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Interview with CDO: Matthew Lawson (chief digital officer, Ribble cycles

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Interview with CDO: Matthew Lawson (chief digital officer, Ribble cycles

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This year marks the 125th anniversary of Ribble Cycles. The company is one of the most established brands in cycling ,. It has evolved from being a maker of custom steel frames in Victorian times to today’s direct-to-consumer premium bike brand.

Now, the firm is embarking on its next major change programme – and this initiative is all about a digital transformation. It’s led by Matthew Lawson, chief digital officer at Ribble, who joined the company in 2016. Having previously worked at Loveholidays.com and AO.com, he’s using his e-commerce experience to take Ribble on the next stage of its journey.

” My professional career was largely in pure retail. Many of the businesses that I worked in involved selling products you don’t see often. Ribble, a DTC brand, and manufacturer, added a new dimension to this challenge,” he said, before describing the broad nature his role.

” I oversee all marketing and technology in the company. As a result, I have the opportunity to create a brand and an experience or journey that is as exceptional as the products we sell .”

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Leading business change

Lawson has two major benefits from the chance to lead digital transformation at Ribble. He is a keen cyclist. Second, he’s relishing the opportunity to help the company’s IT and marketing professionals move the business into fresh data-enabled areas.

” I love my job. It’s exciting to see my teams deliver new things, and deliver transformation and change. He says that no matter where you are in the journey, there is always a new transformation.”

” Ribble was a family-owned business when I joined it. Analytics data could be viewed from a top-level perspective by looking at monthly accounts. This was as detailed as they were and as precise as they could be. Since my arrival, we have been able transform into a digital-first company that is based on data and the customer .

“Culturally and ideologically, the thing I drive is autonomy within the team. I encourage people to make mistakes, because if you’re making mistakes, at least you’re trying and championing ideas”

Matthew Lawson, Ribble Cycles

The tech-led transformation Lawson has led so far has been remarkable. When he joined Ribble in 2016, he inherited a very basic digital platform that consisted of little more than a website and a range of supporting infrastructural elements. Although the company was a success, Ribble realized that it could do more for its customers.

” We could see a huge opportunity with the brand, and the products,” Lawson says. “My job was simply to take advantage of this opportunity. It was my responsibility to create a team capable of that transformation. That’s my biggest achievement. My greatest pride is in the team that delivered our digital platform .”

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Exploiting the cloud

Lawson has a dual role that combines marketing and technology. This is a sign of digital leadership’s changing nature. Modern digital leaders need to be more than just concerned about IT operations. They must embrace data and content in order to create personalised offers that keep customers satisfied and engaged.

At Ribble Lawson is responsible to all aspects of marketing. This includes TV advertising and content production as well as communications and sponsorships. He also interacts with external influencers and the racing teams. Lawson ensures that these diverse areas are closely monitored using appropriate technology tools such as systems to analyse marketing performance and monitor on-site metrics.

” This process is about understanding the customer journey and delivering an optimal experience that matches their needs through customization and personalisation.” he said.

Lawson ties this strong grip on marketing to its cloud-based infrastructure. He oversees the transition from Amazon Web Services to Google Cloud. This is described as being faster, more efficient, and cheaper. He says that this perspective allows for a greater flexibility and is more in line with the applications he’s delivering.

Lawson, like other digital leaders has increased his reliance on cloud computing during the coronavirus epidemic. He supported the migration of office workers to home working through the adoption of key cloud applications, such as Microsoft 365 and Teams. Staff should also be able to use cloud-based services remotely and securely to connect to the enterprise network.

” There’s a lot of work to do,” Lawson says, reflecting on his wide-ranging responsibilities and role. It is important to realize that I am not responsible for every area. How I manage my team is key to my success in delivering great results in these diverse areas .”

Empowering talented professionals

Lawson believes that giving people the freedom to make their own decisions is the key to his team-leadership approach. He recognizes the potential for his team to create game-changing ideas, and he makes sure they have the freedom to do so.

“We were able to transform what was a website into an entire digital experience that spans into physical showrooms.”
Matthew Lawson, Ribble Cycles

” I believe autonomy is the key to success in the team, both culturally and ideologically. He says that he encourages people to make mistakes because it shows that they are trying new ideas and making mistakes.

