I have been studying REI’s online marketing strategy for my class this semester. I am highly impressed with them. This week’s assignment was to look at two of REI’s competitors website and and social media micro-sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and talk about how they compare to REI. I chose Cabela’s and Sierra Trading Post. Sierra Trading post seems to be a pretty direct competitor with a similar drive for all things outdoor, but Cabela’s focuses much more on hunting, fishing, and camping. Although REI does have a large section about camping (it’s the central focus of their homepage at the moment because it is camping season) REI is geared toward other outdoor adventures like kayaking, hiking, cycling, etc.
Here are a few things that I love about REI. First, the imagery used on both their website and all social media is very appealing. The photos are all centered around promoting an outdoor adventure and they are inspiring to the person visiting the site. It’s hard to look at a photo of someone hiking in a gorgeous mountain trail and not feel inspired to get out there and do it yourself. As a visitor to the site, I feel like REI wants to get me out and enjoy the outdoors and they will help me get all the gear I need to make that experience enjoyable. They produce and share inspiring and educational videos about various outdoor activities and then share them on their social media outlets. This makes the customer feel like the company is more focused on the experience than selling product.
Cabela’s is different. Their website http://www.cabelas.com/ seems to be designed to be a place to buy the products that you are looking for. They aren’t focused on inspiring their customers as much as providing an extensive online shopping experience. If you know what you are looking for this would be a great place to shop, but if you are unsure of what you need to make your trip be what you are envisioning, you may need to do other research elsewhere. The main focus of their homepage is the items which they have on sale along with a banner at the top advertising free shipping. The site is easy to navigate and the product descriptions are thorough and extensive. Overall, the site is fairly cold and isn’t geared toward customer engagement. You pretty much go there to find the product you want and that’s it.
Cabela’s social media pages have a but of a different impression. They making the company feel more warm and engaging because they seem very engaged with their customers. Their Facebook page features some videos for hunting and fishing as well as some hashtags like #cabelascanine where you can post photos of your pets with your Cabela’s gear and #cabelasoutfitter which has photos of people using their Cabela’s gear. It’s a good way to engage the customer in their social media campaign. REI also does this as well with their #OptOutside hashtag in which people post photos of their outdoor adventures. Both companies do well with this and I would say are equally effective.
Sierra Trading Post http://www.sierratradingpost.com/ is definitely a more clear competitor for REI but because they are a purely online shopping site, you can’t go to their local store and have a more personalized experience. Their website is still more product focused than REI but not nearly as much as Cabela’s. The site is easy to navigate and has excellent product descriptions. Their blog is good and the content is geared toward helping the customer determine what they need to be successful in their chosen activity and highlighting differences between the two products. Very helpful for the online shopper. Their Facebook page pretty full of instructional videos, contests, and giveaways. Their Twitter feed is full of direct responses to customers which shows that they are intentional about customer engagement and satisfaction. They also have have a photo contest for people with their pets which also promotes customer engagement.
Overall, I think what sets REI apart from the others is their ability to make it feel like making a sale is a secondary priority to serving and helping their customer be fully equipped for the adventure they are seeking. Inspire the customer, serve them by helping determine what they need, then lead them to the perfect product to make that adventure enjoyable and memorable….do this and you will have customers who are loyal for life. REI does this very well and they win the day in my book.