Rapha shifts gears to a tech stack that unites customers from the comfort of their own homes
Monolithic ecommerce platform was rigid, costly and maintenance heavy
Lacked unified storage for mobile and web content assets
Technology shortfalls prevented expanded context from reaching RCC app users
A composable content platform unifies content across all digital landscape
A modular structure promotes consistency in design and messaging
Localization features streamlines tailoring content to specific regions
A reliable CDN supports high traffic during collaborative product drops
A rich app ecosystem allows quick integration with Rapha’s wider technology stack
Speed of development allows for a quick time to market
“We always look for ways to weave content and commerce together in a way that tells the story of our products, ensure pages load quickly, and that they're easy to navigate. We want our customers to shop smoothly and seamlessly.”
“As a technology product owner, I have no idea when content is added, edited or published. I open the app and there's new content — it's fantastic.”
“It's very rare that I have to resolve issues with our content team. They seem very happy with Contentful. Apart from the initial setup of the content types, there’s very little involvement for development, which is how it should be really.”
In 2004, Rapha set off on a mission to make the world's finest cycling clothing, a feat they’ve achieved and then some. Boasting comfort, performance, and style, their garments are sported by cyclists whizzing through crowded New York City streets and touring country roads in the South of France. The brand has built more than a name for itself, however. It built one of the largest global cycling communities, the Rapha Cycling Club.
Comprised of over 20,000 cyclists from around the globe, Rapha Cycling Club is something of a hybrid — one-part recreation club, one-part loyalty program. The mark of a true member is having the RCC app downloaded on your phone. With it, club members get early access to product drops, entry to exclusive cycling events, and discounted coffee at Rapha’s 21 clubhouses and partner cafes — much of which disappeared with the arrival of Covid-19.
Suddenly RCC members began dusting off their stationary bikes and coffee pots. Interestingly enough, they also began visiting the RCC app more often, not less — likely looking for connection amid isolation.
Rapha saw an opportunity to introduce product listings and editorial content on the app. Until then, Rapha mainly stuck to showcasing new gear, product guides, athlete bios, and editorial pieces on its website and via social media. As Rapha designers began building prototypes to support this motion, they noticed they were missing a tool that would be key to success — a content solution.
Riding away with new mobile features
Not just any platform would do, however. The company had a clear vision for the capabilities they needed now and those they’d like to be available in the future. “We were looking for ease of use for our Content and Development teams, global reach to serve our members with minimal latency, an app ecosystem to streamline integrations, and an ability to build our own integrations,” shared Rapha Head of Mobile Tom Hutchison. Once the company saw that Contentful Composable Content Platform could deliver on these “musts,” it was time for the rubber to meet the road.
Rapha challenged two developers to build out the content models and integrate them with the existing RCC app tech stack. Once those two steps were complete, localization followed. In ten weeks, the project, labeled “Highlights,” launched. It was met with overwhelming, quantifiable success. Rapha saw growth in nearly every area of user engagement. There were more new users, returning users accessed the app with greater frequency, and browsing sessions were longer across both parties.
Switching lanes to a more flexible architecture
The platform’s early success, ease of use, deep extensibility, and integration capabilities, convinced Rapha to adopt it more widely. It's currently in the process of integrating Contentful with its ecommerce website — which everyone on the team is excited about. The new platform will replace the brand’s old ecommerce platform, which was inflexible, costly, high-maintenance, and outdated.
This larger transition to Contentful will usher in a new era of flexibility, with the platform’s composable, headless architecture being the star. “We’d like to build out a modular system for our pages which allows teams to mix and match components based on a number of factors. Editors can craft pages on their own to a certain extent, while developers will get a consistent, testable, and structured UI system that doesn’t balloon when we want to configure a new layout,” shared Rapha Technology Director Ben Bodien.
Rapha developers are devoting a good deal of time and attention to the transition, and for good reason. Their perfectly planned and carefully executed content models will support a more user-friendly site and the brand’s larger goal of creating state-of-the-art experiences for engaged global customers. But the benefits the transition will bring will be worth the wait. The platform will unify and streamline brand design and messaging, support high traffic during collaborative product releases, extend to connect with new tools, and flex to address new business needs.
“We’ve run two different wings of our commerce business quite separately: online and offline,” said Ben. “Contentful will become a single resource that feeds content to both of those channels so we don’t have to optimize and serve content in these spaces separately.”
Mixing and matching apps
With the re-platforming of the website still in its early stages, developers are strategizing what will be included in the stack and how to connect it. As of right now, Contentful will link up with the brand’s product information management (PIM) system and enterprise resource planning (ERP) system via GraphQL — light lifts due to Contentful's API-first nature. From there, developers will integrate the brand’s go-to, purpose-built tools: translations.com for localization, Google Analytics for data, Exponea for email marketing, and Optimizely or VWO for A/B testing and optimization. Because many of these tools are featured in Contentful’s App Marketplace, Rapha developers won’t have to spend much time integrating them — the process is straightforward and quick.
Eventually, Rapha developers hope to create an extension capable of pulling in SKUs and product details from content housed in its PIM and ERP. When built, this feature will eliminate the need for content creators to transcribe SKUs from outside of Contentful, increasing productivity and reducing the risk of errors making it to the site.
Developers feel confident they’ll have success with the custom app, as the mobile team built something similar for the Highlights launch. “We have a bespoke internal platform that hosts data on our rides and events. When we introduced Contentful, we built an app that lets users pull data from that platform into a content type. From there, rides can be featured in the 'Highlights' of our mobile app — which is really nice,” shared Tom.
Looking beyond the finish line
Once Rapha’s new site is up and running, they’ll have the bandwidth to consider how else their new platform can serve the company and its customer base. If Ben and Tom had to guess what their next endeavor with Contentful would be, they’d say extending localized content efforts beyond its current eight languages. Along with optimizing the site for future digital channels, whether that means wearables, smart assistants, or something entirely new.