I was introduced to Zack Rosen, CEO of Mission Bicycle a few months ago at an evening event at the Adaptive Path offices. A mutual acquaintance had suggested we talk given our interests in bicycles and user experience. I had already heard about Mission Bicycle’s innovative model of selling fixed gear bikes online and was intrigued to hear about the company’s next step: opening up a retail shop that would challenge pretty much every convention in bicycle retail. What Zack wanted to do was exactly in line with a few ideas that I had with some friends while in grad school.
As we talked the idea of a collaboration between Mission Bicycle and Adaptive Path began to take shape. Zack had plans for the shop’s interior design, but the experience of the retail environment was still missing. The goal was to design a simple retail experience that would help customers assemble their perfect, custom bike. Some of the fundamental questions that needed to be answered were:
- How do you showcase and sell a great but complex product in a constrained environment?
- How do you create a space that extends and supports other brand experiences?
- How do you sell in-store if you’ve only sold online?
It was something that I had wanted to work on for ages. The only hook? It was the middle of April and the shop was set to open in less than a month. The design would have to be ready almost immediately to be in place for the store’s opening. In less than 13 business days, Adaptive Path created display system signage that helps customers build their ideal bike. Rachel Glaves and I developed the concept together, and Rachel handled all the production work, which was no small task.
The time constraints required us to take an iterative approach to the project: The process was light and fast and required trade-offs between getting far and going deep. Fortunately, we were able to work with the entire Mission Bicycle retail team including business folks, architects, mechanics, web and graphic designers to make it happen. The process involved:
- 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 our studio
In the end we came up with a four-part system to help customers spec out their bike: instructions, wall and table mounted displays and a build kit.
The shop looks amazing. They sold 5 bikes during their first weekend. Here’s a video of Rachel walking through the experience.
We put together a little case study with more detail about the design of the experience, including how each concept progressed from rough sketches to installation.
About the Mission Bicycle Project
Mission Bicycle was started in 2008 as a online side business of web development consultancy Chapter Three. With strong initial sales, Mission Bicycle looked to open a flagship retail space in the Mission District of San Francisco and secured a lease on 766 Valencia St. in February 2009. With three months to open the store, Mission Bicycle partnered with Grayscale to design the interior space and Adaptive Path to develop product selection and purchase experience and signage system. The store opened in May 2009 resulting in a 50%+ net increase in bicycle sales for the company.