Wiggle: 'UK market is tough, but appetite for cycling is growing'

Multiple award winning online bike retailer Wiggle’s own Martin Talbot, director of marketing, speaks to Jonathon Harker...
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What's it like to be a BikeBiz Award winner?
Different awards mean different things, but winning an award that is voted for from within the industry by peers and competitors is fantastic. It’s important because those who are voting have a professional eye on what is going on and to be considered good at what you do by such a discerning audience is exciting.

In the last 12 months Wiggle also won the Oracle Retail Week Award for Verenti, earned a spot on the Times/Virgin Fast Track 100 and won the Cross Border e-Retail title at the e-Commerce Awards for Excellence. Has that raised the bar of expectation for Wiggle, and do you forsee more award wins in 2011?
It is exciting to win the awards but they were never the objective. The customer is the key for us and always will be. Ultimately success in any market is down to how well you can offer the customer what they want, so range integrity, and our service offer are going to be the areas we continue to focus on in the coming year. However, the awards are a reflection of how well you are doing at serving the customer so by default, now that we have them, we will want to keep them.

Overseas business has been a phenomenal area of growth for Wiggle in 2010 – is that where you expect to continue to see this year, or will growth be more homegrown in 2011?
It is really important to Wiggle to be strongest in the domestic market. We have some really great plans to drive our UK business through 2011, not least through our events programme (we will have over 150,000 people attending our events this year) and our advertising strategy. Overseas is an important aspect of our business, but it does not overshadow the absolute necessity to be strong in the UK.

Are you seeing the effects of the tough economy yet, or is cycling still buoyant?
There is no question that the UK market is very tough. Our customers are not immune to the challenge of the wider economy and we have to be sensitive to that. However, we have had some great successes so far this year. Our events have been massively popular, with the Wiggle Dragon Ride selling out in a matter of hours and the Wiggle Super Series events, like the No Excuses Sportive, going in a matter of days. The appetite for cycling still seems to be growing strongly and Wiggle’s offer and proposition is appealing to more and more customers – which is great news for the industry as a whole and Wiggle in particular.

Can we expect to see any changes to the functionality of the Wiggle site and how have the recent changes been received?
Changing anything on the site when customers are familiar with using functionality in a certain way can be a challenge. However, we engaged with customers every step of the way when we initiated changes last year and this approach has proven to be successful. Because the web is such a dynamic environment change is a necessity. Lots of new functionality becomes available very quickly. Take social media, for example: Facebook has gone from nothing to a global phenomenon in just a few years. So, really, change should be the expectation. We are going to continue to evolve the site over time as our customers increase their demands for enhanced content or functionality. The key challenge for Wiggle is to ensure that we are working on the right things at the right time and that we innovate based on what our customers want.

Is internet retail still vibrant?
Yes, it certainly is. Within the market as a whole broadband penetration is still growing and this delivers a faster more enjoyable customer experience, so internet growth will be driven in part by an expanding technical infrastructure.
More people are finding a use for the internet in their everyday lives (the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is 55-65 year-old women) which provides access to potential new customers. And people are spending more time online, according to research. This combination leads to a fast moving and vibrant channel of operation.

What are Wiggle's long-term ambitions?
We would aspire to be famous for the quality of our service and our range authority. We want to be the first stop shop for any consumer who is passionate about cycling in any form, tri-sports and running.

Final cheeky question – any chance Wiggle will open a stand-alone physical retail store like certain other bike online retailers?
You’re right...that is a cheeky question.

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