Inspiration From REI: Thinking Beyond the Basics of Product Data Feeds

29 December, 2019

Brands By Helen de Souza

By now, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about ChannelAdvisor’s many tools for managing your presence on e-commerce marketplaces.

You can keep prices competitive.

You can sell internationally.

You can even lean on our e-commerce platform to help simplify drop shipping and stay connected to carriers.

But did you know you can use ChannelAdvisor to streamline retail events, too?

Recently, we sat down with one widely-known seller to discuss this lesser-known use for our e-commerce platform. It’s a fascinating story — one you’ll want to watch to the end for inspiration and ideas.

Turning loyalty into experiences

When it comes to customer loyalty, REI sets the bar.

The outdoor co-op has been expanding its community of brand advocates since 1938, and is up to 17 million consumers with lifetime memberships. These consumers celebrate the brand with millions of #optoutside social media posts every November, and come back year after year for outdoor gear, equipment and apparel — much of it REI’s own private-label lines. 

But REI enthusiasts don’t just buy products. They also attend REI events. And not just a handful in a few locations. We’re talking about thousands of events that take place at hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores, plus numerous partner spots, across the US. From beginner’s camping workshops to advanced classes for experienced rock climbers, the list of different experiences available to REI customers is massive.

As you can imagine, it can also get a little difficult to manage.

Building beyond retail

Even in the midst of REI’s continued growth, executives knew the brand could go even bigger. 

“One of our goals in the last year has been trying to expand our reach into not just relying on retail,” said Performance Marketing Program Specialist John Gilbert.

In building out REI’s collection of classes and events, the retailer expanded its offerings on everything from outdoor photography lessons to on-the-ground stewardship activities in 39 states. Next, the team just needed to get the word out.

That’s where things got tricky.

The sheer volume of events would require a mind-boggling amount of manual entry, particularly when it came time to promote them outside the REI website.

There simply wouldn’t be enough hours in the day. Gilbert wasn’t sure what he was going to do. 

“I hadn’t heard of that possibility.”

Fast forward a few months, and REI’s events are reaching more audiences than ever through a variety of ticket sites. None of those events are entered manually by employees. Turns out, there’s a platform for that. 

“I had worked in the industry for quite a while before and hadn’t heard of that as a possibility,” Gilbert told us during a recent interview. 

Once Gilbert discovered that ChannelAdvisor could be used to regularly feed updated events to dozens of different channels, things changed for the better. 

“Considering we might have a few thousand events live at any given time in a bunch of different markets… this helped us grow the way we hoped to as a company,” he said.

Of course, this is just one example of the many ways REI uses the ChannelAdvisor platform to automate important processes. The company leverages an estimated 50 feeds every day to connect with consumers on Google, Facebook and other channels — and to ensure they’re seeing the same consistent messaging on all 500,000 products, no matter where they go online. 

Looking for more ideas and inspiration? Be sure to check out our 12-minute Commerce Cast for more insights from REI. You’ll hear about many other e-commerce strategies you can emulate, and learn what else the company is doing differently.

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