Technology is infiltrating an industry that used to be off limits. No longer. Tech is firmly rooted in the outdoor recreation space thanks to some really smart thinking and interesting applications.
As touched on in my recent article discussing the 2020 camping boom amidst the pandemic, participation in outdoor individual sports such as camping, hiking and fishing has nearly doubled in the past year, pushing the leading apps in these activities into hyper growth.
These companies are at the confluence of two trends: increased interest in outdoor individual sports (which is predicted to continue beyond the pandemic) and the explosion in consumer subscription services (CSS).
Large private equity firms have begun investing more heavily into CSS that elevate user experience in the outdoors. For example, TCV and Sequoia Capital took leading roles in helping Strava attain unicorn status last fall. The running and cycling tracker and community boasts over 70 million members across the world, adding 2 million per month as the pandemic pushed fitness buffs from the gym to the roads.
As companies like Strava continue to grow and reach new users, they will offer brands a unique opportunity to connect with customers—especially in the New Heartland—through lifestyle-driven marketing based on interest and engagement in the outdoors.
Outdoors CSS give customers info
The Dyrt, an app consisting of campground reviews, information, and tips, is selling a premium membership to its app every 60 seconds. The Dyrt PRO members can use the app to plan camping road trips, find free camping on public lands (which is particularly useful since campgrounds are increasingly full), and more.
Apps like The Dyrt host valuable information and insights for customers, many of whom are discovering camping for the first time. As apps deliver more relevant and helpful information to customers, customers become more comfortable sharing their data, preferences, and experiences with the platforms. These insights not only help companies develop new features to increase customer retention and acquisition, but also position them as great partners for brands seeking to connect with customers through their outdoor lifestyle activities.
Outdoors CSS give brands access
Top CSS companies in the outdoors space have amassed large followings.
- The Dyrt has over 1.5 million campground reviews and tips covering essentially every campground in the country
- Fishbrain manages a social network for avid fishermen and women that is 12 million members strong
- AllTrails has more than half a million followers between Facebook and Instagram alone
- Across three onX apps providing extremely rich maps for hunting, hiking, and offroading, there were 100K+ downloads in June 2021
Although outdoors CSS present an opportunity for brands to access new customers, it will be meaningless if brands fail to relate to them personally. According to the 2020 New Heartland Generational Study, 84% of customers believe brands miss the mark in their commercials, ads, and sponsored content.
Successful brands know how to partner with these companies to create marketing communications that personally relate to customers, particularly in the New Heartland, and reflect their unique lifestyles.
Mammut x Strava
Mammut is a mountaineering and trekking company and outdoor/sportswear brand that partnered with Strava following the first COVID lockdown.
Capitalizing on its community-building capabilities, Mammut approached Strava with the idea to connect with new customers through a Local Adventure Challenge to record 10 hours of activity in 4 weeks in the app.
The activation earned the brand an audience of 328,668 engaged participants and an ROI of 10:1.
“What started as a crazy idea to encourage people to go outdoors, but stay local due to COVID regulations, turned into one of our best marketing campaigns ever to reach new audiences around the globe,” Mammut Global Head of eCommerce Christian Kehr said.
Jeep x onX Offroad
Just last month, Jeep announced a campaign in conjunction with the onX Offroad app to empower Jeep owners with 2021 model-year Jeep vehicles with technology to facilitate compelling and relevant lifestyle experiences.
The onX Offroad app uses intuitive GPS mapping technology to help off-roaders discover the perfect trails to explore and find important checkpoints along the way such as “campsites, non-ethanol fuel stations, and scenic vistas.”
These partnerships are ideal examples of how brands can use the resources and audiences of other companies to both reach new customers and retain current customers with specific offers or experiences.
Communing and community
The tie that binds these dominant and successful apps is simultaneously providing a means to commune with nature, and to join a community of outdoors enthusiasts. Those communities are increasing, and these apps are driving that growth.
Brands that actively pursue partnerships and campaigns with these apps will be able to piggyback off the success of CSS companies and the resources they’ve built.