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Digital Trends for the Active Lifestyle Consumer

By Neil Sniffen
34 minute read | Last Updated: March 29, 2016

Insights for brands looking to better understand active lifestyle consumers, their purchase behaviors and preferences, and the purchase experience they’re looking for in stores, on mobile, and online.

Introduction

The Digital Trends for the Active Lifestyle Consumer Research Report is an annual report intended to provide brand leaders with insights into the behaviors and buying cycle of the active lifestyle consumer and how they are using digital to research and purchase athletic and outdoor products.

The Report primarily reflects the results of an online survey conducted by The Good in September 2013. For the purposes of clarification, relevant anecdotal evidence collected from past qualitative research conducted by The Good was included in the form of anonymized quotes. Relevant references from active consumer focused industry research reports recently issued by the SportsOneSource Group and Snowsports Industry of America also were included.

The report provides a window into the world of the active consumer, their preferred activities and brands, and their purchasing behaviors and preferences and their buying cycle. It is our hope that its contents will help you:

  • Make better decisions about your entire digital presence including website, content, and customer service.
  • Understand what consumers value when it comes to digital and retail spaces.
  • Do a better job helping customers find the right products.
  • Help your brand reach its goals.

We are always looking for ways to increase the value of our reports and so we would welcome your your questions or comments. Send your feedback to us at research@thegood.com. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

—The Good
[hello@thegood.com] November, 2013

Executive Summary

The following is a summary of findings and implications of the 2013 Active Lifestyle Consumer Survey and Digital Research Report.

Consumer profile

The majority of active consumers who participated in this survey (70%) were 25 or older. Both genders were well represented. Participants were well educated with higher than average incomes.

Activity participation

The majority of survey participants (90%) identified as solo athletes, enabling them to stay active in spite of increasingly busy lifestyles.

They may be training alone, but many are finding camaraderie through social events such as road races, Pilates, CrossFit, and obstacle events such as Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash, providing athletic and outdoor brands with new opportunities to connect with many active individuals at once. According to RunningUSA, road race finishers have increased 80 percent since 2000.

Brand Preferences

Most consumers named Nike as their top brand preference (26%) but after Nike, preference dropped to single digits. (Number two was Adidas, with 6.9%) In all, participants volunteered 153 different brands, most with 25 or fewer votes.

This indicates huge potential for challenger brands that can scale efforts to meaningfully connect with consumers. For example, the only category in which Nike was challenged was golf, competing with Footjoy, Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade and Ping.

Purchasing behaviors

Active consumer participants reported purchasing about 1.5 times as much apparel and footwear than they did equipment over the past 12 months. In general participants that were active on a daily basis had purchased more than four active products in the past four months (average was 1-3). Solo athletes exhibited extreme buying patterns with 15 percent purchasing zero items and 17 percent buying seven items or more over the past year.

Buying cycle

Online research — Online research has become part of consumers’ purchasing process with almost all survey participants (95%) indicating that they research online first. Half of participants indicated they typically only visit a site once before purchasing, which means brands need to get the experience right or they may not get another chance to capture that sale.

The competition for consumers’ attention online and in stores is increasingly fierce and with this group, Amazon is winning. Half of survey participants selected Amazon as their preferred site for purchasing outdoor and athletic products. After Amazon, consumers preferred to search retail box store sites.

Purchase influences — When participants do visit a brand site, they expect to find detailed product information from the source. If most of your online sales are coming from Amazon, it could be because that is where people are finding the most credible reviews of your products. To compete with Amazon, brand sites need to be optimized and constantly calibrate search and customer experience for performance.

But over one-third of participants rated professional athlete endorsements as Not Helpful at All.

When asked what was most helpful when purchasing athletic equipment, participants indicated that they want a way to try products before buying or if they do buy without trying, a way to easily return items that don’t fit.

Many of these active consumers rely on their peers for recommendations, especially when it comes to discovering new products. But over one-third of participants rated professional athlete endorsements as Not Helpful at All.

Showrooming and Reverse Showrooming — Showrooming (visiting a store, then buying online) is here to stay, but so is “reverse showrooming” (researching online and buying at a store). In fact 56.6 percent of active consumers prefer a reverse showrooming approach to purchasing. The takeaway from this is that brands need to ensure consumers can easily complete purchases regardless of their preferred buying approach and that means the online and in-store experience need to be seamlessly integrated.

Online checkout — When making a purchase online, half indicated they preferred to use Guest Checkout, for a number of reasons. Most did not want another account username and password to remember. Of those who did set up accounts, over one-third did so to claim an incentive such as free shipping. The bottom line here is that customers need an option to check out as a guest, and there needs to be a compelling incentive to create an account.

