6 Ways REI Shapes the Digital Consumer Experience

As part of our ongoing discussion on the reinvention of the digital marketer, I’d like to share a successfully deployed strategic approach that has transformed a 70-year-old company into a digital marketing pioneer. That company is Recreational Equipment, Inc., better known as REI.

REI is one of the leading global outdoor gear and clothing retailers, founded as a co-op in the late 1930s, with net sales over $2 billion in 2013. The company has undergone its own marketing reinvention; it has now merged offline and online touchpoints into a cohesive customer journey.

Brad Brown, senior VP of digital retail and customer support for REI, shared the company’s integrated marketing vision earlier this year and revealed six ingredients in its secret sauce―a recipe that enables a cohesive consumer experience.

1. Master Profile

Brown recommends we create a master marketing profile for consumer segments. REI’s customer profiles have been built by reinventing how they generate customer feedback. Data captured through digital channels enables them to develop a complete marketing profile. But they don’t stop there.

His company continues to gather feedback through traditional channels: phone engagements, in-store conversations with customers, point-of-sale displays, etc. They merge online and offline data to compile a master marketing profile that completes the 360-degree view of the customer.

2. Creative Mix

The next step is to deploy a creative mix that builds a unifying impression for the consumer. REI may have a billboard along a highway, signage displayed a bus stop, and a mobile ad delivered through a SERP, all firing at a consumer taking a bus downtown. Throughout that journey, REI hits the refresh button to connect with that consumer in myriad formats. Creative assets, says Brown, should be tailored to fit the timing, device, location, and environment of the consumer.

Synergized applications, merging Web analytics with creative development, allow marketers to leverage the master marketing profile to create targeted digital (as well as analog) assets, such as REI’s billboard or mobile ad.

3. Real-Time Web Experience

Static webpages are a thing of the past. No longer are we restricted to a one-size-fits-all website. We can create a user experience built upon the master marketing profile, an experience that is rendered in real time as more signals are provided through the customer journey.

REI realized that dynamic tag management has opened doors to mapping the customer journey, so they are able to render webpages in a distinctly meaningful way. The consumer profile serves dynamic pages based on visitor requests along with historical user behavior, taking signals from across digital channels and analog interactions. Their aim is much sharper now.

4. Audience Targeting

The consumer journey informs where we aim at consumer segments. Asset deployment is organized by behavior, location, referral URLs, and more. As Brown mentioned, through behavior mapping “we get to know our customers a little better, then a little more each time, primarily through the digital and offline interactions they have with us.”

We are flush with data that allows us to be more targeted in our marketing practices without sacrificing the personal privacy of consumers (which is important when we meet them on their terms). Market intelligence is gathered over time through direct and indirect interactions. This process allows us to not only shape the consumer experience but develop products and services that meet the needs of our audience.

5. Gain Authentication

To be more effective at shaping the consumer experience, we must find ways to confirm identity, purchase tendencies, and other personal attributes. Authentication is critical to improving ROI. Brown recommends that we test calls to action that inspire visitors to log in, enabling us to view personalized behavior. Identifying our customers through authentication allows us to have a personal, meaningful conversation based on the marketing profile.

6. Combine Digital and Analog Experiences

Finally, Brown’s team has been tasked with merging online and offline behavior, providing a seamless experience with REI’s brand. For example, they deploy email and direct mail to attract customers at different times and at different decision points. Offline engagements such as store visits provide a robust interaction with a customer; questions and answers can be freely exchanged while physically interacting with a product, and observation of in-store customer behavior provides nuanced feedback that cannot be effectively obtained through digital channels.

Meanwhile, digital experiences such as app engagement, website footprints, and search behavior support offline marketing in a way that allows consumers to transition from one activity to another without losing the continuity of their experience with REI.

Recently, REI implemented a new order management system that exposes all its inventory across digital and analog channels. Improved search functionality allows customers to quickly explore purchase options and access expertise and information that helps shape the consumer experience, whether they are thumbing through the company’s latest print edition catalog or searching the online inventory.

Our reinvention as marketers will not be complete unless we leverage the consummate touch points that exist through online and offline channels. As Brad Brown of REI will attest, to fully reach customers “on their terms,” we’ve got to deploy the tools―such as those within the Adobe Marketing Cloud―that allow us to understand who, what, where, when, and how consumers meet our brand. Then we can shape the journey they take to engage with what we have to offer.