August 17, 2009, 12:00 AM

Columbia Sportswear ventures into e-commerce with new site

Manufacturer Columbia Sportswear revamps its site to sell directly to consumers while supporting retailers with referrals and digital content.

Columbia Sportswear Company has launched a new web site where consumers can make purchases, a departure from the manufacturer’s former site that referred shoppers to online retailer partners and local stores. The new Columbia.com still does that, but in enhancing its content-for instance, adding product photo zoom and videos-to support e-commerce, it’s also offering a better representation of the brand, says Paul Zaengle, senior director of e-commerce.

The new site enables consumers to sort products by activity, size, color, price and technology. Customers can post comments to its new “Inside Out” blog. The site now features ratings and reviews, and the company expects to launch a brand fan page on Facebook later this month.

The new Columbia.com also includes a growing collection of video clips featuring the brand’s television advertising as well as clips of the activities of its own experts and sponsored athletes, all wearing Columbia gear. It also offers clips of what the site calls “pioneers” – enthusiasts wearing Columbia apparel for offbeat endeavors such as “tanker surfing,” where Texas coastal surfers faced with an otherwise flat sea catch waves in the wake of passing oil tankers.

Zaengle says online retailers benefit from the new site because most of the content Columbia produced to support e-commerce is also available to online retailer partners. They have access to a digital asset management system from which they can download the content for use on their own sites.

E-commerce is the third leg of the direct-to-consumer strategy Columbia began implementing two years ago, the retailer says. That strategy, which augments its in-store and online distribution through other retailers, now includes Columbia-branded stores and Columbia outlets.

“Whether consumers find the product they need at Columbia.com or at one of the hundreds of independent leading brick-and-mortar and online outdoor retailers that we can refer them to, Columbia.com is designed to perform as much more than a sales vehicle. We see it as another important tool that helps us fulfill our responsibility to build a strong brand for the benefit of consumers and all of our business partners,” says Mick McCormick, executive vice president of global sales and marketing.

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