” The best ideas are often the ones they come up with. Let’s bring more of their ideas to the table. My job is to help them navigate the maze and remove any obstacles.

Lawson states that Ribble’s marketing strategy has evolved from a static website to an omni-channel approach. He says, “We were able to transform what was a website into an entire digital experience that extends into the physical showrooms.”

” People walk into our showroom and interact with our website. They talk about it and keep it in their minds. That’s something that I’m proud of. Fundamentally, however, that success is based on the team that was able to deliver it .”

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Boosting customer engagement

One of the key projects that enabled the company to shift to an Omni-channel approach was the implementation of one-to-many streaming video platforms.

Ribble is using Emplifi ShopStream by Go Instore to give customers online access to a physical store, a dedicated Ribble expert and its range of products via a phone, tablet or laptop. Lawson says the company turned to ShopStream during Covid-19, when lockdown altered plans for one of its biggest in-person sales events of the year.

” We had all the bikes and were ready to go. But we knew that we couldn’t.” he said. “But we also knew that we wanted to offer an experience to our customers so we used ShopStream to broadcast it. We didn’t just broadcast it to our website; we also shared it with Facebook .”

and YouTube.

Lawson said the event was a great example of proof-of-concept. Ribble reached 10 times more people than it would have been able to at an in-person event. Ribble also created a digital asset that can be used in future marketing campaigns. This success means Lawson and his colleagues are now creating the business case for using live video streaming capabilities to boost customer engagement.

” What we are trying to find is “what’s the Future?” It’s not about a one-off flash in the pan, as many people could do it. He says that ShopStream is a broad strategy and that changes in consumer behavior are being considered. Then he explains how technology will be integrated into his long-term digital marketing plans.

” We are currently setting up a schedule for Ribble and customers. It will include a daily cycle through the bikes at seven o’clock every day. We are reaching out to our customers through our website as well as TikTok and Instagram. It’s allowing us to check loads of boxes, including content strategies and social engagement

Improving personalisation and customisation

Lawson is always looking for ways to improve Ribble’s digital strategy. The company uses Magento’s e-commerce platform and aims to create improved personalisation options for customers, particularly when it comes to BikeBuilder, which is Ribble’s online tool for helping users to customise cycles before purchase.

” We’re trying make it easier,” he said. “There is a lot of intelligence under the hood. We are looking to improve BikeBuilder’s agility and enhance BikeBuilder. So instead of the team having to manage 200 to 300 bike set-ups, it’s tens of set-ups and then the website does the work. We are looking to add more logic and reasoning to the background

Lawson states that the goal is to provide a “super-fast and optimal experience for the customer”. He plans to add 3D visualisations to Ribble’s digital experience and enhance the level of personalization to make it more relevant to customers’ needs.

” When we created BikeBuilder we looked for inspiration outside of our industry. Nobody does what we do. Computer games were a big inspiration for us. Now, BikeBuilder is a bit like the car racing game Gran Turismo, where you can change some elements in the garage and leave other elements alone,” he says.

“It is all about finding ways to add things to the shopping experience to make it easier, quicker, and more enjoyable for the customer who is using the site to shop. We are currently going through a complete platform change. The new platform will allow us to do more once it is there .”

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Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro are getting a built-in VPN at no extra cost

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Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro are getting a built-in VPN at no extra cost
Google Pixel 7 Pro hands on front Snow



(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Users of the Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro devices will be able to secure their data without the need to pay for an additional Android VPN after the company said it would be including its Google One VPN service at no extra cost. 

The move will make the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro the first smartphones to include a free VPN connection. 

The offer is restricted to just some countries, though – and what’s more, some data won’t be secured inside the VPN tunnel.  

Peace of mind when you connect online ✨Later this year, #Pixel7 and 7 Pro will be the only phones with a VPN by Google One—at no extra cost.¹#MadeByGoogle¹See image for more info pic.twitter.com/P7lzyoMdekOctober 6, 2022

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Google Pixel 7 VPN

Despite the aforementioned limits, the big tech giant assures that the VPN software won’t associate users’ app and browsing data with users’ accounts. 

Google One VPN typically costs around $10 per month as part of the company’s Premium One plan, which also comes with a 2TB of cloud storage on top. 