When it came to social media account logins, only 2 percent of respondents preferred using them. Check your analytics data to see whether or not the buttons are performing/converting or just adding noise to the checkout process.

Survey Methodology

In September 2013, The Good conducted an online survey of the online browsing and purchasing behaviors of active lifestyle consumers, ages 18 and over. Survey respondents were asked to provide their current shopping and purchasing habits for athletic apparel, footwear, and equipment.

Only respondents who indicated they engaged in athletic activities at least monthly were included in the survey. Respondents were excluded from the survey if they indicated less than monthly participation in athletic activities in the previous 12 months.

Of 745 total participants, 527 respondents qualified and completed the survey. The survey’s margin of error has been calculated at +/- 4.28 with a confidence interval/level of 95 percent.

The Active Lifestyle Consumer Survey is produced annually by The Good, with professional participant recruiting through ResearchNow.com.

 

Demographics

Summary

The majority of Active Lifestyle Survey participants (70%) were between the age of 25-64. Male and females were well represented, however participation by males exceeded that of females by about 10 percent.

As a group, participants were well educated, with 85 percent having earned at least a bachelor degree. Participants also had higher than average incomes. More than 70 percent of participants’ income met or exceeded 2012 US median household income of $51,017, with over half of participants (51.6%) reporting incomes of $75,000 or more.

Gender

Gender Comparison of Athletic & Outdoor ConsumersFemaleMale44.9%55.1%

Gender Respondents
Female 44.9
Male 55.1
44.9 (44.9%)
Age

Age of Athletic & Outdoors Participants18-2425-3435-4445-5455-64>6510.1%15.4%21.9%15.6%20.9%16.2%

Age Respondents
18-24 10.1
25-34 15.4
35-44 21.9
45-54 16.2
55-64 20.9
>65 15.6
16.2 (16.2%)
Education

Education Level of Active & Outdoor ConsumersHigh SchoolTrade SchoolUniversity/CollegeGradaute School8.9%34.5%52%

Education Level Respondents
High School 8.9
Trade School 4.6
University/ College 52
Gradaute School 34.5
Gradaute School
Income

Income Level of Athletic & Outdoors Consumers<$25,000$25,000 – $49…$50,000 – $74…$75,000 – $99…$100,000 – $1…>$150,000Prefer not to s…06121824% Respondents

Income Level Frequency
<$25,000 4
$25,000 – $49,999 13.3
$50,000 – $74,999 19.4
$75,000 – $99,999 15.2
$100,000 – $150,000 20.5
>$150,000 15.9
Prefer not to share 11.8
Income Level of Athletic & Outdoors Consumers

Activity Participation

Summary

The majority of Active Lifestyle Survey participants (90%) identified as “solo athletes.” These athletes can be found in the gym, running, walking or hiking trails, hitting the links, or cycling through town.

The most popular activity among survey participants (28.4%) was Personal Training involving multiple activities such as weight training, Crossfit, yoga, and Pilates. Running, Track and Field, and Walking (18.9%) were next most popular followed by Golf (11.9%) and Cycling (9.9%).

Engagement in team sports was low (10%) but many Active Lifestyle Survey participants (70.6%) are former high school and collegiate athletes who are still active on a weekly basis.

Primary Activities of Athletic Outdoor Consumers0102030Personal Traini…Running / Trac…GolfCyclingTennisBackpacking /…BasketballSwimming / W…VolleyballBoxing / Marti…BaseballKayak / Paddl…FootballHockeyHunting / FishingSki / SnowboardSoccerDanceMotorsportsClimbingEquestrianRacquetball% RespondentsActivities

Activities Frequency
Personal Training – solo athletes (Crossfit, weights, yoga, etc.) 30.1
Running / Track & Field / Walking 20.6
Golf 12.6
Cycling 10.7
Tennis 3.6
Backpacking / Hiking 3.2
Basketball 2.9
Swimming / Waterpolo / Water Aerobics 2.3
Volleyball 2.3
Boxing / Martial Arts 1.9
Baseball 1.7
Kayak / Paddlesports / Watersports 1.5
Football 1.1
Hockey 1.1
Hunting / Fishing 1
Ski / Snowboard 0.8
Soccer 0.8
Dance 0.6
Motorsports 0.4
Climbing 0.4
Equestrian 0.4
Racquetball 0.2
30.1
Individual Sports

Personal Training is the number one activity among those surveyed.

