This August, Tom Flierl, VP of Marketing & Business Strategy at Hanson Dodge Creative, hosted a pair of Outdoor University Educational Sessions at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015 in Salt Lake City. The first, Redistributed Commerce: Overcoming the Fragmentation of Shopping, outlined trends in consumer shopping behavior and provided strategies for omnichannel success. The second, The Future of Shopping: Digital Commerce Trends and Strategies, provided insights on how brands and retailers can inspire consumers and grow together in a rapidly evolving digital world.
Below, Tom answers a series of follow-up questions related to his two sessions and his experience at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015.
1. How does the outdoor industry compare to other industries when it comes to digital commerce? How has it evolved in recent years?
Over the past couple of years, a lot of brands have evolved to accept that e-commerce is part of the overall customer experience. Two areas where I see that the outdoor industry has room for growth are 1) overall online engagement and 2) understanding the Millennial audience. The overall digital maturity model for the outdoor industry seems to be behind other industries. We see companies that have shopping cart e-commerce websites, but they don't necessarily have SEO-optimized content or a strategy for engaging consumers online. The other hot topic with multiple companies was the importance of the Millennial audience. The outdoor industry is not prepared for how Millennials consume information, shop and participate in activities.
2. Can you elaborate on the importance of marrying e-commerce and content?
So much search is driven by content, whether it's “how to” articles, information on products or brand-related content, yet the majority of the e-commerce sites are still product, product, product. They are online catalogs with some content hosted on separate blogs. Brands are missing an opportunity to create one seamless experience and tie content to customer journey.
To learn more about how to grow e-commerce through content, check out our recent article on the topic.
3. Your session, The Future of Shopping, promised to answer the question of how brands and retailers can partner to create an incredible customer experience. Given the move toward e-commerce, how should brands and retailers partner going forward?
The main challenge of the outdoor is industry is that the majority of retailers, aside from REI and other big box retailers, are independent retailers. This means that the ability to share inventory and create an omnichannel experience for consumers is difficult due to the distributed nature of the industry. Recent innovations in cloud-based order management systems allow retailers and brands to share inventory down to the shopping cart level on brand sites. This allows the consumer to find a retailer where a product is in stock and either buy it online and pick it up in the store or visit the store and try it on before making the purchase.
For this to be successful it is crucial for retailers to have updated inventory and point of sales (POS) systems and a willingness to share inventory in cloud-based management systems.
4. How is social commerce disrupting traditional online shopping, specifically as it relates to the outdoor industry?
I don't know that social commerce has disrupted the outdoor industry specifically. However it is a matter of time before this becomes relevant as Millennials become the largest demographic and the industry becomes more dependent upon them for growth. Social is a large part of the overall customer journey for Millennials and provides the opportunity to disrupt traditional online channels like Amazon with younger audiences.
5. So what actions should brands take to capitalize on the growth of social commerce?
Have a segmentation strategy. The way that millennials consume information, shop and buy is different than Gen-X or Baby Boomers. It's more about understanding the customer journey by customer segment, and by demographic and psychographic.
6. What about belief-based branding? How does a brand's belief system play into digital commerce?
Belief-based brands typically have greater following and greater consumer advocacy than brands that focus purely on product performance. This means greater organic search volume and greater social engagement.
7. How do you know if your brand truly qualifies as a “belief-based brand”?
I'm sure everybody believes that they're a belief-based brand. The truth shows up in the data, and it shows up in how companies market. Companies that talk about product performance first and foremost but have cool creative may think that they have a belief-based brand. But it doesn't necessarily mean that consumers align with their belief system or that consumers even identify that the brand has a belief system.
8. You mean touting waterproof jackets isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd?
No. That’s like saying, “Our hamburgers are hot. Buy them.”
9. What does the future of outdoor industry shopping hold? Any bold predictions?
The opportunity is creating a seamless customer experience from online to in-store.