Gallivant: Delivering a ‘brand arcade’

Online cycling service Gallivant launched back in March, delivering a ‘brand arcade’ to highlight interesting innovative products that may be going unnoticed. James Groves caught up with co-founder Chris Gomez to find out more about the site’s ambitions

Can you give us a little background on Gallivant? What inspired the idea?
The idea of came when I was at bicycle show Spin in 2017 with my commuter accessories brand, Dry Patch. Ben Silcox, Gallivant’s other co-founder, was helping me out at the show and remarked that of all the small businesses exhibiting at Spin, he hadn’t heard of any of them. Further conversations with the founders of those businesses shed light on the fact that they all found it very hard to ‘get found’.

The budget a small brand needs to spend on marketing to really have any impact is very high – too high for most small businesses. Having spent our careers in media and marketing, we soon deduced that cash was being burnt on marketing that probably wasn’t doing a great deal for them. Often these brands either didn’t want to or were unable to be taken on by any of the large retail or e-commerce players. As a result, many of these wonderful designs weren’t seeing the light of day.

After almost a year of stewing on the idea of a marketplace that not only supported these smaller companies but also could become a community for ‘normal cyclists’, we decided to put it to the test. We put together a piece of research that asked the question: ‘If we build it, would you come, what would you want to see and how would you use it?’ This was distributed throughout the UK via ICM Unlimited. The response was very much positive, so we decided to go for it.

What unique services does Gallivant provide?
Our community is all about discovery. Whether that is discovering a festival nearby that you can cycle to with your family, discovering a new route to work or discovering a new brand that you had no idea existed. For us, it’s key that our brands have a story to tell. We know that people want to engage more with brands, and we hope we will be providing a platform to tell their story and showcase their products being kickstarted into the mass market.

We will never just sell a helmet. We sell the story behind that helmet – the journey the creator has been on to get to this point and link relevant content to that helmet whenever possible. We want people to come to Gallivant and find something that they didn’t even know they were looking for. And for that reason, they want to come back again and again.

What sets Gallivant apart from similar platforms?
We have coined the term Pedal Speed. We think life is better at Pedal Speed. Pedal Speed is the speed that is just right for you whether you’re a daily cycle commuter or a once a month adventurer. We know there are a lot of websites for cyclists and the cycling community out there. Whilst Gallivant is a place for all cyclists, we want to make it a place that particularly inspires normal cyclists. The some eight million or so people that say they cycle occasionally. If we can provide those people with the ideas, inspiration and kit to cycle more, then we have done our job.

How do you go about supporting IBDs?
As we have mentioned, the idea is to support growth, not only of sales but also of brand engagement. Gallivant allows the brand to tell their story and encourage engagement, not simply by selling products, but with video, written content and brand imagery across all the brand pages. Through a membership fee, we create a central marketing fund that allows us to buy media at scale – which means benefitting from greater discounts and better deals on media.

We also have a central PR function that spreads the Gallivant story and will also include brand launches and stories. And, perhaps most importantly, our marketing strategy is about finding new audiences. Not the traditional top-level cycling audience and not the generalised eBay, Etsy, Notonthehighstreet audience, but a targeted lifestyle and bicycle focused audience.

We’re pulling together a number of different kinds of content that makes the site feel like a magazine. We have the To Do list, which will provide lists both monthly and general things to do on your bicycle. We have the Stories section which will be populated with stories about inspirational people and inspirational things on bicycles.

We have the Real Reviews section where a cast of regular reviewers will talk about the new products and brands we bring on board. And finally, we have the My Ride section where we feature our users’ stories of why they cycle, what they get out of it, what they’ve experienced while riding. It is a genuine old school blog page, if you like, where people can share, discuss and comment. We have some big plans in the offing to create a more real, physical community as well.

How does Gallivant go about selecting the brands it showcases?
Many of the brands we have on the marketplace now are people I have met along the way with my brand, Dry Patch, at shows and fairs. We also proactively search out brands, typically looking on Instagram, Facebook, etc. We’ll make contact with them, tell them what we’re all about and ask them about their story.

We then look at whether the products are of the quality we would be happy to use. If both those fit with our values of discovery, participation, opportunity and identity then we start building their brand on the Gallivant marketplace. What is incredibly pleasing for us is that we are already being approached by brands to see what we are doing and want to be part of it. That’s a great feeling.

We believe that with factors like climate change, the state of the economy, a generally better understanding of health, mental health matters and the pressure of family life, that the bicycle can play a massive role in all of these. What we want to do is get more people cycling a little further through inspirational content, wonderful products and a sense of community.

There are a lot of bicycle website and communities about. But they tend, on the whole, to represent the cycling niches. There are around nine million people who cycle in the UK. The vast majority of them only cycle occasionally and Gallivant is about providing a community for those people. We hope to help them find their Pedal Speed.

How have your partners/customers reacted to the new website?

Overwhelming positively! We feel we have a site that really reflects what we are trying to do. As with any new website, we have a lot of development still to do and as we learn more about what our customers and the brands want, how they interact with the site and as we generate more content the site will change and evolve. What was always important for us was that it didn’t feel like every other bicycle e-commerce site and we absolutely feel like we have achieved that.

With the launch now behind you, what’s next for Gallivant in 2019 and beyond?
Of course, we want to bring more and more wonderful independent brands into the Gallivant community. Beyond that and the general development and evolution of the site that will come with learnings, we plan to introduce some really cool tech to the site that we can’t actually talk about (which I appreciate sounds a bit over the top but it’s top secret).

We will be launching a number of social campaigns including organising local rides for families and creating a central hub for people to find their local cycle mechanics so supporting that side of the independent bicycle-based businesses. And our long term aim is to host seasonal Gallivant events – where a show for our independent brand partners will meet a festival environment.

Right now it’s about focusing on making the best community-based e-commerce platform it can possibly be and inspiring people to roam further on their bicycles.

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