery is on the decline
Photo by Elliott Brown, made available via CC BY-SA 2.0

They offer their dedicated bike fitting service to customers who have bought their bike online and opted to click and collect. This gives the store visit much more of a purpose and leaves the customer feeling satisfied and looked after.

Visits to the store can also trigger thinking from customers about what else they might need to buy (and which Evans Cycles makes sure to stock), and gives them the opportunity to ask any niggling questions they might have, whether they’re related to the purchase or not.

Unique offers

Evans Cycles has also created a number of unique offers that give customers an incentive to buy a bike from them and not another retailer. They have made sure that these work equally well for online and offline customers, so that all types of customer can enjoy the benefits.

A banner from Evans Cycles' website advertising the "Great Evans Cycles Trade In", with a picture of a rusted bike that only has one wheel, jokingly named the Shed Dweller 2000.

The best of these is ‘The Great Evans Cycles Trade-In’, an ongoing deal which gives customers up to £500 off the purchase of a new bike if they trade in their “old banger”. This campaign, said Lockie, works on several levels: it incentivises people to come in-store, and also to buy with the brand; it solves a problem for customers (getting rid of a rusty, old bike) and gives them just the ‘nudge’ they might need to upgrade to a brand-new model.

It isn’t restricted to in-store customers, either: customers can easily buy an eligible bike online, enter the discount code to get money off, then collect the purchase in store and trade in their old bike at the same time.

Another ongoing deal is the ‘Right Bike Guarantee’, in which Evans Cycles will provide a 30-day exchange on any bike, even if the customer has ridden it, with no questions asked.

Evans Cycles has also expanded into selling spaces on cycle rides, which take place up and down the country. Each ride has a difficulty rating out of 5, with routes of varying lengths, and children can take part for free. Again, the rides are available to both in-store and online customers.

A screencap from Evans Cycles' website offering places on a cycle ride 'The HOY 100 Sportive', level of difficulty 4 out of 5.

Key takeaways

There are challenges involved in trying to deliver a consistently good experience both online and offline, and Evans Cycles has done its best to meet each one. Here are some of the lessons that the company has taken away from the process:

  1. Do the basics well. At base, the company has tried to make sure that they provide a good, comprehensive service for cyclists who want to buy a new bike (and additional equipment). It’s important not to get lost in creating gimmicks and forget to provide an excellent core experience.
  2. Be distinctive. Evans Cycles looked at what they could provide that was unique, that would motivate customers to buy with their brand and not another. Successful deals such as the “old banger” trade-in then came from this thought process.
  3. Be pragmatic. There are lots of things that they can do, but not all of them are right for the customers and their purchase path. Doing things at scale, and doing them consistently, is also a challenge.
  4. Technology can only go so far. “It’s an enabler for sure,” said Lockie, “but you have to identify what the customer’s issues are and how you’re going to solve them.” Technology can aid in that, but it won’t be able to achieve everything, and can sometimes create more problems than it solves.
  5. Stores and people are the business’s greatest assets.
  6. Avoid the race to the bottom. Providing the cheapest service doesn’t always mean providing a quality service, and so Evans Cycles has been determined to avoid the “race to the bottom”, instead focusing on giving customers value for money and providing a service they can’t get just anywhere.

Related reading