This year’s inaugural Industry + Intelligence hosted so many incredible seminars that some attendees weren’t able to get to them all. To help anyone who missed a seminar they wanted to see, or who, worse yet, didn’t make it to I + I at all, we’ll be recapping some of the most popular presentations over the next few months.
Today, we’re taking a look at Attracting Today’s Time Starved Consumer, which featured a panel of influential industry leaders from resorts, retailers and suppliers. SIA President David Ingemie moderated the session, opening up the discussion with research results on the barriers to entry for snow sports.
“Every stakeholder in the industry has a different perspective,” Ingemie said. “The industry needs to stay focused and use its best resources – the existing customers – to grow the business. It’s so much easier to get existing customers to bring new people into the sport than to create a new one on your own.”
As the panel discussed growing participation and competing with other activities and electronic devices for consumers’ time, themes emerged. There was a general consensus that the industry is adept at talking to its core customers but needs to get better at reaching new skiers and riders. Also, the panel discussed ways that resorts, retailers and manufacturers can work together to break down barriers to new participants and keep them coming back.
“From a resort standpoint, we need to take down the intimidation factor,” said Sky Foulkes, president and COO of Stratton Mountain Resort.
“We’re always working to simplify the process,” agreed Wachusett Mountain owner Carolyn Stimpson. “With this ADHD, distracted, electronic-addicted society, we try to make arrival and renting or demoing as smooth, efficient, and simple as possible.”
Stimpson says Wachusett attracts 10,000+ first timers each season and an additional 10,000 school kids in their 6-8 week school programs. “These are the future ski and board buyers and mountain users for our industry, so we spend considerable time and resources educating and preparing folks before they arrive,” she said. “We have online videos with a step-by-step guide from arrival to riding the chairlift. Plus, the School Group programs were done 100% online this season, and thankfully, parents and teachers were ecstatic not to fill-out forms, checks and snail mail envelopes – the ordering process took under 8 minutes online. Any barriers and complications we can remove from the process only helps first timers feel comfortable and keeps them coming back.”
Jon Rucker, HEAD’s senior vice president, spoke from the supplier’s view about cooperating with resorts on retention programs. “The panel discussion highlighted the fact that, as an industry, we must cooperatively create programs to increase retention of first timers in our life-changing sports. There are many programs in place across the country that have varying degrees of success, and the ‘graduation’ programs are just one of the types that create more lifetime skiers and riders. At HEAD/Tyrolia, we work with numerous resorts who employ an equal number of different types of retention programs, each of which creates their own successes. In the end, the results are inconclusive about these graduation programs, and there still remains no one ‘silver bullet’ for retention, but we certainly have to keep trying with this and other progressive programs.”
From a retailer’s perspective, Parker Rice, buyer for Equipe Sport/Mountain Riders in Rawsonville, VT, said, “Todays time starved consumer creates a more competitive atmosphere for the mountain, manufacturer and retailer as we work to secure our share of the customer’s time. As a result we need to ensure we’re acting accordingly; are we making it easy to buy and service your equipment? Is it easy and approachable to ski or ride? Are current products geared for today’s consumer? How can the overall consumer experience be improved and/or changed to focus on access?”
He added that in general, all aspects of the industry are competing for the consumer’s attention and time, which is in short supply. “As an industry the vast majority have accepted that we no longer compete with other mountains, other brands or other retailers, we compete with other activities. To ensure we’re keeping a competitive edge we need to ensure that the user experience is easy and approachable for the long time dedicated skier to the first timer. A safe, fun and convenient approach to all aspects of our industry needs to be a top priority. More than ever we need to put ourselves in the shoes of our first time consumers to ensure they feel welcomed, valued and want to return.”
Jay Moore, owner of World Boards in Bozeman, MT, added that the panel talked about many ideas for collaboration between resorts, retailers and manufacturers, but there is still more to discuss. “The panel was about working together. All of it is relevant and important to the overall picture, but I feel the retailer to supplier relationship and how it has changed was not thoroughly discussed. This issue is foundational, and as we speak, businesses are struggling, and in the past few years many have folded up shop. Of course there are many dynamics going on continually, but suffice it to say the brick and mortar shops are working longer hours and seeing less return for those hours invested.”
Moore said that every day he encounters customers that are showrooming in his shop, and feels that the practice is at an all-time high. “Increase in consumer direct internet sales only drives down value and prices at the expense of service, which more often than not results in improper gear choice. Soon the consumer is on the mountain with the wrong set up, in the wrong gear, often hating every attempt at a turn. With the inclusion of a specialty shop in this exchange, the same case scenario could easily be turned around and realized as success and fun and retention.”
Johan Malkoski, sales manager for C3, home to CAPiTA, Coal and Union, wrapped up the seminar with this observation, stressing the need for all aspects of the industry to come together and stay focused on what’s important. “It’s important that SOMEONE head up the initiatives we discussed; otherwise all these good thoughts and ideas would be thrown around the room and everyone would agree that these things should be done, then we would all go back to doing what we do and nothing would get accomplished. Most important, we need to remember the great industry we’re in – we could be pounding nails or doing investing. We need to glorify the outdoors. We need to smile. We’re selling fun.”
Clearly, this is a conversation that will continue, and Attracting Today’s Time Starved Consumer was a great forum for ideas and thoughts from some of the industry’s key players. Be sure that you don’t miss next year’s Industry + Intelligence. Stay tuned for updates leading up to the 2016 Snow Show and be sure to register for Industry + Intelligence’s full day of seminars, panels, data and networking. It’s the best place to share ideas, prep for the Show and get a honed-in focus on your goals.