Built-to-order products delivered via the internet will be commonplace before this decade is out. Shoes, jeans, computers (think Dell), and furniture will all be made to order with the slightest peccadillo being catered for. Oh, and most top-end bikes will be made this way too.

Marketing to the segment of one

Mass-market customisation is the way forward for many trades. Shoes, for instance, could be customised to an individuals exacting specifications. The sizing and speccing could take place in a shoe shop but the order would be sent straight to the manufacturer via the internet.

This is a theme BikeBiz has touched upon in pretty much every issue so far. Voodoo have dabbled in customisation, Dawes want to get big in it but to see one possible future for top-end bikes check out the Made To Order Bikes website (www.mtob.com)

This is consumer-direct, cutting out the retailer, but theres no reason why top-end suppliers couldnt offer this service for their IBDs.

The Derby Cycling Corporation website (www.bikeshop.com) is being trialled at the moment to see if Derbys US bike brands Raleigh, Univega and Diamondback can be delivered efficiently to consumers for collection at their local bike shop. Its only being trialled in California to date but may be rolled out US-wide by March and will eventually include some form of consumer customisation.

The new Dawes website (www.dawes.com) will also offer customer customisation. Dawes belatedly is taking the internet seriously. Their new and flash on-bike graphics come complete with www.dawes.com, a nice touch.

This should make it easy for IBDs to fire up the site for customers and get them to self-select their ideal bike. As well as component choice, customers can choose frame colours too. There are eight base models in the custom select range, including tandems.

But its www.mtob.com which is stealing a march on everybody else. Customers can choose a frame from a large variety of top-end frame makers and can then select from a database of thousands of components, updated monthly. As the customer makes their selections, Made-To-Order Bikes’ configurator automatically screens out components from the next category that are not compatible with previous selections.

The site is mainly aimed at existing enthusiasts. In the FAQ section theres this question: How cycle-savvy should I be to order from you?

Very, is the answer, but for newcomers, the site recommends scoping out a few IBDs first (the good ones may be able to capture the sale?):

To build a bicycle that is right for you, you need to have an understanding of a few dozen component variables. Most of these variables are straightforward, some are not. You don’t have to be a grease-under-the-fingernails gearhead but it helps to be a well-read affectionado (or have a friend that fits one of these descriptions). If this is your first bicycle, a local dealer with a good track record would be your best bet.

Less techy consumers will be frightened by this next FAQ:

Where do I go for warranty service?

For warranty service relating to a component or frame defect, you should contact a local authorized dealer or the manufacturer directly. MTOB can assist you in contacting the manufacturer.

Made-To-Order Bikes was founded in 1998 by Jon Poland. He has a background with the Dell Computer Corporation, the world’s leading direct computer systems company. Poland, a cyclist, was frustrated with what he saw as a lack of choice in the bicycle retailing market and he decided to use the Dell model for his start-up business.

According to an email we received from Alex Birch, one of the authors of The Age of E-tail conquering the new world of electronic shopping (Capstone, £15.99), marketing to the segment of one is going to be big business:

"The internet gives very specialised manufacturers a reach far beyond what they could achieve previously. To successfully exploit this it will be very important for these companies to build strong word of mouse recommendation and endorsement by experts and other users, probably via online communities of interest among cyclists.

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