Personal Training fits with survey participants’ busy lifestyles, and enables them to be active on their timeline instead of being locked into an organized team sport schedule. Personal Training athletes also are much more active than the survey average; half of Personal Training athletes report working out daily compared to the survey average of 36.5 percent.

Even though Personal Training was the top activity and participants were more active — and presumably wear out products more quickly as a result — this group actually bought one less item per year than the survey average of 2.6.

Implications: Even though many people are training alone, they still want to be connected, as evidenced by the rise in social-athletic events such as CrossFit, Pilates, road races, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash, which include a social element (along with serious bragging rights). Such events are a great opportunity for brands to connect with solo athletes in one place and prove how well their products perform under extreme conditions in the process.

“If I’m buying something online I usually know what I want, and when I find it I want to be out of there and back to my life as quickly as possible.”

—P. Russo, Team Sports Athlete

Running, Track and Field, and Walking comes in second among active lifestyle participants in terms of sport preference.

Running, Track and Field, and Walking also owned slightly fewer pieces of equipment than the survey average, which is consistent with the low entry barrier for the activity.

“I over-research things, because I want to make the right decision.”

—Jason, Solo Sport Athlete

Team Sports

Engagement in team sports was low (10% overall) respondents who competed in college are more likely to currently participate in team sports.

Team sports only made up 10 percent of the overall survey responses. However, athletes who were involved in team sports in college were more likely to participate in team sports (27.8%) than as solo athletes (22.5%). This tendency was especially true for people who had played collegiate soccer, basketball, and hockey.

One third of survey respondents who participated in team sports indicated High School as the highest level of organized competition they participated in (34.5%) followed by Amateur/Enthusiast (29.6%) and College (23.1%).

Brand Preference

Summary

When it comes to participants brand preferences, Nike tops the list. When asked about brand preferences, and Nike was an option, 26 percent of participants preferred Nike to all other brands.

When Nike was removed as an option, percentages drop into single digits, starting with the number two preferred brand (Adidas 6.9%). However, of the top 10 brands, (including Nike) 50 percent are golf brands.

In all, participants offered 153 different brands as preferences.

Brand Preference

Preferred Brands of Athletic Outdoor ConsumersNikeAdidasNew BalanceAsicsUnder ArmourReebokFootJoyTitleistCallawayChampion06121824Preferred Brands of Athletic & Outdoor Equipment% Respondents

What brands do you buy most often for your primary sport or activity? Percent
Nike 23.2
Adidas 6.9
New Balance 5.6
Asics 4.1
Under Armour 4.1
Reebok 3.1
FootJoy 2
Titleist 1.9
Callaway 1.7
Champion 1.7
Preferred Brands of Athletic Outdoor Consumers

Nike is the preferred brand by almost all active lifestyle consumers.

Nike is the most preferred brand by survey participants by a large margin (23.2%). Adidas is the next closest competitor with 6.9 percent of all survey participants indicating it as their preferred brand. Rounding out the top five brands, No Preference (5.8%), New Balance (5.6%), and Asics and Under Armour (4.1%) were preferred by survey participants. Participants volunteered over 153 different brands, most garnering less than 25 total votes by participants.

“You’ve got to really make sure you dig in to the differences between the quality of the product versus the competitors.”

—Chris, Solo Sport Enthusiast

Without Nike on the list, the list of preferences flattens out significantly.

 

Six percent of the survey respondents indicated No Preference towards brands, preferring features such as quality, functionality, and value for price instead.

Seven percent listed Adidas as their preferred brand. Rounding out the top ten brands are New Balance, Asics, Under Armour, Reebok, FootJoy, Titleist, and Callaway.

Outside of the top ten, 163 other brands were offered. Each registering less than one percent of the total survey responses.

Implications: There is huge potential for innovative challenger brands who can figure out how to scale with digital to attract and engage consumers who prefer niche brands or brands that are a closer match to their personality and values.

“I can tell when a company values their customers, and that makes me feel important.”

—Britt, Cyclist

When it comes to brand loyalty, golf brands top the list.

Golfers are brand loyal, preferring Footjoy, Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade, and Ping nearly as much as Nike. Check out this conversation on TheSandTrap.com It also could be that they’re just more brand aware in general.

“One bad experience and they don’t want to use the site again, we have to get them on the first try.”

—M. Marsh, Team Sports Player

Purchasing Behavior

Summary

Apparel and footwear products tops equipment purchases, with 68 percent of survey participants reporting apparel or footwear purchases in the last 12 months compared to 41 percent who purchased equipment.

