Videocasts and sophisticated rich media drive REI web sales higher

Even though web sales grew 39% in 2006, REI is using more videocasts, rich media and customer reviews to drive revenue this year. Up next: implementing an enhanced site search and dynamic browsing application from Mercado Software.

Mark Brohan

Despite a 39% increase in 2006 web sales, REI.com, the web sales channel of Recreational Equipment Inc., wants a bigger portion of the online outdoor gear and equipment market.

To help achieve that goal, REI, No. 74 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is implementing more rich media and videocasts.

Also on the way are customer product reviews, says Brad Brown, vice president of e-commerce, who also is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 4-7 in San Jose, in a session June 6, 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., titled Why Retail Stores Can`t Put Up Web Stores and Forget Them. “We want to grow more aggressively,” he says. “We got happy with growing at twice the market rate, but the bump after the dotcom burst is over and we want to keep doing better.”

In October REI began rolling out Novora Flicks, a series of online videocasts of Novara, its private label line of bikes. The videocasts feature behind-the-scenes photo shoots and product details. In the future, REI.com also will be implementing more “how to” videos on subjects such as choosing a back pack or pitching a tent. “Videocasts enrich the customer experience,” says Brown.

In addition to videocasts, REI is working with Heck Yes Productions, a Seattle digital design firm, to implement more rich media. Specifically, Heck Yes helped REI introduce better rich media applications that allow shoppers to see products such as tents in revolving three-dimensional images and from various angles. “People want to see what a tent looks like when it is pitched,” Brown says. “You obviously can’t touch merchandise online, but better use of rich media gives the customer more options and ways to be interactive.”

Brown, who was named the cooperative’s e-commerce executive in June, is working to implement an enhanced site search and dynamic browsing application from Mercado Software in spring.


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