The #OptOutside closure of REI brick and mortar stores on Black Friday got all the attention, but when the company looks back at 2015 sales, it will likely point to a consumer shift from tablets to smartphones as the more significant difference-maker.
Jeff Klonowski, REI’s Director of Mobile & Business Development, shared the retailer’s mobile insights and aspirations in an extensive interview for my The Art of Mobile Persuasion (artofmobilepersuasion.com) book.
He recently provided updated information during a Seattle Mobile Mixers event.
Klonowski said that, because of its ownership, REI was in a unique position when it considered closing for Black Friday.
“From the business side, in trying to look at the year-over-year comps now, because of #OptOutside, it makes it every difficult because the numbers are certainly thrown off, “ he explained. “From our perspective, we’re less worried about this four or five day period of basically Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. This is more about the aggregate for us for November and December. I would say with the current trajectory, we are pretty pleased with the performance.
“The #OptOutside program was a really interesting thing for us. This is new territory. Retailers don’t close on Black Friday. It just doesn’t happen. Being a co-op and not being publicly traded, we can get away with stuff like that. “
Klonowski would not reveal sales numbers, but said that the company is pleased with the effort.
“The interesting thing was, when we started doing some internal theories, was, ‘OK, if our retail stores are closed on Black Friday, but technically the web site is still open ... we’re not processing the orders, but consumers could go in and place orders, we asked, ‘Well, is this going to be a record day?’ Because maybe we’re shifting that traffic for people who are not opting outside and are still shopping and want to shop REI.
“I would say that it was still a big day. It exceeded our expectations from an online perspective. But we definitely saw that shifting away from the Thanksgiving and Black Friday moving a lot of that into Saturday, Sunday and Monday.”
REI said that more than 1.4 million people opted to be outdoors on Black Friday. Klonowski called it “super exciting”.
“It was a big bet,” he said. “We didn’t know how it was going to be received. It could easily go totally flat or it could be a total rocket ship and take off. We were fortunate – we struck a nerve, somehow. So there was an inkling out there – this little rebellion against Black Friday. We collectively exposed a lot of that.
“It will be interesting to see what that means in the future. Granted it’s very much a unique place that REI can play in because it was very brand appropriate for us, maybe not so much for other retailers and other brands. But it fit in really nicely because it was very authentic. We’ve been very pleased with the performance thus far.”
As for the potentially more meaningful shift, Klonowski pointed to the October 2014 release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus as a game-changer.
“Looking back to 2010 and years after for sales via smartphones, our rate was still growing but that rate was beginning to tale off,” he said. “In 2015, it’s actually accelerating again which is really fascinating to me. One of the big drivers that we didn’t plan for, and a lot of retailers didn’t plan for, was this large shift from tablets to smartphones.
“iPhone 6 came out last fall and we saw almost an instant shift as those devices got into the marketplace. What people were saying is that, ‘ Now I have a bigger screen to work with, I don’t necessarily need that tablet.’ In addition, the experience is getting that much better.”
In years past, there was a belief – and the numbers backed it up – that tablets would yield more sales because of how and when they were being used, which was often at home in immersive experiences. But that’s all changed, according to Klonowski.
“It’s a net benefit overall,” he said. “It’s just a little interesting conundrum that we wouldn’t have seen coming.”
It also fits in with a more general trend.
In overall retail business, according to IBM, in 2014: smartphones drove 34.7 percent of all Black Friday online traffic, more than double that of tablets, which accounted for 14.6 percent of all traffic. Yet, when it came to mobile sales, tablets continued to win the shopping war – driving 16 percent of online sales compared to 11.8 percent for smartphones, a difference of 35.5 percent. Tablet users also averaged $126.50 per order compared to $107.55 for smartphone users, a difference of 17.6 percent.
This year, IBM reported that smartphones became more of a device of choice on Black Friday. Smartphones accounted for 44.7 percent of all online traffic, 3 and a half times that of tablets at 12.5 percent. Smartphones surpassed tablets in sales, driving 20.6 percent of online sales (up nearly 75 percent over 2014) versus tablets at 15.5 percent.
(article first appeared on imediaconnection.com - http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2015/12/07/smartphone-shift-not-optoutside-key-to-reis-sales/)