Survey participants who engaged in golf, hockey, climbing, and hunting and fishing owning the most pieces of equipment. The 55+ age group (36.5% of survey participants) owned the most equipment, and it was primarily golf related.

When purchase patterns were compared with activity participation, one third of those participating in activities daily had purchased more than four active lifestyle products (apparel, footwear, or equipment) in the past year. However, those engaging in running, track and field, and walking; swimming; and dance reported purchasing less than one piece of equipment in the past 12 months.

Additionally, solo athletes exhibited the most extreme buying patterns, with 15 percent purchasing zero items and 17 percent buying seven items or more in the last 12 months.

Product Ownership

Participants were more likely to have purchased apparel and footwear in the last 12 months than athletic equipment.

Types of Items Purchased by Athletic & Outdoor ConsumersApparelFootwearEquipment020406080Equipment Purchased in the Last 12 Months% Respondents

Purchased in Last 12 Months Percentage
Apparel 68.7
Footwear 67.4
Equipment 41.4
67.4

Active Lifestyle Survey participants purchased more Apparel (68.7%) and Footwear (67.4%) in the last twelve months than they did Equipment (41.4%).

Apparel sales rose 3 percent ($1.5B) during the 2012/2013 snow-sport season according to the SIA Snow Sports Market Intelligence Report 2012-2013

More than half of survey respondents said they owned one to three pieces of athletic equipment.

Athletes who participate in activities that require few pieces of equipment still purchased apparel and footwear. For example, nearly all runners (96%) reported purchasing shoes in the past 12 months and two thirds of cyclists (65%) reported apparel purchases in the past 12 months.

Participants engaging in activities requiring implements, such as golf (74.2%), hockey (100%), climbing (100%), and equestrian (100%), were more likely to own four or more pieces equipment.

According the the SIA Snow Sports Market Intelligence Report 2012-2013, sales of equipment were flat ($841M) from the previous year.

Implication: Since equipment doesn’t need to be replaced as often and costs more than apparel and footwear consumers are naturally more likely to weigh their purchase options.

“I’m constantly comparing products to make sure I’m getting the right gear.”

—Meghann, Avid Solo Sport Athlete

Participants that engaged in golf, hunting and fishing, and hockey tended to own the most pieces of equipment (10 plus).

Golfers owned the most equipment with more than half of all golfers reporting ownership of ten or more pieces of equipment. Runners, Track and Field, and Walkers typically owned one to three pieces of equipment.

The 55+ age group owned the most equipment, and it was primarily golf-related.

Those older than 55 reported owning the most athletic equipment. The 18-24 age group reported owning the fewest pieces. Survey respondents over age 55 also were more likely to list golf as their primary sport. This segment reported owning 4 or more pieces of equipment 74% of the time. Soccer (75%) and Triathlon athletes (66%) also reported owning a higher number of products.

Athletes who indicated weekly activity participation tended to own more products than those participating daily or monthly.

Weekly participants were 27 percent more likely than daily participants and 50.5 percent more likely than monthly participants to own 10 or more products.

Weekly participants also tended to purchase equipment in larger quantities. This would be true of the weekend hiker or camper who buys a tent, sleeping bags and other camping gear before a weekend trip.

Implication: Enthusiastic customers, especially solo athletes, could be encouraged to engage and purchase more if brands can find ways to keep track of what they buy and make sure they are the first to know about, access and review new or related products.

Participation vs. Purchase Patterns

Daily participants are 33% more likely to have purchased more than four active lifestyle items in the past year.

Most survey respondents participated in athletic activities weekly (40.8 %) followed by daily (31.2%) and monthly (6.9%). However, all participants were equally as likely (56%) to have purchased 1-3 items in the last twelve months.

Monthly participants, however, were twice as likely to have purchased zero athletic items in the last twelve months compared to daily participants. Moreover, daily participants were one third more likely to have purchased more than four athletic items in the last 12 months.

Implication: To help athletes who are very active in their sport to find and purchase the right equipment brand sites should have intuitive site navigation, intelligent page design, and relevant content.

Solo athletes demonstrate “extreme” buying patterns.

Solo athletes’ buying patterns fell into one of two extremes, either they don’t buy anything or they buy a lot. For example, 15 percent of solo athletes have purchased zero items in the last 12 months compared to 17 percent who have purchased seven items or more. Two thirds of solo athletes purchased 1-6 items (67%) versus 82 percent of team athletes who purchased 1-6 items.

Buying Cycle

Summary

Online research has become part of the purchasing process for almost all participants and half indicated they only visit a site once before purchasing, and that site likely was Amazon. When they do not find what they want on Amazon, their next stop is one of the big box sites.

