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If a Customer Plays In the Woods, Can a Retailer Reach Them? How the Outdoors Industry Seeks Feedback and How You Can, Too

 

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Many of the today’s most successful companies have been able to change and improve their business model thanks to instant, ongoing feedback from customers about what they like, love and loathe about the company’s goods or services. Business behemoths like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Waze can quickly glean insights about their customers’ experiences and practices so they can iterate and improve the user experience -- and offer more relevant product recommendations, too.

 

Companies in the outdoors industry as just as keen to tap into the instant customer feedback loop. But here’s an inherent conundrum: Since customers tend to be sailing the seas, hiking in the backcountry or otherwise off the grid when using their products, how can said businesses tap into that intelligence-gathering power?

 

To explore that question, Scott Galloway, digital marketing professor at NYU and co-founder of GartnerL2, a brand research and ranking firm, has come up with a “New Algorithm of Value” based on the interactions between company and user. The graph below illustrates the idea that quantity of customers + quality of customer information = higher value.

 

algorithmvalue.jpgSource: L2inc.com

According to Galloway, a company’s “value” is based on two factors: The number of “receptors” (in other words, how many users/customers) and the ability to gather intelligence about those users. In the above graph, the print magazine industry has a low value because it has comparatively few users, and it’s certainly not gathering intelligence from all those magazine-filled waiting rooms. On the other hand, Google is valued very high, since it has a vast number of users whose everyday interactions let the company know exactly (and in real-time) how customers are using the products. Knowledge = power, and power = profit.

 

What’s the takeaway here for the Outdoors Recreation industry, and for you, the small business owner?

 

In today’s business landscape it’s not enough to just have customers -- you also need to regularly interact with them. Getting feedback helps business owners understand the customer experience and then make it as easy and enjoyable as possible. Another bonus? When customers communicate directly with a business and see their feedback matters, they feel connected and cared about.

 

So, how can the outdoor industry better connect with its adventure-seeking clientele? Two ways: First, by creating awesome digital content available both on and offline, and second, by encouraging users to share -- okay, to brag about -- their adventures on a social community platform. Here’s how two companies are reaching their customer-feedback goals:

 

The Hiking Project app (owned by REI) collects hiker data in the form of trail reviews and social sharing. Mountain Hub (supported by Black Diamond Equipment) operates like an outdoorsy Waze community, crowdsourcing real-time weather and trail reports from users, with future plans to integrate their software directly into ski poles. Mining social media hashtags allows these retailers and countless others to track those who #getoutside into #nature with their #wildkids to #exploremore.

 

As a business owner, you’ve got lots of options when it comes to connecting with your customers and generating important feedback. Will you send out an email survey or text a questionnaire? Offer incentives for social media reviews of your products or services? Install and maintain a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database? Or ask your customers in person, “How can we do better next time?”

 

There’s no wrong answer. By tapping our very human desire to connect and share about everything from our latest mountain bike ride to our favorite blender, business owners in every industry can better understand exactly what customers want, not to mention where, how and why they need it.

 

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QB Community members, how do you connect with your customers and how does their feedback inform how you operate your business?