Mission Bicycle: The Bike Startup
I recently stumbled upon the Mission Bicycle website after chatting a bit with the company’s owner, Zack Rosen. I moved to the Mission this month and I quickly learned that Zack’s company had serious bike-cred in San Francisco, which is saying a lot since it’s a bike-oriented city, to say the least. Zack still has a hand in the Mission Bicycle, despite just closing a Series A for his Drupal development startup, Pantheon.
I was in the market for a solid city bike so Zack invited me to stop by the shop to scope out their operation. I stopped by without any intention of making any sort of purchase that day but needless to say, an hour later, Zack and I had meticulously picked out every part needed for a fully custom-built bike. I pulled the trigger and the bike is currently in the queue to be built.
I left the shop with serious respect for the Mission Bicycle team for providing an exciting, technical, and painless experience. I also left the shop with a new hope for the future of brick and mortar commerce. I think it is fair to say that Mission Bicycle is the Apple Store of bike shops. They value design, customer service, and from what I’ve gathered, Mission Bicycle customers are fanatical about their bikes. How do they garner so much fandom? They clearly run Mission Bicycles like a startup, valuing design, service, and to top it off, a rockstar e-commerce platform built on top of Drupal, which I’m sure uses a well-tailored set of funnels to ensure the online bike building process is exactly what the customer wants and needs.
Here is what I think every brick and mortar store should value, whether they are selling soap, furniture, bikes, iPads, or anything really:
Your product is a thing of beauty. You’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into it from concept to shelf. Why not show it to your customers in the most effective, aesthetically pleasing way possible? A/B test your storefront, your shelving, displays, it’ll probably make more of a difference than you think. In the case of Mission Bicycles, the customers that go into the shop to build their bike rather than build it online, likely value that extra personal touch of face-time with the staff and the culture of the store. Make the “UI/UX” of the shop consistent to the online shopping experience but definitely give the customer that extra personal attention. Mission Bicycle did exactly that.
The bike-building process at Mission Bicycles may seem intimidating to an amateur cyclist. What the hell is a Technoglide headset? This process is akin to building a new Macbook – my parents, for example, don’t really understand what an SSD is. Both Apple and Mission Bicycles guide the customer through the customization process, explaining every singe little part of the product and its function. Customization is important. You cannot assume that your customer might not want something because they don’t know what it is.
Providing insanely good customer service seems obvious, especially in the age of Zappos and Apple. However, it’s also easy to overlook service. Bi-Rite Market, the famed Mission neighborhood grocer, understands customer service like no other in their cohort. It’s an easy cop out to hire cheap labor, especially as a grocery store. Bi-Rite didn’t build their reputation with careless hiring practices. In fact, I often leave the little store wondering if they hire sommeliers and cheese connoisseurs. They probably do and that makes me much more likely to purchase anything there. Customer service is probably the most important investment that any brick and mortar store could ever make.
I have no experience working or running a brick and mortar store of any kind but I know that Mission Bicycles is an exemplary model that should be followed by all. I am extremely excited to see and ride my bike and I don’t mind waiting over a month for it to be built. They even let you build the bike with them in their warehouse, if you’re getting antsy. Awesome? Yeah, I thought so. Anyway, my praise for Mission Bicycles is over. Next time, I will be sure to post pictures of this impending work of art.