Retailers in the outdoor sector have offered their customers product-focused, functional store environments complemented by email led marketing for some time now. While effective on some fronts, these tactics can often fail to engage and inspire customers.

Whilst there are some examples of engaging brand experiences in the sector, such as Cotswold Outdoors’ recent team up with climber Leo Houlding, and the North Face’s mountain athletics training programme(which includes both online and instore training sessions for customers preparing for the winter ski season), outdoor brands often lag behind their fitness and activewear counterparts.

Nike has built a loyal following by selling an aspirational dream in its marketing, which it now follows up with engaging in-store environments, Nike+ training app and running clubs. Similarly, Lululemon attributes its success to a ‘grassroots’ and community-led approach to customer experience, which is supported by a network of store level brand ambassadors who deliver instore fitness classes and bring the customer one step closer to the aspirational lifestyle the brand tempts them with.

Premium British cycle brand Rapha, which sells its products through a network of cycle clubhouses, provides a further example of how this can be achieved.  Rapha’s clubhouse stores are located across the US, Japan and Europe and include permanent, pop-up and mobile locations, aiming to create ‘the ultimate hangout for people who love the sport’. Stores stream live race events, offer quality coffee and organise weekly cycle rides, whilst experiential features such as a product testing vault found in the Spitalfields store reinforce Rapha’s quality credentials. This has helped create a community of loyal brand advocates who then use Rapha’s online forum to share opinions and experiences, often advising each other on which Rapha’s products to buy.

We believe there is an opportunity in the outdoor sector to bring the consumer closer to the lifestyle that brands and retailers are selling, through more engaging store environments and brand experiences. However, such investment is only worthwhile if supported by an appropriate product assortment and range architecture, to ensure there is an outlet for consumers’ increased enthusiasm to spend.

Charlotte Lamnea