Companies such as Patagonia, Colombia, and Simms have spent years competing with each other over making the best gear. Constant campaigning to be the king of the hill, however, proved to be a disadvantage for everyone in the mix. After years and years of competition, all the outdoor gear companies lost sight of what was most important: the customer.
The problem they all have is that they failed to cater to the future customer that would be buying all of their gear. As the years went by, the baby boomer demographic slowly but surely phased its way out of the market. While there is a segment left for these customers, the majority of the market is the tail-end of generation-x and even more importantly millennials. Baby boomers wanted gear such as a world-class hiking equipment or a 4-piece, 2 weight fly fishing rod with fine-tuned tapers, 100% increase in tip-impact strength, and costs so much it should do your laundry. What the younger generation really wants is multi-use, versatile products that look good.
Although Simms may have a light-weight winter jacket that will keep you warm in the coldest of temperatures, millennials won’t wear it unless it looks good.
This leads me to a bigger problem in that these companies don’t know what this segment of customers wants. Retailers that produce outdoor gear failed to take a look into and analyze the newer market. They are trying to recycle ways that worked in the past but none of it is catching on and these people aren’t interested. They need to look at the way customers are living and what they want in an outdoor jacket, for example.
The solution is that while the younger generation loves the outdoors and wants to take part in activities such as hiking, fly fishing, and camping, there’s nothing engaging to interest them. It was easy for baby boomers since all they did was have fun outside when they were younger. As they got older, they still did the same activities, just with more expensive and better equipment. Younger generations need guidance in performing these activities while still catering to their lifestyle. There’s still an opportunity to inspire. While purist outdoorsman sees the outdoors as a landscape to be conquered with a machete and some tinder and flint (maybe a little bit of exaggeration), millennials want to simply enjoy being outside with others, portable music, and not so hardcore gear. The experience isn’t about hiking the tallest mountain or white water rafting in the harshest of rivers but simply being outside and enjoying the experience with others. That’s essentially what social media has done: bringing people together. They still want to be together. Just in a comfortable setting with their peers.
What else do you think outdoor gear companies should do to engage the new, emerging market?