Specialized App Uses Mobile Tech to Customize Cyclists’ Rides

Mobile technology is not only changing product design and marketing, it’s literally boosting sales on the floor for some retailers.

Specialized Bicycle Components is using proprietary software and iPads to customize saddle fits for its high-end cycling clientele.
Specialized’s Scott Stroot, manager for integrated technologies, discussed with Open Mobile Media’s Robert Gray how that proprietary technology--the digital sitbone device—has put sales in high gear.
 
OMM: This system uses your own software, a connected measuring device, and an iPad to measure a person for a bicycle saddle. How has that changed the way you sell seats?
Stroot:The one thing we had to measure people’s sit bones was a piece of memory foam. All retailers have them—customers sit on a piece of foam, hop up and then we find the center indentations where your sit bones dig into the foam.
Now when the rider comes in, sits on the device, it syncs to an iPad 3 or later, they answer a few questions about themselves such as how often they’ll be riding, and they see real-time feedback on the digital device.
We never knew for sure how many of the sit bones were hitting the foam. You hit capture, the person stands up and sits down one more time, if the saddle width is within 5 millimeters you’re done; but if there’s more variance the software has you do a third sit down.
The final step is product recommendations for saddles.
 
OMM: And for those who don’t know. Spending large amounts of time on a bicycle seat can lead to health problems.
Stroot: There’s an increased chance of ED (erectile dysfunction) and some cancers.
Another problem for men and women is sitting on soft tissue; if they’re not supported by sit bones, sitting on soft tissue increases discomfort.
 
OMM: The digital sitbone device is not only quicker and more accurate than the memory foam for customers, but you contend it helps bike shop owners as well. How so?
Stroot: It captures an email address for the retailer; they can connect over a digital level, which many hadn’t been able to. They can track which employees are selling the product best.
As a brand we learn a lot: which saddle is recommended most helps us to stock them. Others are geographical preferences.
For rider and retailer to customize to person’s bodies needs helps. In terms of increased margin, it doesn’t increase margin in of itself, but it gives rider a ton more confidence in it. We see strong correlation in increased saddle sales when retailer has the digital sitbone device and iPad.
 
OMM: How is the digital fitting changing your relationship with customers?
Stroot: That was a major reason we did it in the first place. We wanted to make sure that anything we did made for a better experience for customers, retailers and the brand. A rider can log in and see their data via a “passport” as well as an email with their overall stats.
Plus retailers are capturing that information and can reach out to riders. If a new saddle comes out, they can say it’s in stock based on your measurements; it could be good for you.
We see increased engagement from retailers in that way. Retailers have responded well to the sitbone device and iPad.
They can see which employees are using the product and selling it. It’s an opportunity for management to talk about how process is going and coach and close on more sales. For the brand with all this data we can reach out to these riders and tell them about new products. We have been a little bit cautious; we have great relationship with retailers so we want them to own some of that. We try to leave
We’ll likely grow that relationship with time.
 
OMM: The system launched in the US a little over a year ago. How’s the uptake?
Stroot:  The uptake has been really good. It rolled out globally around Christmas/early January. We now collect 500 to 600 sessions per week. That’s exponentially taken off.
 
OMM: Is the digital sitbone device on the iOS platform only?
Stroot: No, we only have certain amount of bandwidth, and wanted to reach the biggest audience and with the best experience. We believe the iPad gives the best experience; the simplicity of building for iOS, versus all the android platforms out there. We looked into it and told retailers: “You’re going to have to buy an iPad.”
 
OMM: Is this changing the way you design and build bikes in any other ways?
Stroot: We look at this as a first step in a much-bigger process in getting towards the ability to prescribe saddles rather than recommend saddles. We’re in the mist of saddle study work with medical professionals.
This type of digital capture could find its way into other parts of the bike but we’re focused on perfecting the saddle portion. The early feedback is compelling to understand the best shape and size of saddle for riders.
The other piece is how somebody sits on the bike is pretty important, when we measure your sitbone width we want to understand more when you’re on the bike and leaning over in a triathlon, how does that change your aerodynamic position? You might learn you need to be on a different shaped saddle.