REI Maps Out its Digital Journey
Differentiation is the name of the game in today's competitive retail marketplace, Stritzke noted. REI differentiates itself through content and context, using its expertise as outdoor enthusiasts themselves to be able to give customers the type of service they want and need. For example, the retailer has established the REI Outdoor School, a program that offers professional instruction in outdoor activities (e.g., hiking, climbing, snowsports) to outdoor novices as well as seasoned adventurers. The program has helped bring more than 300,000 people nationwide outdoors, Stritzke said.
Emphasis on Mobile
REI views mobile as another engagement opportunity with its customers. It's about identifying those "mobile moments" and finding solutions for them, said Brad Brown, whether they take place in one of its stores, out on a ski slope, on a shopper's couch, etc. REI has a a mobile website, which is currently being replatformed (along with the retailer's desktop site); an iPad app, which it launched this year; iPhone and Android apps; and a snow report app that gives users the latest skiing conditions at their favorite resorts.
Mobile works in synergy with REI's other channels, Brown noted. For example, REI.com is the No. 1 visited website in the retailer's stores (it offers free Wi-Fi in all its stores). In addition, REI's site designers have gone into the company's stores to solicit customer feedback on how the REI mobile experience can be improved.
Our best customers engage with us in both channels, Stritzke added. That's the reason why REI analyzes the digital presence in a market before deciding to put a brick-and-mortar store there.
Personalization Not a Top Priority
While certainly not dismissing the value of personalization, REI sees it as less of a priority than some of its other initiatives, namely building a community of brand loyalists. The nature of its products and how they're used makes REI a brand that fosters a passionate customer base. Engaging and better serving that community with expert advice and service is what the company strives for.