Participants who visited brand sites expected to find detailed product information that went deeper than what they could find on Amazon or a big box site. A significant number sought out a retail store where they could see and touch and try on products before purchase.

Over half of participants indicated customer reviews and ratings influenced purchased decisions and even more said product information and descriptions were extremely helpful. Customer reviews and ratings and features such as product photos and videos were most valued by younger participants (18-44). This group also relied heavily on their peers for recommendations and was how most discovered new athletic products.

When it comes to advertising, print had almost no influence on participants’ purchase decisions until the age of 25 where it steadily increased over time and peaked with the 65+ segment. The 25-44 age group were the most influenced by online advertising. Participants also gleaned product information from news and sports specific sites, Facebook, and blogs and forums.

Traditional professional athlete endorsements were rated as “not helpful at all” in making purchase decisions by 37 percent of participants.

Nearly all indicated having engaged in “showrooming” but “reverse showrooming” (researching online and buying in the store) was the buying approach preferred by most survey participants.

When they’re ready to purchase online, participants wanted to be able to check out without having to register for an account. If they did register for an account, there was some incentive attached to it. Just 2 percent of participants preferred to use social media logins to register accounts.

Search and Purchasing Preferences

Online research has become part of the purchasing process.

Almost all participants (95%) do research online before purchasing a product. More than one third of survey participants (43.5%) visited 1-2 sites before purchasing, while 40 percent visited 3-4 sites.

However, half of participants indicated they typically only visit a site once before purchasing compared to 15 percent who visit twice and 7 percent who visit three times.

Implication: Brands are missing a lot of opportunities to sell direct to consumers on their site as well as the chance to build lasting relationships with customers who already like and buy their products. If most of your online sales are coming through Amazon, it could be because that is where they can find the most credible reviews of your products.

“The Internet was the most frequently used option when respondents researched outdoor-related products (almost 70 percent of respondents used it “frequently” or “always).”

—The Pulse of the Outdoor Customer Report, p 7.

[visualizer id=”1409″]

Half Prefer to Purchase Products from Amazon.com Rather Than a Brand’s Site

When it comes to purchasing products, 50 percent of participants selected Amazon as their preferred site for active lifestyle consumers to purchase goods. The other 50 percent was composed of brand sites, retail store sites, and online retailers.

Implication: Brands sites must deliver a great user experience that provides customers with everything they need to make and execute a purchase decision in one visit because they may not get another chance.

“I visit brand sites to get detailed product descriptions and reviews.”

—Dino, Solo Sport Athlete

After Amazon, Active Lifestyle Survey participants prefer to search the retail box store sites.

After Amazon, brand sites, retail store sites, and online retailers make up the other 50 percent of total responses. Of those three, the retail box store giants Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sports Authority are the most preferred sites.

Implication: To compete with Amazon, brand sites need to be optimized for search and provide the content consumers want. By optimizing, brands increase the likelihood of their products showing up above the fold on search and better positioning the brand to compete with Amazon for clicks.

“Full-Line Sporting Goods Store are the number one destination for consumers when it comes to purchasing footwear, apparel, and equipment for outdoor activities. Big Box discount stores are the clear second choice when it comes to purchasing equipment for outdoor activities, and to a lesser extent for footwear and apparel.”

—The Pulse of the Outdoor Consumer, Where Consumers are Shopping, p 14.

Participants who visit brand sites expect to find detailed product information.

Consumers are looking for detailed product information and relevant reviews. While Amazon provides some of this detail, brand sites can provide a deeper (and more authentic) level of detail. Serving your customers in this way will help build authenticity and trust.

“When I go to a brand site, I’m looking for detailed product information from the source.”

— Kaley, Solo Sport Athlete

When purchasing equipment, 47.5 percent of consumers prefer to research online at brand sites before making their purchase in store (Reverse Showrooming).

This trend also applies to athletes who purchase footwear (49.2%) and apparel (46.8%).

Beyond reverse showrooming, 26.5 percent of equipment purchasers prefer to research and purchase online; 23 percent of footwear purchases are researched and purchased in store; and 26.5 percent of apparel purchases are researched and bought online.

Consumers are comfortable purchasing in store and online. According to the SIA Snow Sports Market Intelligence Report 2012-2013, $1.9B in snow-sport sales were made at specialty/brand stores, $840M in sales were made at chain/box stores, and $746M in sales were made online.

Implication: Providing your consumers with a seamless retail and online experience will allow your brand to reach your consumer and help them research and purchase athletic products from you.

To complete their research, or to avoid waiting for products to be shipped, participants also indicated they searched for and then visited a local retail store.

