The outdoor recreation industry is booming—with COVID-19 inspiring significant participation growth in activities like jogging, hiking, fishing, cycling, and camping. And as the number of outdoor enthusiasts increases, the competition between brands in the space becomes more fierce.
When it comes to eCommerce, today’s consumers expect seamless and engaging experiences from online retailers—and companies that sell outdoor gear are no exception. Your website can be a tool to help tell your brand’s story, as well as encourage people to get out of their homes and experience nature. But a poorly designed website results in a lack of customer engagement, missed revenue opportunities, and a weak digital presence for your brand.
So how can you build and maintain an eCommerce experience that distinguishes your outdoor brand from the rest of its competition? The first step is looking at the best outdoor sites on the web and identifying the similarities between them. In this article, we discuss the top five outdoor websites and highlight the unique qualities that make each of them successful.
Before we get into the examples, let’s go over a few key considerations when designing and developing your outdoor website. A solid eCommerce store—regardless of industry—consists of beautiful design, simple page layouts, mobile optimization, intuitive user navigation, and omnichannel capabilities. Here are some more important tips to keep in mind when building out your site:
All of the best outdoor adventure websites have flexible, enticing policies when it comes to shipping and returns. Some offer free shipping, while others give customers the ability to pick up and return items at physical locations. Most consumers expect free shipping when returning items, along with the ability to exchange items or receive in-store credit.
You’ll want to create a policy that keeps your customers happy, without digging too deep into your bottom line. Wherever your policy ends up landing, make sure it’s transparent and easy to find on the site. If visitors have a hard time locating or understanding your policies for shipping and returns, you may lose those potential customers to a competitor.
Rewards programs—also referred to as loyalty programs—come in many different forms, but the basic idea is to incentivize customers to make repeat purchases. The most common rewards model involves customers earning points on purchases, which can later be redeemed as in-store credit. In other words, the more money you spend, the more free stuff you get in the future.
This strategy—which helps turn one-time buyers into lifelong brand loyalists—is a great fit for outdoor brands, because their customers are constantly in need of replacement gear. When a rewards customer loses, breaks, or grows out of a particular item, they will almost certainly go to your site first to purchase the replacement, since they know that they can get a lower price by redeeming points—or at least earn points for purchases down the line.
Personalization involves presenting curated products and content to specific user personas. For example, if a customer recently viewed or purchased ski boots on your site, you can display product recommendations for ski socks, pants, gloves, helmets, and other related items. You can also send these recommendations via email, or even have them pop up on the user’s social media pages. This is called cross-selling, and it’s a key marketing strategy for eCommerce businesses in the outdoor recreation space.
Of course, implementing personalization functionality into your site requires significant technical work, as well as a true understanding of your target audience—which can be attained through effective data collection, visualization, and analysis.
From blog posts, to infographics, to videos, and podcasts, content is a crucial component to any outdoor eCommerce site. Your brand should always be posting new content to engage with its customers—with the goal of stimulating that feeling that inspires them to be active in the outdoors.
Content is also essential for improving your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). By posting keyword-optimized blog posts and landing pages, you can rank higher in search engines, pay less for advertising, and ultimately attract more users to the site.
While it may seem like a small and inconsequential detail, CTAs can play a huge role in your business’ sales and conversions. Successful outdoor eCommerce sites have prevalent, appealing CTAs that motivate customers to move forward in the buyer journey. To determine which CTAs work best, you can run A/B tests on several different versions, then go with whichever format and messaging is the most effective.
So what are the most popular outdoor websites? And how do they consistently achieve high sales and conversions, low bounce rates, and brand loyalty among their customers? Let’s take a closer look at the top five outdoor gear websites:
In 2020, eCommerce sales for Dick’s Sporting Goods increased by 194%. The business attributes a large part of this success to its adoption of curbside pickup during COVID-19, and it plans on continuing with this trend into the holiday season. Embracing the omnichannel experience, the brand’s site makes it easy for customers to order products, then find nearby store locations where they can pick them up. This is a great example of an outdoor brand recognizing a shift in consumer behavior, then adapting with new processes to gain a competitive advantage.
Backcountry is an online retailer that sells all kinds of outdoor gear from various brands, including Patagonia, The North Face, and YETI. Like all of the best outdoor gear website designs, it has simple navigation, a regularly updated blog, and high-resolution images that help communicate the brand’s story and mission. There’s also a highlighted section in the top bar navigation dedicated to current deals and promotions, such as clearance sales.
Like Backcountry, Moosjaw’s site has simple navigation, lots of visual content, and an emphasis on special sales and offerings. The site sells almost any kind of outdoor gear you can imagine, with the ability to easily choose between different sizes, colors, and other product configurations. But perhaps the most enticing part of Moosejaws’s eCommerce experience is the fact that it offers free shipping, along with the freedom to return items at any point in their lifetime—so long as they’re still in sellable condition.
REI has over 160 brick-and-mortar stores across the US and Canada, allowing the brand to compete against Dick’s with its flexible curbside pick-up option. The site’s home page includes a “top product categories” section, as well as resources to sign up for outdoor experiences, such as cycling classes, camping trips, and other excursions. And for a more personalized experience, the home page displays product favorites from local customers in the user’s specific area. REI also provides free shipping for products over $50, the ability to ship internationally, and the option to return items after one year.
Evo—which primarily sells gear for extreme winter sports like skiing and snowboarding—has a simple site design, complete with a carousel of images related to various products and experiences. On the home page, the brand promises free shipping, no-hassle returns, product sizing guides, and a lowest price guarantee. Also, customers appreciate the “sell-out risk” feature on the site’s product pages, which shows the exact number of available units left for a specific product.
Reviewing the best outdoor sites and identifying similarities between them will help you create a competitive eCommerce experience for your business. However, building an effective website requires significant time and technical expertise, so you’ll want to team up with a partner who understands web design and development, as well as the outdoor eCommerce space. That’s where Codal comes in.
Codal specializes in strategizing, designing, developing, testing, maintaining, and optimizing sites for outdoor eCommerce brands. We can help guide your business through the process of building a seamless, engaging, and secure user experience (UX) accessible from all platforms and devices. This may include establishing a rewards program, implementing personalization functionality, integrating additional sales and marketing channels, optimizing pages and content for SEO, testing for the perfect CTAs, and so on.
We’ll help you design and develop an outdoor gear website that enables your business to exceed customer expectations and compete with the brands discussed above. Ready to get started? Contact Codal today!