This decision is the latest move to bring Google’s mobile data security to the next level. Not too long ago, the company made Google One VPN available also for iOS devices, and also introduced the option of having an always-on VPN across its latest smartphones. 

Google promises that its secure VPN software will shield your phone against hackers on unsecure networks, like public Wi-Fi. It will also hide your IP address so that third parties won’t be able to track your location.

Shorter for virtual private network, a VPN is exactly the tool you want to shield your sensitive data as it masks your real location and encrypts all your data in transit. Beside privacy, it can allow you to bypass geo-restrictions and other online blocks. 

Chiara is a multimedia journalist, with a special eye for latest trends and issues in cybersecurity. She is a Staff Writer at Future with a focus on VPNs. She mainly writes news and features about data privacy, online censorship and digital rights for TechRadar, Tom’s Guide and T3. With a passion for digital storytelling in all its forms, she also loves photography, video making and podcasting. Originally from Milan in Italy, she is now based in Bristol, UK, since 2018.

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The Steam Deck dock is finally here and will ship faster than you think

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The Steam Deck dock is finally here and will ship faster than you think
a steam deck placed in a steam deck dock



(Image credit: Valve)

After months of waiting and delays, Valve has finally announced that the Steam Deck dock is available for purchase on its official site.

Not only that but, according to Valve, the dock will ship out in an incredibly fast one to two weeks, which pairs with the fact that the Steam Deck itself is now shipping with no wait time (not to mention that it’s incredibly easy to set up). The port selection is pretty solid as well, with the dock featuring three USB-A 3.1 gen 1 ports, one Ethernet port, a DisplayPort 1.4, and an HDMI 2.0 port. And for its power supply, it uses a USB-C passthrough delivery.

A Steam Deck dock will run you $90 (around £81 / AU$140), which is a bit steeper than most third-party options on the market right now. But for those waiting it out for an official product until now, price most likely will not be an issue.

Is it worth buying? 

Considering that even Steam Decks themselves are shipping without a queue and that the dock has such a quick turnaround to delivery, it seems that the supply chain issues that had been gripping Valve are loosening considerably.

However, the deck itself is far from perfect. Because of the fact that it uses USB-C for the display port, a third-party USB-C dock that uses its own power supply and video out will output the display of the official dock. 

And as mentioned before, the price of the official Steam Deck dock is steeper than many third-party options on the market, meaning that those who are on a budget might pass this product up in favor of a lower-priced one.

There are also some bugs that Valve is working on fixing at this time, including one involving compatibility with LG displays. According to the FAQ, if the “Docking Station is connected via HDMI, sleep/wake can result in visual noise.”

It might be worth waiting for Valve to work out the kinks of its dock before investing in one. And while you’re waiting, research other options that might better suit your needs.

Allisa has been freelancing at TechRadar for nine months before joining as a Computing Staff Writer. She mainly covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, and does reviews and featured articles for the site. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.

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Why doesn’t Bash’s `set -e` do what I expected?

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Why doesn’t set -e (or set -o errexit, or trap ERR) do what I expected?

set -e was an attempt to add “automatic error detection” to the shell. Its goal was to cause the shell to abort any time an error occurred, so you don’t have to put || exit 1 after each important command. This does not work well in practice.

The goal of automatic error detection is a noble one, but it requires the ability to tell when an error actually occurred. In modern high-level languages, most tasks are performed by using the language’s builtin commands or features. The language knows whether (for example) you tried to divide by zero, or open a file that you can’t open, and so on. It can take action based on this knowledge.

But in the shell, most of the tasks you actually care about are done by external programs. The shell can’t tell whether an external program encountered something that it considers an error — and even if it could, it wouldn’t know whether the error is an important one, worthy of aborting the entire program, or whether it should carry on.

The only information conveyed to the shell by the external program is an exit status — by convention, 0 for success, and non-zero for “some kind of error”. The developers of the original Bourne shell decided that they would create a feature that would allow the shell to check the exit status of every command that it runs, and abort if one of them returns non-zero. Thus, set -e was born.

But many commands return non-zero even when there wasn’t an error. For example,

if [ -d /foo ]; then ...; else ...; fi

If the directory doesn’t exist, the [ command returns non-zero. Clearly we don’t want to abort when that happens — our script wants to handle that in the else part. So the shell implementors made a bunch of special rules, like “commands that are part of an if test are immune”, and “commands in a pipeline, other than the last one, are immune”.