Consumers who did not want to wait for shipping were likely using search to find a product, clicking on either Dick’s or Sports Authority and using the dealer/store locator to find the store nearby.

“Having the right product in stock was among the top five reasons for choosing a specific brand.”

—The Pulse of the Outdoor Consumer Report, Influence on Purchases, p. 12

Purchasing Influences
[visualizer id=”1410″]

Participants want to be able to try on and demo products.

More than two third of participants rated the ability to try on and demo products Extremely Helpful.

Implication: Brands with no retail space (or partnerships with sporting goods stores) can still accommodate customers’ need to try things on by providing them with the ability to purchase and easily return/exchange items with free shipping.

“Fit is so important, I really have to try a helmet on in person before I buy it.”

—Solo Sport User Tester

 

“Outdoor consumers … indicated Ability to use/demo/try on products before purchases influenced their decision whether or not to purchase with 53 percent indicating it had a major effect.”

—The Pulse of the Outdoor Consumer, Influence on Purchases, graph, p. 12

Over half of participants indicated that customer reviews and ratings were highly influential.

Consumers rely on the authenticity and opinion of their peers. Even negative reviews can help direct your consumer towards a product that better fits their needs, which helps with the brand’s authenticity and strengthens the relationship between your consumer and the brand.

Implication: Credible reviews and ratings provided by other customers and authentic reviews by professional athletes are increasingly influential in the product research phase and can bolster confidence in the brand, product, or both.

“I always read user reviews, it’s the easiest way to determine if something is worth buying or not.”

—Gordon, Solo Sport Athlete

Product information and descriptions were also rated as Extremely Helpful.

Knowledge & Information provided by staff (43%), Product Descriptions (44%), and Fit/Sizing Charts (46%) were rated as extremely helpful.

“Outdoor consumers rely rather heavily on the reviews that are posted on manufacturer and retailer Web sites.”

—The Pulse of the Outdoor Consumer Report, Influences on Purchases, p. 12.

[visualizer id=”1412″]

Younger consumers (18-44) are more likely to value and use customer reviews.

Active lifestyle survey participants who were 18-44 years old were more likely to value (and use) customer reviews and ratings than those 45 and older.

“I want one place to see everything, don’t make me hunt around for info. The sites I like put everything in one spot and make it easy to see how things are made, the materials, ratings, reviews, etc.”

—J. Reid, Team Sports Player

Younger consumers also tended to value features such as product photos and videos more than consumers over 45.

In fact, there was sharp decline in the perception of value for product photos and videos for survey participants older than 45.

Implication: Especially as younger consumers’ age and their discretionary income increases, providing excellent product photos and video features will become increasingly important to the consumer buying cycle.

“I know I won’t get a bad product from them so I’ll buy online, especially when the supporting videos are good.”

—Mark, Solo Sport Coach

Participants are looking for the highest value for price over lowest price.

A high perceived value for the price of a product (good fit and feel, high quality and durability, and functionality, etc.) is valued more than lowest price.

“When deciding which retailer to visit for their outdoor product purchases over the last 12 months and deciding which products to purchase, value and quality of products was most important in the respondents’ decisions.”

—The Pulse of the Outdoor Consumer Report, Summary of Findings, p. 7

[visualizer id=”1413″]

Active lifestyle consumers still rely on their peers for recommendations.

Recommendations are made through a variety of interactions ranging from conversations while participating in their sport to social media to recommendations solicited from friends and coaches.

Reviews and ratings from credible product owners found on brand websites and sites such as Amazon are also highly influential.

Consumers are not reliant upon professional athlete endorsements, social media only and advertising (print, radio, and TV) to help them discover and purchase new products.

“Family and friends still play a significant role in the purchase habits for outdoor consumers.”

—The Pulse of the Outdoor Consumer Report, Online Research and Purchasing Habits, p 17.

Peer recommendations (40.6%) are the way most participants discover new athletic products.

[visualizer id=”1414″]

Participants also relied on Customer Reviews and Ratings (16.3%), Online advertising (13.5%) and Print Advertising (13.1%) to find out about new products.

“I really want to hear how something has worked for someone else like me before I buy it.”

—J. Reid, Team Sports Player

The influence of print advertising increases the older the participant, peaking with the 65 plus age group.

Only 5.8 percent of people ages 18-24 reported that print advertising influenced their recent purchase decisions compared with 24.4 percent of those 65 or older who reported that print advertising influenced recent purchases. Print advertising purchase influence increases steadily after age 25.

The 25-44 age group were the most influenced by online advertising (20%).

