Outdoor Industry Marketing Must: Improve Your Online Presence.
Public interest with the outdoors is fading faster than Caitlyn Jenner being best known for winning gold at the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Fewer people are getting outside these days, interest pirated by the two-dimensional attractions (or distractions, depending on point of view) of computer screens.
Even the Boy Scouts, the mainstays of outdoor introduction, now offer a computer merit badge. Boy scouts used to be known for helping old women across the street. Now they’re known for helping old women download YouTube videos.
The numbers don’t lie:
- In 2015 skier numbers in North America fell 5%.
- Over the last two decades participation in outdoor activities has declined annually by 1%.
- According to the Nature Conservancy only 10% of teenagers between the ages 13-18 spend any time outdoors, blaming bugs and heat.
Stagnant dirtbag numbers don’t bode well for those in the outdoor industry. Especially with the industry’s core demographic – white baby boomers – beginning to slow with age.
Yet, despite this lack of public interest, the time could not be better for ramping up your company’s online presence. For just as Warren Buffet buys when everyone else sells, your online marketing efforts should expand while the competition takes time to assess and plot.
Don’t Think Like a Retailer, Think Like an Entertainer
Outdoor people are adrenaline junkies. They’re lives are premised on experiences. It’s this type of thinking that should go into your online presence by making selling secondary to edu-tainment.
Engage your customers with mind-grabbing photos, how-to videos and stories from those in the backcountry. The more authentic the better.
REI understands this better than most. Go to its landing page (www.rei.com) and upon first glance it’s more of a magazine than an online retail store. How-to videos tile the page. Barely is there a hint of “buy this.”
Compare this to Gander Mountain’s website: www.gandermountain.com (with all due respect, Gander Mountain is a high-five outdoor retailer, we’re just not fans of its website). It reads, feels and looks like an advertisement.
REI’s website has the aura of a community cabin, people sharing wild tales before a booming fire in a fieldstone fireplace, while some sensitive-type in the corner strums Ripple on an acoustic guitar. Whereas Gander Mountain’s page harbors all of the appeal of a DMV waiting area decorated with plastic plants and faded seat belt safety posters.
REI’s website is a place you want to hang, revisit, and share with friends. This, in turn, is the essence of today’s online marketing: let your followers become your marketers via word-of-mouth. And this is achieved only by thinking edu-tainment first, retailing second.
Not surprisingly, despite the diminishing number of outdoor participants, REI’s sales jumped 10% last year, growing faster than Wal-Mart and Target.
Lesson: Content is king. Make it shareable by making it interesting and engaging.