As retailers explore new ways of reaching out to customers and prospects through the Internet, outdoor sporting goods retailer Patagonia is finding chat rooms a powerful tool for building brand awareness, director of e-commerce Craig Wilson tells Internet Retailer.
Finding new means of marketing can serve as a hedge against over reliance on e-mail, Wilson says. Among the candidates: marketing through social or peer networks and Internet chat rooms. These techniques, which may target informal groupings of consumers with common interests, are less concrete than more traditional forms of marketing, experts say.
But they show great promise, Wilson says. Patagonia`s product experts have been participating in Internet chat rooms frequented by outdoor sports enthusiasts, where Patagonia not only learns directly about consumers` interests but also is able to display its expertise and share information about how Patagonia is developing products.
"It`s pretty powerful, because any dialogue online develops as word-of-mouth marketing," says Wilson, who compares chat room participation to meeting consumers at outdoor-gear shows. "It’s good public relations and marketing, and people seem to enjoy when we enter into a dialogue."
He adds that Patagonia product managers are careful not to come across as pushy marketers, but to focus on adding valuable information about outdoor sports gear. "It allows customers to see a more authentic side of your organization, and allows them to engage in what’s happening in your company," Wilson says. "It enhances your relationship with customers."