[visualizer id=”1417″]

When online, participants read news or sports specific sites or peruse Facebook.

The top three places participants spend time online are news and sport specific sites (48.6%) followed by Facebook (33%) and Blogs and Forums (9.9%).

The 25-34 and 55-64 spent the most time on blogs and forums. The older a person was, the more time they spent on News and Sports specific sites and the less time they spent on Facebook.

“Over half of outdoor consumers surveyed never use social media and blogs to research outdoor related products before purchasing.”

—The Pulse of The Outdoor Consumer Report, Online Research and Purchasing Habits, Graph, p. 17.

More than one third of participants (37%) rated professional athlete endorsements Not Helpful at All when it comes to product decisions.

Only 10 percent of participants found professional athlete endorsements Extremely Helpful in making athletic product decisions.

Implication: More value can be gotten from the sponsored relationship by leveraging the celebrity of the sponsored athletes the right way, by having them explain, in their own words, why they chose one bat, shoe, or implement over another and how they came to that decision.

“Videos of pros explaining the fundamentals of the game, offering tips, talking about their preferences for equipment styles and why they choose one thing over another really help the kids get a sense of where they can improve, and which equipment may help get them there.”

—T. Stanford, Team Sports Player

Showrooming and Reverse Showrooming

Most survey participants indicated they have engaged in showrooming.

To raise their purchasing confidence, 4.2 percent of survey participants preferred to visit a store to research but then purchase the item online, a process known as showrooming. Of those who preferred showrooming, 54.6 percent were between the ages of 25 and 44.

Active Lifestyle Survey participants who have never been involved in organized sports are more than twice as likely to showroom than people who are currently involved in organized sports.

However, while most Active Lifestyle Survey participants indicated they have engaged in showrooming (4.2%), their preferred buying approach is actually reverse showrooming (48.2%).

Reverse showrooming is when a customer researches a product or a product category, reads reviews and recommendations, then looks for a local retail (box) store where they will go and and often complete the purchase.

“I use my iPhone for research, but when I find something I want to buy I’ll go into a store to check it out.”

—J. Reid, Team Sports Player

Researching online first has led to in-store visits to purchase for nearly half of participants.

Nearly all The Active Lifestyle Survey respondents (95%) reported researching online with 66 percent reporting that the ability to try on or demo products is extremely helpful when purchasing athletic equipment. Nearly half of participants (48.2%) indicated that they had reverse showroomed; researched a product online first but then purchased it at retail store. Those who indicated a preference for reverse showrooming were primarily 35-44 years old (23.2%) and 55-64 years old (20.5%). More than two-thirds of participants who actively participate in an organized sport prefer to reverse showroom.

Implications: To ensure consumers can easily complete purchases regardless of their preferred buying approach, in-store and online buying experiences need to be seamlessly integrated.

“Almost half of respondents have “showroomed” (found something in a store, but made the purchase online), and indicated that their primary reason for doing so was the availability of better prices online. More than 70 percent of respondents have done the reverse, finding something online that they ultimately purchased from a store.”

—The Pulse of the Outdoor Consumer, Summary of Findings, p. 7.

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“More than half of (outdoor consumer) respondents made all of the recent outdoor purchases at a physical retail store (56 percent of purchases).”

—The Pulse of the Outdoor Consumer Study, Summary of Findings, p.6.

Online Purchasing/Checkout

The last step in the online buying cycle is the actual checkout process and it also is where brands stand to lose the most sales. Half of survey participants preferred to use guest checkout when purchasing online. Almost none of the participants liked using social media logins for e-commerce purposes.

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Half of The Active Lifestyle Survey participants prefer to use Guest Checkout when purchasing online.

When checking out from a site, half of survey respondents preferred Guest Checkout (50.4%) to creating an account (46.7%) as the preferred method when purchasing online.

Implication: Customers need to be able to purchase from you without having to create an account. Most consumers do not want another account with another username and password to remember.

“I always check out as a guest, I don’t need another account to manage.”

—S. O’Keefe, Team Sports Player

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Participants who register accounts do so to claim incentives, track orders.

Of those who do set up online accounts with brands, 35.3 percent did so because of an incentive such as free shipping. Another 25 percent set up an account to track their order and order history.

Implication: Make sure there are real benefits to registration, such as free shipping, order tracking, and expedited customer services.

“Where I buy always comes back to the shipping. I don’t like paying for the return shipping if it doesn’t work out.”

—Michael, Solo Sport Athlete

Virtually no one preferred to use social media logins to register an account.

