Sonder | How community drives business performance at one global retailer
Rapha Cycling is a global retailer showing how building community isn’t just a nice-to-do marketing initiative. Community drives their business performance.
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How community drives business performance at one global retailer

How community drives business performance at one global retailer

Rapha cycling is a compelling model for the future of retail. They’ve been hailed by some as an example of how bricks n clicks retailers can deliver an emotive and engaging experience. Mary Portas, retail legend and star of the British TV show Queen of Shops has pointed to Rapha as just this.

If you’re not familiar with the lycra-wearing bike fraternity, Rapha make cycling clothes. They’re considered a new kind of luxury brand that brings a dose of form to an industry otherwise obsessed with function. From an owned media perspective, unsurprisingly, they are leading the pack (or rather, the peloton). Through their ecosystem, they are propagating a genuine sense of community amongst customers and, in so doing, delivering substantial business growth. The ecosystem they have created for themselves and their partners is nothing short of impressive…  

Stores: Yes, the product is beautifully displayed, yes, the sales staff are painfully cool and all experienced riders and, yes, they serve coffee and food for the hungry, caffeine starved rider. But, the stores are more than retail locations. They’re clubhouses for the Rapha Cycling Club.

Clubhouse: The 23 stores globally serve as the hub for the Rapha Cycling Club. Members can go on regular local rides, purchase club member-only kit, partake in social events, attend presentations and use the global network of club houses (stores) when travelling. There are also mobile club houses and pop-up club houses.

Website: The shopping online experience is just as exceptional as the instore experience. With stunning product photography, detailed reviews from customers, Q&A with a representative and of course all the detail you would want to know when it comes to selecting the right garment for you.

Content: The amount of content available on their website is extraordinary both in terms of volume and quality. Videos, podcasts, photography, diaries, ride guides, interviews, long read articles, guides for beginners, manuals and how-to’s. All of it carefully curated and tailored to their customer.

Travel: A big aspect of cycling now is travelling to legendary cycling routes such as the French Pyrenees or the Italian Dolomites. Rapha organise group tours across the globe for their customers to experience some of the best riding on the planet.

Email: Rapha appear to have found the magical mixture of compelling content and meaningful offers with their email program. The content comes through in a relevant and timely way and covers all facets of their content program (art, travel, manuals, guides etc.). The offer discounts are only emailed when they’re significant (i.e. 25% or more off).

The overall effect of this ecosystem is community. Rapha has gone above and beyond to create a cycling community. And community sells – the business has been growing at 30% per annum since 2004, when Simon Mottram, CEO, founded the business. He sums-up this fusion of community and business performance nicely with:

“We’re selling experiences. Sometimes that is symbolised by a product, but it can also be hanging out in a Cycle Club or taking a Rapha Travel trip to an amazing mountain somewhere. We’re selling cycling itself, not the stuff that goes with it.”

And therein lies the secret code to creating a magnetic owned media ecosystem. Use owned media to build the niche or the category you’re in rather than just overtly trying to sell more stuff.