The road to success could be behind the wheel of a van.

Savvy businesses are hitting the road, rather than waiting for customers to come to them.

Steve McBride knew the future of his historic pottery business could not rely on foot traffic alone.

To find new ways to increase awareness and to engage with the community, the 116-year-old ceramic studio and school purchased a van.

A traveling exhibition space with portable ceramic firing kilns was created that allows artists to bring the Pewabic experience to community festivals and schools.

“This is something we’d been thinking about doing for almost 30 years,” McBride said.

“We knew we needed to customise the interior of the van to reflect our history while also creating a new kind of experience.

“We wanted it to be easy for people to walk through, so Ford’s option for a high roof and easy upfitting made choosing a Transit a no-brainer.”

It’s just one example of a trend being embraced by small businesses and entrepreneurs.

With consumers increasingly valuing scarce free time and commercial real estate prices up six percent year-on-year, savvy merchants have discovered that people want the retail and service industries to come to them, according to Real Capital Analytics.

“This trend sits right at the intersection of craft and convenience,” Ford chief futurist Sheryl Connelly said.

“Clicking a button and getting something shipped to you is something we’re used to, but now we’re quickly moving into ‘Click a button, get a service or get a custom experience.’

“We all saw this start with the food truck trend, but as we shift away from commodity purchasing and toward personalised retail experiences, we’re seeking a more meaningful connection with brands – one that turns commonplace transactions into memorable moments.

“So being able to build out a van to suit that experience is a new way to imagine a brand.”

Businesses are choosing full-size vans to grow their companies rather than investing in stationary brick and mortar locations.

Understanding these new trends and how customers will use their vehicles is one of the reasons Ford has been America’s best-selling commercial van brand for 40 years.

Year-over-year, sales of Transit are up 1.9 percent, but that figure jumps to 5.3 percent for fleets in the one-to-five-vehicle range.

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Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.