Photo: Paul-Baptiste Baca
I am a confessed gear whore.
gear whore n. someone who has to have the best, most expensive, coolest gear, useful or not.
Yes, I like the shiny and the new. And there are times when I look over my rack and I realise I am just one or two colour-coordinated draws away from being one of those sport climbers.
But really, why do I buy what I buy? Such a simple question does not have a simple answer.
I have worked in marketing and advertising for the past 20 years and have a pretty good grasp on how the artifice and casuistry of product pimping works. But that doesn’t mean I am immune. In fact, I have a high appreciation for a well-crafted advertisement and am more likely to invest at least my time into researching a product that is packaged well and peddled in just the right way to highlight its particular je ne sais quoi. Black and white sketches or flat product photos might be enough to pique some consumers’ interest, but many people really do prefer the glossy, full-colour splash of gear-in-action (me included). It’s a world of embodying the brand.
Companies like Black Diamond Equipment and Petzl know this. They don’t casually spend their advertising dollars. And retailers know what they are doing when they put those pretty products in the hands and on the backs of pretty people.
But as much as the beautiful people and shiny colours get my attention, it is not the reason I buy. Getting the customer into the store or to your website might be half the battle, but half does not make a sale.
Photo: David Morlock Photography | OWL Trip 2010
I came across The Three F’s when I first started working in the Outdoor Industry about 20 years ago. I had only been on the job for a short time and like any new staffer hungry for knowledge I was browsing through old catalogs in the break room.
In the front of an old backpack catalog some guy named “Wayne” used the concept of Fit, Fabrics and Features to walk through his product line. It was a concept that not only clarified the differences between the products in the line but also between other companies.
The Three F’s have been a great tool me. They’re a yardstick that help me decide whether or not I’m going to buy a piece of equipment or apparel and they’re a great method for comparing and understanding outdoor products.
At the last OR Winter Market, we were sitting in the audience of Sara Lingafelter’s “Understanding Influencers” presentation when the most outstanding quote about “Why I Buy” came up for discussion. As it turns out, it was from one of our tweeps, Aleya Littleton. Well, one thing led to another and we’ll just let Aleya tell you all about it, here in her addition to our continuing series,”Why I Buy…“
I may have gotten myself into trouble.
I replied to a survey in which I was asked what I’d say if I were in a room full of outdoor industry representatives, hanging on my every word. Of course this being a hypothetical situation meant I could really let them have it, without being nervous, and so I did. I ranted, and it resonated. I was quoted in a power point (Whole and great presentation here) and then asked to write this article on why I buy. My survey response was typed by fingers swift with righteous indignation, not so much with a ton of thought. I thought I’d have a hard time getting back into the same mood and mindset, but as it turns out, I have things left to say to this imaginary room of retailers. I’ve been unleashed. I might be hard to stop…
We have heard that people are tired of guessing what #OIBIZ customers want. Or – worse, perhaps – folks eyes roll back in their heads whenever they are shown data that purports to define this for us. So, we here at PEMBA decided simply to ask a few folks: “Why do you buy?” Continuing in this series for us is Steve Jordan, who along with his family is one of the more regularly active people we know. Steve is smart, frugal, and funny. If you get his dollar, you’ve earned it. And we’ll let him tell you all about it. Enjoy.
Why I buy comes down to two things: relationships and value.
I’ll start with relationships. When I worked as a river guide, I noticed a tendency in myself and my fellows to disrespect the customers behind their backs. Lots of times this was light-hearted and fun, its severity diminished by the fact that we really cared about our passengers, and wanted them to have a memorable, safe experience. Since then, however, I’ve noticed this tendency in most initiation-based societies that require working with the public. There seems to be some basic human need that is satisfied by rolling our eyes at the uninitiated, enthusiastic people who ask perfectly reasonable if excusably naïve questions. In a lot of cases, this eye-rolling is small and unfair because these questions deal with things that our customers would never be expected to know anyway. And in some cases, it can hurt feelings and damage relationships, outcomes that should be of grave concern to the OIBIZ, where elite behavior may be the kiss of death with respect to a large potential market, one that includes me.
We in the #OIBIZ spend a lot of time trying to figure out what makes outdoor customers and influencers tick. There are charts and graphs with consultants to carry them around, many of them with big degrees and big data-sets with lots of numbers. We thought that we might try a simpler, more straight-forward solution: We asked an influencer,”Why do you buy?” It seems we struck a nerve, as we got such a good response to our first post we decided to do it again. Here’s this week’s post from our Tweep Katie Levy, and we’ll let her tell us all about it…
The greatest amount of exposure I’ve had to #OIBIZ at this point has been as a customer. And I’m a damn good one. I don’t even want to confess how much time I spend researching gear and clothing much less what portion of my yearly spending it consumes. I suppose to an extent, this make me an informal authority on the subject!
I’ve discovered a number of factors that influence my approach to shopping for outdoor gear, and they all hinge around perceived value. It’s hard to define; value means different things to different consumers, and this is something all industries have to grapple with. We all come to the #OIBIZ table with varied experiences and expectations. But I think many of us have similar perceived value influencers, and all in perfect balance will tip the proverbial scales in favor of a purchase.
In #OIBIZ, we hear a lot about what customers want. And – the truth is – in this industry we spend a lot of time guessing about what they want. We here at PEMBA thought we’d make it easy and just ask a customer what they want in exchange for their hard-earned money. We put out the query on Twitter, and our good friend Tali Koziol responded. She says it better than we can, so here you go…
You’ve heard the term “Gear Whore” usually defined as someone who loves any and all gear. The Gear Whore is the first to hop on the latest trends and anything shiny and new. Well I am kind of the opposite, almost the Gear Serial Monogamist. Yes, I love new gear but I am very deliberate with my purchases and I tend to be loyal. Once you’ve sold me on your brand I tend to be a lifer and just like any girlfriend gushing about how great her significant other is I will gush about you to anyone that will listen. So how do I choose my mates? I look at three areas: Quality, Consistency, and Values.