Snow Sports Industry Embraces Tablet Technology
Best Practices by Lou Dzierzak, Lkdcom@visi.com
The world of technology is changing at an incredible pace. Smartphones and tablets have become as important to snow sports enthusiasts as the latest skis, boots and bindings. More than ever, consumers conduct extensive online research about ski brands and products before making a purchase decision. Tablets allow consumers in the store to view product videos created by brands to explain and promote product features and benefits.
Snow sports brands and retailers who have watched Apple Store employees use iPads as point-of-sale tools and a vehicle for presenting product information are now finding ways to incorporate these tools into their operations.
Moosejaw Mountaineering use iPads and iPod Touch devices extensively. “All of our stores have iPads. We use iPod Touch tablets as mobile point-of-sale units with a cradle that has a credit card swiper and 2-D barcode scanner,” said Eoin Comerford, president and CEO, Moosejaw Mountaineering.
Tablets can be used to compare competitive products, check inventory and present video product demonstrations to a customer who may need a deeper explanation about a product’s performance or technology claims. “From a customer service standpoint, a tablet gives the store associate a lot better chance to be relevant and to have an informed conversation with the consumer about what they are trying to do,” says Steve Rowen, emerging markets specialist, Retail Systems Research. “You are enabling the sales associate to do whatever the consumer needs to close the sale.”
Many of the products marketed by snow sports brands have technical features that can require demonstration and explanation. Tablets allow marketers to present information in a variety of formats including print, graphic illustration and video. Combined, these are powerful tools for communicating a product’s technology and innovation.
Helly Hansen has used tablets for the last two seasons to educate consumers about the brand’s LIFA base layer product line. “Our content has focused on explaining the LIFA product line, why it is different from the competition and how to choose an appropriate product for your use,” said Graham Gephart, senior marketing manager, North America, Helly Hansen. “Helping a consumer determine which product is right for them can be a challenge. Our interactive displays address that and offer videos and explanations tailored to the consumer’s intended activity. Tablets and video provide a great way to deliver your message to the consumer.”
Salomon’s Freeski TV productions are popular on the brand’s YouTube channel. Skiers are also accessing the content on their tablets and smartphones. “Salomon Freeski TV is the heart and soul of our alpine category. We want to tell great stories that will excite and inspire people, reports Evin Catlett, Amer Sports USA digital marketing manager. “We’re also gauging what viewers want to see and experience and using that to influence the future direction of the series.”
In addition to checkout processes, Moosejaw Mountaineering uses iPads to help consumers find exactly what they are looking for. “The customer who comes into a store has access to the hundreds of thousands of products that we have in our warehouse. If we don’t have the specific color of the jacket they want in the store we can order that through the iPads and have the product delivered to them in a few days,” said Comerford. “Using an iPad has really helped us to present our online ‘endless aisle’ selection of products, especially in the gear categories where our in-store assortment is a fraction of what’s available online.”
While tablets are clearly attracting attention from brands and retailers, Gephart notes that marketing managers need to think about how that tool is best used. “Our intention is not to replace a sales associate who know the product inside and out, but to educate consumers when that person isn’t available,” says Gephart. “Our approach is not just to drop the tablet in there. It has to be part of a holistic system of merchandising and display.”
Marketing managers are also exploring other ways to use tablets to engage their customers. Helly Hansen is considering how tablets can improve capturing consumer registration information at consumer events. “We see tablets used not only presenting our marketing messages but using them for data capture. The traditional process of having people fill out an opt-in email application on paper is too slow and open to errors,” said Gephart. “Consumers can use a tablet to sign up quickly at an event. There are fewer errors and we see much faster implementation of marketing programs after the event.”
Comerford says, “We view the tablet as a tool for the shop staff to help the customer with the buying process not as a replacement for that personal interaction. If we lose that, then we might as well not have a store since the customer could just as easily use an online resource.”
Managing a successful snow sports specialty retail store requires expertise in an ever-changing array of business operations. Human resources, event planning, marketing, product selection, social media and e-commerce are just a few examples. Lou Dzierzak has written about these topics for over a decade. Best Practices will shorten the learning curve by offering case studies, resources and how-to tips from experts in specific fields. If you have suggestions for future topics, please feel free to contact Lou at Lkdcom@visi.com.