The two of my previous digital retail experience comparison reports revolved around online clothing. So, I decided to take up something new this time and finally settled on sports brands. I can very well relate to the thought that is striking your mind on hearing “sports brands”. But No, I am not talking about the usual sports equipment and athletic apparel brands such as Nike or Adidas. We have had enough of them. I am going a little off-center (but not unconventional anymore) and focus on outdoor recreation ecommerce. After all, America is globally recognized as the leader in outdoor recreation that includes, in addition to thrilling and adventure sports, soft adventures such as backpacking, hiking, camping, canoeing.

The range of outdoor recreation products has broadened substantially over the last two decades and it now accommodates just about every lifestyle, even catering to younger consumers whose idea of an outdoor adventure is a leisurely stroll along a nature trail, a night in the backyard under the stars or swapping stories around a campfire.

“Exxel Outdoors” and “Outdoor Products” definitely fit into what I was looking for. Websites like these are bestowing outdoor lifestyle with a moment of trendiness. They very well understand our desperation for escaping the routine 9-to-5 grind, reconnecting with nature and spending quality time with family and friends to achieve a heightened state of mental and physical relaxation.

Let’s analyze how they perform in comparison to one other as far as “digital customer experience” goes.

Exxel Outdoors

It is a niche website that sells equipment and apparel to improve the experience of backpackers, mountain bikers, climbers, rafters, cyclists, campfire masters and so on. The company claims to be the largest sleeping bag manufacturers in the United States.

The website is simple, features limited tabs and, to be honest, you don’t have much to explore. Do not expect to uncover any extra-ordinary digital feature or something that you haven’t seen before. They don’t even have mobile apps (a real let-down). Navigation-wise you’re served to a detailed menu that appears when you hover over each tab along the top.

The homepage banner has effective imagery but gets monotonous due to lack of slideshow rotation, which we are used to witnessing in every second site these days. However, the usage of meaningful images when you scroll down further on the homepage has added some life to the site because consumers get to see the products in the context of the overall adventure experience they facilitate. Hunters, for example, can try on the camouflage hunting jacket and backpack to blend in with varied terrain for ultimate concealment.

Some good points (sadly I could find very few):

  • The “Search” tab benefits from a predictive entry field
  • Latest products are covered in the homepage under the “Newest Gear” section
  • Options for users to choose by brand or category. This helps users who aren’t sure what brand to look for, but know what they need
  • A visible mention on the top of every page – “Free Shipping on Orders over $49”
  • Section of “Related Products” on every individual product page to help the customer buy other related stuff
  • Each category page provides the option of sorting and filtering the products based on price, brands, bestselling, newest arrivals and so on

The product pages are very basic with the product image available from a single angle. Though they have a “Product Reviews” section on each product page, it doesn’t solve the purpose at all as it seems like no one has bothered to review any of their products yet. Nevertheless, I liked the fact that the product description and specifications are highlighted quite well.

If you think that certain digital capabilities are non-negotiable and there wouldn’t be any ecommerce site on this planet that would give them a miss, then, my friends, you are highly mistaken. This website won’t fail to disappoint you if your purpose is to find a site with a giant void of digital features. I mean who hasn’t recognized the power of social media to make a connection with their audience. But Exxel Outdoors doesn’t have branded social pages whereas for others in the game, social media is shaping the way business is conducted online.

Based on our outside-in assessment, Exxel Outdoors has the following customer experience capabilities:

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Outdoor Products

The website features a yellow color theme (used in a subtle manner) and I find something very positive about this color as it makes you feel lively and energetic the moment you lay your eyes on it, completely apt for the genre of products the company sells.

I really liked the video banner on their homepage and the high-spirited large photographs on each of the category pages (Spoiler – Not all banner images used on the product pages are relevant). They enable users to see and almost feel the fun they will have by using the products, thus encouraging them to try outdoor sports.

As for the product pages, I think they’re quite up to the mark, with access to a range of views in the thumbnails to the left (not all products have interactive product display). “Add your Review” section. Social share buttons. An eye-catching call-to-action.

My Favorites in the Site

  • Separate “Clearance” button on the homepage for displaying items on Sale
  • The Order Status and Return Policy are also clearly highlighted
  • Full marks for placing its “Free Shipping on All Orders” message so prominently (normally it’s hidden away somewhere down below the fold)
  • In addition to credit cards, you can pay via PayPal
  • The blog section is educational with lots of content and tips on camping, outdoor costumes, road trips and other outdoor recreation activities

Thumbs-Down

  • Search Field is not predictive
  • No chat option
  • They have “Add your Review” section on each product page but doesn’t display any of the customer reviews (I wonder if any of their customers have added a review)
  • The site does not highlight items I have explored

Based on our outside-in assessment, Outdoor Products has the following customer experience capabilities:

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Final Take

As outlined above, the Outdoor Products website isn’t without its flaws but, when compared to Exxel Outdoors, it is well aligned to one’s expectation of a satisfactory digital experience including visual aspects like layout, typography, images, or colors. Both websites have tremendous room for improvement as they lack quite a few elementary digital features. I must say, as of now, they are far behind from being called “Examples of Amazing Digital Experiences”.

AUTHOR
Silky Sinha

Silky Sinha

She is the customer experience analyst at Compunnel Digital. A digital native with a global mandate, Silky is always on the search for industry best practices across multiple verticals. She identifies companies with superior customer experience based on the Compunnel Digital Customer Journey Framework. Her research helps our clients and informs the market at large.

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