Virtual Retail: The Technology Redefining In-Store Sales


When Ribble decided to explore virtual retail, the company briefly considered building technical capacity in-house, but quickly decided it made more sense to use Go Instore, then “make it their own.” Smallwood explains.

This led to an approach that Go Instore did not envision when it was created in 2007: Brands wouldn’t want another company’s brand to appear on a widget on their website. “We called it Go Instore because we were hoping people would use it as a verb, but everyone wants to put their own brand on it,” Hordagoda explains. For example, Ribble calls its Go Instore system “Ribble Live”.

Good technology, according to Ribble, was not enough. The first results were “relatively slow,” Smallwood explains. The company found that its traditional store design, with bike racks and cluttered sight lines, was not effective on video. Some star store salespeople were nervous about the video or lacked the finesse to show off the details of the bike favorably on a camera.

“It’s not just about answering a video call and getting the customer to talk,” Smallwood explains.

When the v-commerce widget was located on the main website, Ribble responded to a wave of customer service requests that would have been better handled by non-commercial staff. They moved the Ribble Live widget to where people were browsing the products, and customer service requests decreased.

When the lockdowns started in the US and UK, Ribble saw an increase in sales conversions to the same level as its physical stores – but from around the world, representing a much larger customer base.

Now buyers are more likely to choose Ribble’s custom “bike builder”, which allows them to add accessories to personalize their bike, when using Ribble Live than when they are on the website. It’s an essential part of the selling process, online or offline, for a business whose bikes cost anywhere from $ 2,500 to over $ 10,000.

“The level of bikes we sell is a thoughtful buy, but it’s an emotional buy,” Smallwood explains. “It’s crucial that someone on the road doesn’t have the same bike.

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Wiley C. Thompson

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