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Outdoor | Sales | GrowingRolf Schmid, Michael Rupp, Richard Cotter and Stefan Reisinger
September 2014

Growing outdoor sales

in tough times

Despite growth in the outdoor market, trading conditions are not easy. Several experts gave advice on how to grow sales during the OutDoor Show in Friedrichshafen, reports CARIN HARDISTY

The fact that the outdoor market is growing in value and volume does not mean everything is easy for the trade, cautions Mark Held, general secretary of the European Outdoor Group (EOG).

“Brands and retailers continue to face major challenges, such as competition from other channels and regions in the world, some quite saturated markets, tougher regulations and high consumer expectations. All of these factors add up to create a highly competitive environment that continuously challenges established processes,” he says.

The European outdoor market has become established and is starting to mature. This isn't a bad thing, points out Michael Rupp, CEO of Jack Wolfskin. “Dynamics are merely going to have to change.” Generally, brands wish to grow more than the market can offer them — also not a bad thing he says, as this leads to increased competition in the market.

The outdoor market is not just about the products. There are emotions connected to being outside in nature. It has a special meaning to the participant, says Rupp.

Emotional connection

“It's a business for the heart,” adds Rolf Schmid, EOG president and Mammut Sports Group CEO. “We're not in the outdoor industry to make lots of money. We're in it because we love the outdoors.”

Make your imagery on outdoor products fun, says Snow & Rock CEO Richard Cotter. Use imagery that will appeal to people who do not as yet participate in that activity. Show people enjoying themselves, as opposed to showing people experiencing pain.

In order to succeed in the outdoor market, you need to be someone who is both smart and enjoys participating in the outdoors, warns Rupp. “Just being an outdoor enthusiast isn't going to cut it and your business won't work.”

Small retailers need to be very focused on what they offer and how they offer these. “Be distinct or become extinct,” warns Cotter.

Common in online and brick

“With all this talk of online, online, online, we must remember that brick-and-mortar stores are still relevant,” reminds Steven Cook of Edenspiekermann, a brand management company. During his talk on The Future of Retail, he shared four trends that are common across both forms of retail.

  • Customer first: Look at your customers' habits and provide them with what they are looking for.
  • User experience: Create an experience.
  • Connect with your customers. Create a community-feeling around your store. Give people more of a reason to go to your store than just to buy products.
  • Believe in technology: An online retailer can make use of technology to see who clicks on what or where on the site.
  • There are also various options for a brick-and-mortar store to make use of technology, such as personalised push notifications when a customer is near your store, measure foot traffic, electronic or moving displays, touchscreens, RFID chips that can read people's preferences and display content specific suggestions to the consumer, etc.

  • Invest in content: Customers want to hear your story and what you have to say. But they also want you to hear their stories. You have to earn their attention. Cook suggests creating a narrative that follows your customers. “The lines between commerce and entertainment have become blurred.”
  • Multi-channel

    The balance of power has switched from the retailer to the consumer, says Cotter. Consumers now want to dictate how they want to shop and how much they want to pay.

    “The consumer wants what he wants, when he wants it, how he wants it,” says Cotter. The industry has to start looking at multi-channels in order to service the customer better.

    It's not possible anymore to specify that one channel is more important than another, says Cotter. “Consumers use so many channels: mobile, internet, brick-and-mortar stores, etc.”

    You should make use of the power of online to engage with the consumer, he adds.

    “Consumers are, however, easily distracted. All the media is overwhelming. Brands and retailers need to think about the contents that they deliver,” says Cook.

    “It's not enough to have an online presence,” explains Cook. “You need to create a consistent experience and message across all your channels, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.”

    Invest in content

    Not only retailers would benefit from investing in content … brands do too, says Cook. He has the following tips for creating content and telling the story:

  • Be empathetic: Understand your customers and talk to them.
  • Be memorable: Get people talking about you.
  • Be ahead of the rest: Make use of technol- ogy to better deliver services, for example.
  • Be a story teller: Tell your and others' stories. But remember, these stories have to be authentic.
  • “Think about content as a long-term narrative,” says Cook. “You need follow-up stories, an agenda, and you need to know where you are going.”

    The time lapse and manner of receiving the online order is also very important to the consumer, Cotter points out. He gave the example of the retail chain Marks and Spencers who recently reported that this year Christmas they expect that for the first time more online buyers will choose to pick up their orders themselves from a brick-and-mortar store, instead of receiving a delivery.

    “It's all about convenience,” says Cotter. “People aren't always available to receive a delivery, but they can usually quickly pop into their selected store during their lunch time and pick up the ready order.”

    People also don't want to wait the extra days for deliveries to arrive. “They want it now, or at least the next day,” says Cotter.


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