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Ski the Web for your next Gear Purchase

After watching a friend go through the shopping and ultimately purchasing process of a fairly big-ticket item, I was surprised that they finally decided to buy their new snowboard online. Online shopping, which is still mostly reserved for smaller risk purchases, in this case provided my friend with plenty of reviews and informative product videos to become an informed shopper. This coupled with the right pricing and selection of boards that their beloved neighborhood board shop couldn’t compete with, their online purchase was an easy one.

It wasn’t so much the dollar value spent online that surprised me, similar priced purchases are made online for airline tickets or vacations without hesitation. It was the purchase of a product, which so much satisfaction is based on feel and individual specs that surprised me. Looking to update my skis this year, I was curious how many people are really buying their skis online.

Online ski-gear sales for 2011 were estimated at $74 million. However only eight percent of the total industry sales for skis are online, a small percent compared to other industries.  As my friend experienced, availability and convenience are some of the biggest factors pushing ski sales online, but not necessary price. In a recent Ski Magazine article, Hud Knight director of merchandizing for Backcountry.com said, “We are held to stricter pricing parameters than brick and mortar stores.”  This makes customer service features like free shipping and generous return polices even more important.

Recognizing that regardless of if a customer makes a purchase online or in a store, a majority of the shopping process is done online. This presents ecommerce outlets with a greater opportunity. Ramping up informative videos, gear reviews and functional online media has given Skis.com an advantage. Brad Kopitz, Director of ecommerce marketing for Skis.com believes that, “Customers want easy to understand information that helps them find the right skis at the right price.” Assigning a three-man video production crew assigned to every product on their site is one way they develop content customers want.

Not all brands are sold on online ski sales. Ski brand marketers still need to get their product in front of customers. One way they are successfully able to do this is through free demos. There is also the brand integrity and satisfaction that some feel is better in-store. For example K2 does very little sales online preferring to support their retail locations. Which brings me back to my hesitation to buy something online that is focused on individual feel and set up.  The bindings and the boots need to be mounted, tuned and fitted to your skis. Tim Petrick, president of mountain gear and apparel brand, Rossignol North America, believes that the web isn’t the end-all, “ If specialty retail were to go away the sport would go away.”

As for this customer? I am still shopping.


Source: “Ski-Commerce”, By Paul Tolme Ski Magazine, Volume 77#1, 2012

Categories: Uncategorized
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