Outdoor Industry Analysis: Trends
Trends in the outdoor industry include direct consumer contact, equipment rentals, addressing the urban outdoor gap, diversity, ambassadors and influencers, and communication and content.
GENERAL TRENDS IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY
- How and why consumers are buying outdoor apparel is continuously changing, and the lines in the outdoor industry are blurry.
- This change is leading to the introduction of new competitors and allowing existing brands to redefine themselves.
MARKETING TRENDS IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY
1. DIRECT CONSUMER CONTACT
- In spite of the boom in digital connections, outdoor brands are finding the most success with connecting to consumers in person through events at brand stores, pop-up experiences, and ambassador programs.
- This trend is helping long-term brand loyalty, and more brands are investing in it.
- One example of a brand using this trend to their advantage is FjallRaven. They organize expeditions and treks that encourage consumers to meet other fans of their brand and put the gear they offer to use.
2. EQUIPMENT RENTALS
- The number of retailers providing rental gear to consumers has increased.
- This offering appeals to millennials the most, as the generation which prefers experience instead of material.
- One example of a company in the outdoor industry that has experienced the growing popularity in this trend is Rock/Creek Outfitters. Over the past three years, they have seen an exponential increase in rentals by travelers.
- Not all brands have embraced this trend. Instead, some brands have started offering the opportunity for consumers to try their products before purchasing.
3. ADDRESSING THE URBAN OUTDOOR GAP
- The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that approximately 34% of outdoor consumers reside in urban areas, and it is expected that the number will only grow in the coming years.
- While most consumers living in these areas don’t consider themselves to be the “outdoorsy” kind, they do admit that many of their activities do often lead them to the outdoors.
- These consumers are driven by competition, fitness, and socialization, more than their love or the connection that they feel with the outdoors.
- This trend presents itself as a challenge to brands who have built their position entirely on outdoor pursuits and opens the door for leisure and athletic brands wishing to make their way into the outdoor industry.
- North Face, recognized this trend and launched their “Mountain Athletics” program in response, offering products that appeal to more audiences while still serving their purpose for outdoor audiences. North Face was highly successful with this program.
4. MARKETING DIVERSITY
- The need for brands to understand consumer experiences and interests is growing, making inclusivity crucial.
- This need is driving brands to include additional populations not usually seen in traditional methods of marketing, to their campaigns.
- The demand from consumers, specifically women, for a broader range of outdoor product sizes, has been forcing the industry to come up with ways in which they can produce larger sizes that did not exist previously.
- Companies leading this trend are Columbia and KUHL.
- Companies such as these have even begun to include women of all sizes and shapes in their marketing campaigns, in hopes of conveying the message that the outdoors is for everyone.
- By doing this, the industry's biggest hope is that the outdoor industry’s consumer population will grow to be more significant.
5. AMBASSADORS & INFLUENCERS
- The massive increase in the number of dedicated followers of influencers on YouTube and Instagram that use factual, authentic content, is leading brands to reconsider traditional marketing methods used for athletes.
- Consumers in the outdoor industry are expressing the critical role which customer reviews play in their buying decisions.
- Consumers receive feedback about a product from people which the consumers consider to be trustworthy and “like them.”
- In conjunction with this, brands have begun incorporating “talented brand ambassadors” and influencers into their marketing campaigns.
6. COMMUNICATION & CONTENT
- In addition to the inclusion of brand ambassadors and influencers, brands are having to add more value to their marketing content, to maintain a trusting relationship with consumers in the outdoor industry.
- Brands have found that including brand stories related to their outdoor products production process, the way it is used in everyday life, and the technology used in creating it, is most effective.
- Time perception for the consumer has changed, as the younger generation feels like a few minutes, or a few years takes a lifetime. This attitude is proving to be a challenging issue in brands' struggles to approach both employee and consumer retention effectively.
- Brands are now turning towards creative ways of maintaining a brand personification that motivates consumers to be an active part of them.
- This disposition has forced brands into proactively seeking creative input from more than just their CEO or similar leaders.
- Brands are also beginning to take part in social events with other similar brands to promote their products. This trend is visible mostly from brands advertising products to consumers interested in sustainability.
- Also, there has been an increase in the number of emails, print catalogs, and newsletters that are sent out by outdoor brands.
To successfully identify some general and marketing trends in the outdoor industry and the brands driving these trends, your research team utilized news/media databases hosted by sites most commonly known for containing information and publishing articles related to the outdoor industry and markets. Some useful sites visited include Origin Outside, which provided the team with the most relevant statistics and brand-specific data, and SnewS, which provided more generalized trends in the outdoor industry. Other credible sites, such as Times Free Press provided information straight from some well-known, and famous brand presidents and managers such as REI's manager Jacki Harp, and president of Rock/Creek Outfitters Chad Wykle. The findings obtained further verified the accuracy of the trends already identified.
The abundance of credible information discovered during a deep dive of these databases, proved to be invaluable and conclusive, as the team successfully identified general and marketing trends in the outdoor industry.