How to Convert Beginners to Devoted Outdoor Enthusiasts

Outdoor retailers have a unique relationship with customers, who often come into the store as beginners and graduate to enthusiasts and then experts. While terms like “upselling” and “cross-selling” are prevalent throughout the retail world, outdoor stores have the opportunity to upsell and cross-sell to long-term customers as those people progress through their outdoor lifestyle journey. With the COVID-related influx of outdoor beginners and new enthusiasts in 2020, the challenge for 2021 and beyond is to transition beginners – who are at risk of dropping out of the outdoor community as their pre-COVID activities restart – into devoted enthusiasts.

 

As beginners gain experience, knowledge, and passion for outdoor activities, they reach a number of decision points that could bring them into your store. Three of these include:

  •       Entry-level gear has reached end-of-lifespan:
    The entry level gear often wears out faster than gear at higher price points.
     
  •       Experience has revealed pain points and/or preferences:
    With a season of outdoor activities under their belt, emerging enthusiasts have a better idea of what product features they value, what features are deal-breakers, and what pain points they want to mitigate with their next gear purchases.
  •       They want gear that matches their increased experience:
    The emerging enthusiast may be motivated to upgrade from entry level gear in order to show they are no longer a beginner. Many have seen or trialed more advanced gear used by friends, influencers, and even strangers on trails, in campgrounds, and on the water.
     
    How to complete the beginner’s conversion to devoted outdoor enthusiast
     
    Converting a beginner to a devoted outdoor enthusiast often incorporates upselling and cross-selling strategies but is more than trying to increase individual transaction value, or even customer lifetime value. There’s an element of education and skill acquisition in facilitating an outdoor beginner’s progress to a devoted enthusiast, and then subsequently an expert. If you are not already doing so, consider the following strategies:
     
    Create a realistic product journey
    Traditional retailers recommend keeping price increase for an upsell to between 25% and 50% of the original purchase. While the exact figures may be different for various outdoor gear, the salient point is that consumers need reasonable steppingstones when it comes to upgrading gear. And it’s not just price point steppingstones; emerging enthusiasts may be intimidated by advanced gear or unprepared to take advantage of all the features advanced gear offers.
     
    Host in-store clinics (or outdoors)
    Now that COVID restrictions are easing and vaccination rates are increasing, moderate-sized gatherings for in-store (or preferably outdoor) clinics can be a great way to engage emerging enthusiasts. Track the questions your staff gets from customers to identify trends in what people are most curious about or what knowledge and skills they are most interested in.
     
    Encourage peer-to-peer learning
    Making friends and building relationships are some of the biggest reasons people stay engaged with the outdoor community. But it’s been a long year of socially distanced activities, and many of the newest members of the outdoor community haven’t had many chances to meet their peers. Organizing the aforementioned clinics, along with purely social gatherings and service projects, can introduce beginners to more experienced enthusiasts and local experts. People are longing for supportive, positive communities they can belong to, and outdoor stores and brands have unique opportunities to bring people together.
     
    Create and display product bundles
    Make it easy for customers to upgrade multiple pieces of gear in one purchase by creating product bundles that delineate by entry level, intermediate, and advanced options. Displaying these product bundles can help consumers visualize how the products work together, and how they’ll look using them. According to an Outdoor Industry Association Path to Purchase report, “destination-driven” consumers are particularly influenced by how products look and how they’ll look and perform using them.
     
    Create instructional videos
    To make your store and staff’s expertise accessible 24 hours a day, consider a Youtube channel featuring product reviews and instructional videos on how to use outdoor gear. Although a lot of this video content already exists, you are working to create trusting relationships with local customers and building a library of instructional videos means they have the opportunity to continue learning from you. Research indicates that consumers research potential purchases extensively online, but continue to prefer purchasing in-store. Don’t leave all of that advice and guidance come from someone else.
     
    Content marketing
    Email is not dead, but the fight to be noticed in a person’s inbox has certainly intensified. Use content marketing to become a trusted resource for people in your audience. When your content is useful, engaging, and entertaining, people look forward to opening your emails. Focus on content personalization and audience segmentation so consumers feel you are speaking directly to their interests and needs.
     
    Enable consumers to stay within brand they trust
    According to the aforementioned OIA Path to Purchase report, “Brand I trust” and “Makes me feel safe” are two of the leading emotional drivers that influence outdoor consumers’ purchase decisions. As beginners look to upgrade to more advanced gear, create opportunities for them to stay with a brand they have grown to trust.
     
    Show local customer reviews with products
    Some consumers spend a lot of time reading product reviews when making purchase decisions, and you can localize and personalize customer reviews by displaying staff or customer reviews of products in store. While the review displayed will obviously be positive, aim for reviews that relate to using that product in your local area. Along with displays of bundled products and social opportunities to meet more experienced members of the outdoor community, these hyperlocal reviews can help emerging enthusiasts visualize using the products and enable them to get advice from other enthusiasts in their community.
     
    Retailers play a massive role in guiding an outdoor enthusiast’s journey from beginner to expert, and with the recent surge in participation in outdoor activities, there is an equally massive opportunity to keep people engaged with the outdoor community for years to come.

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