KC point of view

A Secret Weapon in Outdoor Recreation Marketing

Digital Project Manager

by Brooke Hanson, Digital Project Manager

What’s the secret sauce for making an outdoor rec brand stand out among the competition?

When it comes to outdoor, sports and recreation, local specialty stores have a secret weapon against the nationals: passion.

Where do you go when you’re looking for a great price on a football with free shipping to your house in two days? Amazon. How about when you want to spend hours reading some pretty entertaining reviews about a Bowflex home gym? Amazon. Desperately need to find a new tarp for a camping trip? Amazon.

Let’s face it, Amazon’s out there running the show in almost every category, including outdoor, sports and recreation. And general mass market retailers like Walmart and Target are taking their fair share of business away from specialty Big Box stores, too. Sports Authority has been wiped from the country. Companies like Gander Mountain are filing for bankruptcy. Sounds like impending doom for the regional stores and Mom and Pops, right?

Or maybe not. After all, when you’re buying something more specialized for a sport or activity you’re passionate about, you want a little more than just a cheap price and Joe Schmoe’s promising “Love it!” review to go on. Maybe instead of “Going Out of Business” sales, we’ll see a renaissance for these local specialty stores. Maybe people will fall back in love with getting one-on-one attention and honest advice from a friendly face that Amazon and Big Box retail stores simply cannot provide.

Small stores focus on what they’re good at, and they typically hire people who actually give a sh*t about what they’re selling. They want, nay, expect their customers to return and tell them how things went. And people love it.

My favorite shop to pedal to when I need a bike tune up is One on One Bicycle Studio and Café here in Minneapolis. The back of the shop is filled with funny looking bike parts that are arranged neatly like trinkets in an antique store. The store’s mid-section is more modern, with bright, clean lighting and shiny dream bikes and accessories for sale, and at the storefront is the café, with a free water station and a succinct selection of coffee and snacks.

When I arrive, they ask me all kinds of question about my bike; how long have I had it, what kind of terrain am I typically riding on, how do I feel about my tires, how’s the seat suiting my derriere? Questions like this show me they want to help me get set up with the right service, and not just swipe all my hard-earned pocket change. I feel at home in this store, it’s a place I would totally hang out. And though it might take a little longer to get my bike back, I will certainly keep returning.

How do regional and local stores cook up that kind of consumer camaraderie? Avoid competing against Amazon and Big Box retailers solely on price or convenience. Stick with what you know. Be the expert in your respective area. Be passionate, and tap into the passion your customers already have. Find a voice and get your name in front of the right people.