January 27, 2010, 12:00 AM

REI outfits its e-commerce site with more personalization features

Having completely made over REI.com during the last 18 months, Recreational Equipment Inc. is now turning its online focus to adding more personalization features from Omniture, OpinionLab and Awareness Inc.

Mark Brohan

Research Director

Having completely made over REI.com during the last 18 months, Recreational Equipment Inc. is now turning its online focus to adding more personalization features, vice president of e-commerce and web strategy Brad Brown tells Internet Retailer.

In the last month, REI, No. 67 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name), has added a new recommendations system from web analytics developer Omniture called Omniture Recommendations. The program generates product suggestions based on Omniture web site analytics data. The technology then uses pre-built algorithms that can be customized for an individual retailer to display the most relevant recommendations in the right places on the site to drive the highest conversion, says Brown.

REI also is using Omniture’s Test & Target multivariate testing tool to create product recommendations based on analytical reports and various combinations of “most viewed” and “top seller” products, Brown says. “We spent the last year standardizing the back end of REI.com and now the focus is on making it more customer-centric,” says Brown.

It’s too early to tell how the personalization technology impacted sales, says Brown. But REI, which will to break out its specific year-end financials in mid-February, did finish 2009 with higher web sales. “We had a good year,” says Brown.

In addition to rolling out more personalization, REI.com is also introducing new customer comment and analysis software from OpinionLab Inc. and community-building tools from Awareness Inc., a social media application development company. By creating a richer and more personal customer experience, REI.com expects to generate broader brand awareness and drive more sales both online and through the cooperative’s network of 110 stores in 27 states, says Brown. “REI.com isn’t just about selling stuff, the web site is about educating and inspiring customers who want to have an active outdoor lifestyle,” says Brown.

Now that the site has been completely redesigned, REI.com will be updated this year with streamlined checkout and more user-friendly customer account tools. “The new design makes it much easier to make changes,” says Brown. “Nothing has to be hand-coded by a Java programmer anymore.”

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