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Ribble Cycles moves up a gear with video-streaming technology to support omni-channel retail

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels April 4, 2022
The UK cycle retailer has adopted a combined physical and digital approach to customer engagement.


Ribble Cycles is using live video-streaming software from technology specialist Emplifi to reach new customers and boost engagement and sales. The company is using Emplifi ShopStream by Go Instore, which is a one-to-many video-streaming platform that gives the firm’s customers online access to a physical store, a dedicated Ribble expert and its range of products via a phone, tablet, or laptop. 

Matthew Lawson, Chief Digital Officer at Ribble, says the technology is helping the firm, which formed in 1897, to embrace the future of retailing, which is likely to involve a blend of physical and digital channels:

What's brilliant about this approach is that it’s starting to align with the broader trends in the market. When people are online, the lines between entertainment and digital shopping are becoming blurred. We're seeing that move towards a live shopping experience in fast fashion, in makeup, and a little bit in electronics. And, therefore, I needed to think about how we work with that flow and not against it.

Ribble Cycles adopted ShopStream after COVID-19 altered plans for one of its biggest in-person sales events of the year. When they couldn’t get customers together in-store, ShopStream was used to go live online, exceeding usual customer engagement at the in-person show, reaching tens of thousands of additional customers. Lawson explains:

As a business, we're direct-to-consumer – we need to get out to our customers, and we want people to experience the brand. We had the challenge that most businesses faced with lockdown, with events being cancelled. We turned to ShopStream to take what was a physical event and made it digital.

The event was broadcast through the company website, but the content was also pushed out to a wider audience via YouTube and Facebook:

That was a great proof of concept – we managed to reach ten times more people than we would have been able to at the event. We were also able to create an asset that would stick around online and that was helpful. But the live event was only a proof of concept. It worked well, engagement was strong, and the business was happy.

Next steps

Ribble is now using the results of the trial to inform the wider implementation of ShopStream software, including honing the business case for harnessing live video-streaming capabilities as part of the business’ approach to customer engagement. Rather than a “flash-in-the-pan implementation”, Lawson wants the business to use the technology to help the company embrace changes in consumer behaviour and the rise of new channels to market:

This technology provides the capability to sell more bikes to our customers but also to engage with our audience. They can talk back, and we can talk to them. And, by proxy, it gives me a content strategy for TikTok, which I've been struggling to do because we are a premium bike brand and we had to get something right to feed into that channel.

As Ribble’s CDO, Lawson’s dual management role spans both the marketing and technology departments. With a range of responsibilities to cover and a series of targets to hit, he says the ShopStream platform helps him to “tick all kinds of boxes” from content strategies through to social engagement:

Ultimately, what this allows me to do is to talk about the services that we offer. So, it's not just about broadcasting – ShopStream is like the trawler. I'm casting out my net to the audience to see who's out there. But what it will do is it will give me the opportunity to say, ‘let's have a one-to-one where we'll talk about your individual needs’. It draws the customer through a journey that doesn't feel forced.

Although Ribble first used ShopStream at the start of lockdown, Lawson says the company was already investigating the technology prior to the start of the pandemic. He originally considered building some form of video-streaming platform internally, but recognised that  such an approach would involve significant infrastructure and integration challenges. When they went to market, they discovered ShopStream:

The conversations I had with Emplifi were exciting when it came to where they were in their journey. The other reason why I liked the technology was that it was very focused on what it was delivering. It wasn't trying to do all this other stuff as well.

Lawson says the implementation process was “straightforward”. In fact, he estimates it only took half an hour to get the platform up and running. His team completed work on network optimization to ensure the system was given bandwidth priority. He says the business benefits are clear:

Conversion rates for customers are ten times higher when compared to people who don’t join a call. Some things are just easier to sell when you're having a conversation. More importantly, it humanizes the brand. Customers who use this channel go away knowing the first names of every person they've spoken to. That's a winner because I know that they’ll be satisfied, they will tell all their friends, and they’ll come back and use the service again.

Lawson is now exploring how Ribble can continue to make the most of the platform. The company is setting up a regular schedule of live events for customers, where specialists will present the company’s bikes to a global audience through social channels. Lawson says this initiative is representative of his approach to marketing and technology innovation – try something and, if it fails, move on, and learn:

The bread and butter of digital marketing is becoming more saturated. It's getting very noisy, and, therefore, we need to find different ways to cut through. I want to constantly push for something different and try it – and some of it will work, some of it will be an absolute car crash, but you learn from those things and adapt and evolve. And that's what I'm excited about.

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