These rules are extremely convoluted, and they still fail to catch even some remarkably simple cases. Even worse, the rules change from one Bash version to another, as Bash attempts to track the extremely slippery POSIX definition of this “feature”. When a SubShell is involved, it gets worse still — the behavior changes depending on whether Bash is invoked in POSIX mode. Another wiki has a page that covers this in more detail. Be sure to check the caveats.

A reference comparing behavior across various historical shells also exists.

Story time

Consider this allegory, originally posted to bug-bash:

Once upon a time, a man with a dirty lab coat and long, uncombed hair
showed up at the town police station, demanding to see the chief of
police.  "I've done it!" he exclaimed.  "I've built the perfect
criminal-catching robot!"

The police chief was skeptical, but decided that it might be worth
the time to see what the man had invented.  Also, he secretly thought,
it might be a somewhat unwise move to completely alienate the mad
scientist and his army of hunter robots.

So, the man explained to the police chief how his invention could tell
the difference between a criminal and law-abiding citizen using a
series of heuristics.  "It's especially good at spotting recently
escaped prisoners!" he said.  "Guaranteed non-lethal restraints!"

Frowning and increasingly skeptical, the police chief nevertheless
allowed the man to demonstrate one robot for a week.  They decided that
the robot should patrol around the jail.  Sure enough, there was a
jailbreak a few days later, and an inmate digging up through the
ground outside of the prison facility was grabbed by the robot and
carried back inside the prison.

The surprised police chief allowed the robot to patrol a wider area.
The next day, the chief received an angry call from the zookeeper.
It seems the robot had cut through the bars of one of the animal cages,
grabbed the animal, and delivered it to the prison.

The chief confronted the robot's inventor, who asked what animal it
was.  "A zebra," replied the police chief.  The man slapped his head and
exclaimed, "Curses!  It was fooled by the black and white stripes!
I shall have to recalibrate!"  And so the man set about rewriting the
robot's code.  Black and white stripes would indicate an escaped
inmate UNLESS the inmate had more than two legs.  Then it should be
left alone.

The robot was redeployed with the updated code, and seemed to be
operating well enough for a few days.  Then on Saturday, a mob of
children in soccer clothing, followed by their parents, descended
on the police station.  After the chaos subsided, the chief was told
that the robot had absconded with the referee right in the middle of
a soccer game.

Scowling, the chief reported this to the scientist, who performed a
second calibration.  Black and white stripes would indicate an escaped
inmate UNLESS the inmate had more than two legs OR had a whistle on
a necklace.

Despite the second calibration, the police chief declared that the robot
would no longer be allowed to operate in his town.  However, the news
of the robot had spread, and requests from many larger cities were
pouring in.  The inventor made dozens more robots, and shipped them off
to eager police stations around the nation.  Every time a robot grabbed
something that wasn't an escaped inmate, the scientist was consulted,
and the robot was recalibrated.

Unfortunately, the inventor was just one man, and he didn't have the
time or the resources to recalibrate EVERY robot whenever one of them
went awry.  The robot in Shangri-La was recalibrated not to grab a
grave-digger working on a cold winter night while wearing a ski mask,
and the robot in Xanadu was recalibrated not to capture a black and
white television set that showed a movie about a prison break, and so
on.  But the robot in Xanadu would still grab grave-diggers with ski
masks (which it turns out was not common due to Xanadu's warmer climate),
and the robot in Shangri-La was still a menace to old televisions (of
which there were very few, the people of Shangri-La being on the average
more wealthy than those of Xanadu).

So, after a few years, there were different revisions of the
criminal-catching robot in most of the major cities.  In some places,
a clever criminal could avoid capture by wearing a whistle on a string
around the neck.  In others, one would be well-advised not to wear orange
clothing in certain rural areas, no matter how close to the Harvest
Festival it was, unless one also wore the traditional black triangular
eye-paint of the Pumpkin King.

Many people thought, "This is lunacy!"  But others thought the robots
did more good than harm, all things considered, and so in some places
the robots are used, while in other places they are shunned.

The end.

Exercises

Or, “so you think set -e is OK, huh?”

Exercise 1: why doesn’t this example print anything?

