How REI Makes A Camper Happy

With all the blather about touchpoints, channels, intent and data, making the customer happy can get lost in the jargon. Get that right and everything else seems like a natural extension, not a SPAMMY intrusion.

I write this dispatch from a tent, furnished in large part from REI, the private co-op that is my new commercial BFF.

I knew REI from the free classes they offer in stand-up paddle-boarding every summer in my town. But I’d never ventured to its Web site, retail store, app or social media.

Needing to acquire the right gear for a Boomer body to handle a month living in the woods, I turned to friends and found myself in the camping sections of Paragon Sports, Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI.

“Amazon Prime delivers!” one well-wisher reminded me on Facebook. But I needed the retail experience on this one. What good is Amazon Prime if you don’t even speak the language?

The Human Perspective
When embarking on an adventure that will touch your entire existence, it is necessary to talk to human beings and cut to the chase of what makes one product different from another.



Paragon Sports rivaled REI for the knowledge and helpfulness of its onsite sales staff. The person who helped me patiently explained why an insect repellent I planned to purchase was the wrong kind — so strong it might cause a skin reaction — and steered me into buying a less expensive product. I trusted him when he told me how much I needed to get through 30 days.

But REI offered a more complete experience — and a real community. It wasn’t until I signed up for REI emails, which steered me to its Web site, that I even realized the company is heavily into the travel business, too.

Turning Customers Into Ambassadors
What an awesome idea to run guided hikes to beautiful locations where all the most expensive products are included as part of the package. Great sampling and a way to turn tentative customers into rabid ambassadors.

But I digress.

The REI member program, at $20 for a lifetime, offers perks I’ve not seen in other loyalty initiatives. It paid for itself immediately with a 20% discount at the register on my new daypack. I was promised I need never bring my card again because I’ll always be in the system.

In addition to members-only real world events and products, REI offers members a “garage sale” where you can return gear for a trade-in.

I’ve since downloaded the REI shopping app, a crowd-sourced national parks trail guide app and a snow alerts app.

I’ve got my eye on Colorado. 

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