Less than 2 percent of all survey respondents preferred to use social media logins such as Facebook or Twitter when setting up online accounts with a brand.

Implications: Despite the obvious ease of use, concerns for privacy or the mixing of personal with commercial lives often prevent consumers from using this method of signing up for an account with their social media logins.

Take a look at your data to see how many of those who are registering are doing so with social media logins. If the number is low, consider whether or not you really need to clutter your site’s login screen with Facebook or Twitter buttons.

“Nobody wants to sign up for another account.”

—P. Russo, Team Sports Player

Conclusion

Today’s active lifestyle consumers are managing to stay active despite busy schedules by engaging in individual/solo sports. To add meaning to these individual pursuits, many are seeking out social-athletic events and activities like Pilates, CrossFit, and road and obstacle course races. For brands, these activities and events provide an opportunity to begin and reinforce a relationship with their customer base and demonstrate their brand’s ability to perform.

Connecting with these consumers at events and online will also allow for innovative brands to begin to challenge Nike for consumers who prefer niche brands or brands that authentically represent their lives, values, and personalities.

Part of connecting with consumers involves brands listening and understanding their customers’ specific needs. Athletic lifestyle consumers’ footwear, apparel, and equipment needs vary depending upon their activity. Knowing how often your consumer will need new running shoes, a new workout shirt, or a new baseball bat and reaching out to them based on that timeline will ensure your brand is top of mind when that person is ready to buy.

If your site is tracking your customer’s purchases, you can encourage your customers to engage with the brand and purchase goods from your site. Implementing a system that informs consumers of new products, allows for reviewing and rating new products, and incentivizes immediate purchases are just a few ways to encourage engagement and build on the brand’s authenticity.

In addition to leveraging your existing data, your brand’s site must have intuitive navigation, a well-tuned site search, intelligent page design, and relevant content to help your customers find and purchase the right equipment. Providing these things will result in a great user experience for customers and great experiences increase sales. Ignoring the user’s experience may cost your brand the one visit a customer will use to judge your brand, and any future chance at establishing a relationship.

To purchase from your site, customers must first find it, and so the site must be optimized for search. Through SEO, brands can increase the likelihood of their site showing up on the first page in Google search, challenging Amazon for clicks.

Whether your customers are researching and shopping online or in store, they expect a seamless experience (this includes checking out). Providing this experience will allow your brand to reach your customers, help accomplish their goals, and build your relationship with them. Brands with no retail space or partnerships can still create a retail-like experience by providing the ability to purchase and easily return/exchange items with free shipping.

When completing a purchase, consumers are split over whether to sign up for an account with a brand. Providing incentives like free shipping or 10 percent off will increase the likelihood of signing up for an account. Ensure that your customers know the real benefits of signing up and once completed, offering occasional incentives will encourage future purchases.

Finally, despite the obvious ease of use, social media logins like Facebook or Twitter are not popular. Consumers worry about privacy and mixing their consumer and private lives. Given the newness of this type of login, this may change over time.

We hope you found the content of this report useful, and welcome your feedback (positive or negative). What do you want more of? Let us know here.

If you liked this report, you might also like our previous research report, “The State of Digital in Active Lifestyle Retail.” If you are an active lifestyle brand ready to create your digital future, please contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to serve you.

About The Good

The Good is a digital marketing agency that helps brands grow lasting relationships with active lifestyle consumers through rewarding digital experiences on the web, on mobile, and in stores.

The Good has helped brands like Easton Baseball, MasterCraft Boats, Bell Helmets, and SKLZ Athletic Training line up strategic digital experiences that meet revenue growth goals year after year. We’ve created successful marketing campaigns, retail installations, dot coms and e-commerce solutions growing brands as well as titans like Nike and Adidas.

The Good’s team speaks and writes frequently on how brands can best serve the active lifestyle consumer and in the process enable them to achieve increasingly ambitious business goals. We also conduct research and publish findings and insights on the state of digital, active lifestyle brands, and active lifestyle consumers quarterly. The firm is based in Portland, Oregon.

Contact The Good: hello@thegood.com or 503 488 5935

This report is provided under the Creative Commons Public License (Attribution-NoDerivs¬†CC BY-ND). This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to The Good (The Good Group, Inc). This report is protected by copyright and/or other applicable law. Any use of the work other than as authorized under this license or copyright law is prohibited. Complete license can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/legalcode

Resources

The Pulse of the Outdoor Consumer, 2013 Topline Report, A Market Insight Study from The SportsOneSource Group.

SIA Snow Sports Market Intelligence Report 2012-1013, A Market Insight Study from SIA: Research: SnowSports Industries America.