   1 
   2 set -e
   3 i=0
   4 let i++
   5 echo "i is $i"

Exercise 2: why does this one sometimes appear to work? In which versions of bash does it work, and in which versions does it fail?

   1 
   2 set -e
   3 i=0
   4 ((i++))
   5 echo "i is $i"

Exercise 3: why aren’t these two scripts identical?

   1 
   2 set -e
   3 test -d nosuchdir && echo no dir
   4 echo survived
   1 
   2 set -e
   3 f() { test -d nosuchdir && echo no dir; }
   4 f
   5 echo survived

Exercise 4: why aren’t these two scripts identical?

   1 set -e
   2 f() { test -d nosuchdir && echo no dir; }
   3 f
   4 echo survived
   1 set -e
   2 f() { if test -d nosuchdir; then echo no dir; fi; }
   3 f
   4 echo survived

Exercise 5: under what conditions will this fail?

   1 set -e
   2 read -r foo < configfile

(Answers)

But wait, there’s more!

Even if you use expr(1) (which we do not recommend — use arithmetic expressions instead), you still run into the same problem:

   1 set -e
   2 foo=$(expr 1 - 1)
   3 
   4 echo survived

Subshells from command substitution unset set -e, however (unless inherit_errexit is set with Bash 4.4):

   1 set -e
   2 foo=$(expr 1 - 1; true)
   3 
   4 echo survived

Note that set -e is not unset for commands that are run asynchronously, for example with process substitution:

   1 set -e
   2 mapfile foo < <(true; echo foo)
   3 echo ${foo[-1]} 
   4 mapfile foo < <(false; echo foo)
   5 echo ${foo[-1]} 

Another pitfall associated with set -e occurs when you use commands that look like assignments but aren’t, such as export, declare, typeset or local.

   1 set -e
   2 f() { local var=$(somecommand that fails); }
   3 f    
   4 
   5 g() { local var; var=$(somecommand that fails); }
   6 g    

In function f, the exit status of somecommand is discarded. It won’t trigger the set -e because the exit status of local masks it (the assignment to the variable succeeds, so local returns status 0). In function g, the set -e is triggered because it uses a real assignment which returns the exit status of somecommand.

A particularly dangerous pitfall with set -e is combining functions with conditionals. The following snippets will not behave the same way:

   1 set -e
   2 f() { false; echo "This won't run, right?"; }
   3 f
   4 echo survived
   1 set -e
   2 f() { false; echo "This won't run, right?"; }
   3 if f; then  
   4     echo survived
   5 fi

As soon as a function is used as a conditional (in a list or with a conditional test or loop) set -e stops being applied within the function. This may not only cause code to unexpectedly start executing in the function but also change its return status!

Using Process substitution, the exit code is also discarded as it is not visible from the main script:

   1 set -e
   2 cat <(somecommand that fails)
   3 echo survived

Using a pipe makes no difference, as only the rightmost process is considered:

   1 set -e
   2 somecommand that fails | cat -
   3 echo survived

set -o pipefail is a workaround by returning the exit code of the first failed process:

   1 set -e -o pipefail
   2 failcmd1 | failcmd2 | cat -
   3 
   4 echo survived

though with pipefail in effect, code like this will sometimes cause an error, depending on whether the output of somecmd exceeds the size of the pipe buffer or not:

   1 set -e -o pipefail
   2 somecmd | head -n1
   3 
   4 echo survived

So-called strict mode

In the mid 2010s, some people decided that the combination of set -e, set -u and set -o pipefail should be used by default in all new shell scripts. They call this unofficial bash strict mode, and they claim that it “makes many classes of subtle bugs impossible” and that if you follow this policy, you will “spend much less time debugging, and also avoid having unexpected complications in production”.

As we’ve already seen in the exercises above, these claims are dubious at best. The behavior of set -e is quite unpredictable. If you choose to use it, you will have to be hyper-aware of all the false positives that can cause it to trigger, and work around them by “marking” every line that’s allowed to fail with something like ||true.

Conclusions

GreyCat‘s personal recommendation is simple: don’t use set -e. Add your own error checking instead.

rking’s personal recommendation is to go ahead and use set -e, but beware of possible gotchas. It has useful semantics, so to exclude it from the toolbox is to give into FUD.

geirha’s personal recommendation is to handle errors properly and not rely on the unreliable set -e.

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