REI Brings Fast, Consistent Merchandising Guidance to Sales Associates in 140 Stores

Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) began in 1938 and today is the largest consumer co-op in the United States, dedicated to inspiring, educating, and outfitting more than 5.5 million members and customers for outdoor adventure. REI’s passion for the outdoors is on display in its more than 140 retail stores. In 2014, REI created its first Floor Set Guide training app using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (now Adobe Experience Manager Mobile) to help sales associates set up visual displays, promote the right merchandise, and serve customers better.

A 10-store pilot of the Floor Set Guide training app yielded positive results and REI officially launched the app in February 2014, achieving more than 1,000 downloads within the first two weeks.

Today, REI has five apps and 63 folios and counting to support visual merchandising and store set-up. Downloads of the folios have exceeded 10,000 since the first app was launched. We spoke with Kelsey Lupole, Project Manager at REI, who recently presented at an Adobe Symposium (scroll down to see the video,) about the co-op’s success with training apps.

REI Infographic
Adobe: What is a floor set guide and why did you decide to provide a mobile version?
Lupole: Each floor set guide helps our sales associates create, maintain, and adapt merchandise presentation and displays. We do more than 20 floor set guides to our 140 stores each year. Previously, we distributed more than 300 pages of printed content requiring months of production. The printed floor sets were often out-of-date before hitting our stores. We had to find a better way to communicate visual merchandising direction to our stores and quickly update the floor set guides when changes were made.

Adobe: What led you to Adobe?
Lupole: We use Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe InDesign CC to create the printed floor set guides, so integrating Adobe’s mobile solution into our workflow was a seamless transition with a fairly easy learning curve. We can layer on interactivity and translate the print layouts directly to tablet apps.

Adobe: How did you start with the Adobe solution?
Lupole: We launched a six-week pilot to 10 stores during the 2013 holiday season that included a mix of sales associates who wanted a mobile solution and others who said they preferred print. We gave the sales associates iPad minis and the option to download the app or use the print version.

Adobe: What were the results?
Lupole: With the app, we’re able to engage our employees by offering interactive elements and up-to-date content with the touch of a finger. Previously, because the print versions were often out-of-date, associates had to leave the sales floor, download a PDF, print it out, and then come back to execute visual merchandising. With the app, two out of three associates said it allowed more time on the sales floor. When they aren’t helping customers, associates can focus on cleaning up or rearranging displays. Overall, 100% of our pilot users said that the mobile option was a valuable resource.

Adobe: When did you officially launch?
Lupole: We launched in February 2014 with our spring campaign. We sent two to four iPad minis to each of our stores. We had more than 1,000 downloads of the Floor Set Guide app within first couple of weeks and the app took six weeks less to produce than the traditional printed materials.

Adobe: How do the apps work?
Lupole: Our floor sets provide a high-level view of each department showing tables, mannequins, and other fixtures, as well as what brands to display on them. Buttons let sales associates interactively view additional display detail. We also can make changes very quickly and use push notifications to alert users to updates. Sales associates can use a built-in notes feature to communicate with each other. If, for instance, a store runs low on blue shirts, a sales associate can change the display to red shirts and make a note so others know why the red shirts are featured.

Adobe: What has been your most successful folio to date?
Lupole: Our 2014 holiday campaign. Sales associates needed to set up a complex and very large pyramid-shaped display with cardboard boxes, crates, lighting, and signage. To walk them through the process, we created a 360-degree view of the display along with a photo representation. The app let us put all that intricate information at sales associates’ fingertips.

Adobe: Have you expanded your use of the Adobe solution?
Lupole: We now have five apps that address different aspects of visual merchandising. Our Visual Training app educates employees with a consistent voice. For example, we have yoga mannequins in different poses that are difficult to dress, so we created an app that walks sales associates through the process. We have a Visual Standards app that includes instructions such as how to fold shirts and hang clothing. The New Store Set-Up app includes checklists, timelines, and roles, and our Soft Goods Refresh app can be sent to specific stores where we want to amplify our soft goods departments. These apps enable us to provide a consistent voice from headquarters to all of our stores so that employees know how to execute at a very consistent level.

Adobe: How are you using the built-in Adobe Analytics to optimize your apps?
Lupole: We continually improve through metrics such as downloads and how much time is spent in each section of our apps. Then we review those metrics to make adjustments to interactivity and display details.

Adobe: What are your future plans?
Lupole: Our employees want more apps, so we are working towards getting them better tools to help our employees through mobile apps. We also want to add more video and include two-way communication to allow sales associates to communicate back to us. It’s especially exciting that these apps have helped inspire and engage our sales associates, and we see that trend continuing.

Learn more about building and managing apps with Experience Manager Mobile. Read the Experience Manager Mobile solutions brief for the retail industry.