According to Forbes, about 50% of the U.S. population participates in outdoor activities every year, and approximately 20% of the population is active outdoors twice a week or more.
This outdoor activity generates a tremendous industry of gear and services. From brands like REI to independent specialty retailers of bike, climb, paddle and ski gear, it’s hard for outdoor retailers to stand out from the rest. But savvy retailers are succeeding at setting themselves apart from the competition.
Read on for pro tips on how you can too:
1. Find Your Niche
Being a gear retailer in a place that’s saturated with gear shops, isn’t easy. But Outdoors Geek stands out from the rest of the gear shops in Denver, Colorado, by shipping rental camping and backpacking gear to customers nationwide—a service that helps people get outdoors and find adventure without dropping a lot of cash.
Customers can order gently-used tents, backpacks, sleeping pads and bags and kayaks for a fraction of the cost of buying. Alternatively, they can rent a variety of camping and backpacking packages—bundles of items that are tailored to different types of adventure. If customers loved their experience and the gear, they can buy that same gear and apply the rental fee toward their purchase.
“Some of the biggest hurdles for people wanting to seek outdoor adventure are cost, convenience and lack of experience. And Outdoors Geek removes all of these hurdles.”
Outdoors Geek also offers glamour camping (glamping) products and services. They specialize in outfitting large glamping events like weddings, music festivals, and corporate gatherings. The outdoor retailer can service events that require anywhere from one safari-style or bell tent to hundreds of them, as well as provide a crew to set up the glamping village.
“The key to small business success is finding and choosing a niche. By doing that, you can avoid one of the most common mistakes business owners make: of going too broad with their store’s products and market appeal.”
Source: Woo Commerce
2. Sell a Lifestyle
Outdoor apparel brands like Patagonia excel at retaining a loyal customer base and a huge social media presence This is due, in part, because they’re pros when it comes to promoting a lifestyle along with their products. Revered worldwide, Patagonia interweaves adventure and conservation stories in their marketing campaigns.
When you create a lifestyle that’s associated with your brand, your followers will feel as though they’re part of an exclusive club, elevating the perceived value of your business and helping you attract more customers and drive sales.
What’s more, you can take advantage of user-generated content to promote your brand lifestyle.
Source: Action Rideshop via Facebook
Sharing your followers’ outdoor pictures on social media is an extremely effective way to engage your fans and influence new and existing customers. In fact, Offerpop states that 85% of consumers find visual user-generated content more influential than brand videos and photos.
3. Adopt a Mobile First Approach
“For those Small businesses willing to embrace a mobile-first mindset– and shed the antiquated desktop approach – the chances of competing against the big dogs just got easier,” says The Business Journal.
“You’re looking for your people to be productive; you’re trying to streamline your processes; and you’re trying to become more competitive. Mobility should be considered a key strategy to enable the priorities you have in your business.”
Source: The Business Journal
Plus, if you’re marketing to people who enjoy being outside, these adventure enthusiasts are less likely to spend a lot of time in front of their desktop searching for products. Chances are, they’ll be browsing their smartphones—from whereever they are—in search of the latest outdoor gear.
To cater to your target market, make sure your website and other software platforms are designed for mobile so you can give them a seamless shopping experience on the go.
4. Leverage Technology to Drive Foot Traffic
Today’s consumer researches online prior to visiting a store to make a purchase.
If a customer drops by your store and the item they saw online isn’t in stock, they’re not going to be very happy—especially if they needed that item for an upcoming camping trip.
That’s why businesses with perpetually updated inventory management systems—made possible with cloud-based POS platforms—will have an advantage over stores with less reliable inventory software. In addition to streamlining the inventory process, it ensures that inventory items on a brand’s website are represented in real time.
When customers know that the products they see on your website are accurate, they’ll be more likely to visit your store and make a purchase. This helps build trust and drive more foot traffic.
5. Deliver a Seamless Shopping Experience
“In the age of the empowered customer, people expect and demand a seamless journey across all shopping channels,” says Vision Critical.
Whether you are engaging customers via mobile or desktop, your brand must deliver a consistent online shopping experience.
“Customers no longer tolerate fragmented engagement across different channels.”
Source: Vision Critical
Today, customers have more choices than ever. If you want to gain a competitive advantage and increase loyalty, your customers’ needs must be at the heart of everything you do. The easier you make the path to purchase, the more consumers will want to shop with you, driving more sales for your store.
Plus, when you provide a smooth online shopping experience, your customers are more likely to recommend your store to others, which helps you increase your customer base.
To ensure that your outdoor gear shop thrives for years to come, identify what makes your business unique from the competition and capitalize on it. Instead of focusing on products, sell a lifestyle that truly engages customers and encourages social interaction.
Put the needs of your target audience first, leveraging technology to provide them with a seamless shopping experience across all platforms, which will lead to buyer confidence, customer loyalty, and increased revenue.
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