For those of us who actively participate in outdoor sports, getting outside is easy. But for people who are leaving the beaten path for the first time, the way is not always obvious. To try and get a better understanding of what it’s like to be a “newbie” in outdoor sports today, we put an ear to the ground, so to speak, and reached out to retail staff at stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Vermont, and Chamonix.
We wanted to find out what obstacles lie between people and outdoor sports and to know what sparks never-evers to become first-timers. Insights from frontline staff in the retail space, who meet, listen to, and guide newbies looking to make their first gear purchases allowed us to paint a qualitative picture. Though our sample was relatively small, the results revealed some consistent insights into the needs of the newbie outdoors person.
To start, most newbies that engage with staff visit stores to seek out advice and expertise. Though some may have done research online beforehand or brought a more savvy friend along with them, shop inventory and knowledgeable staff play a pivotal role. Beyond explaining products and finding the right fit, things like recommending places to go, ways to learn, and even events to participate in are all valuable parts of the in-store experience for newbies. While seasoned outdoors folks can shop online to save time, a visit to the local brick-and-mortar is an important step towards outdoor independence for new adopters.
Once a newbie has discovered a brand, in-store or online, they’ll use it as a jumping off point for researching and exploring the world of outdoor sports. Something many respondents pointed out is that outdoor brands’ websites can be very technical, and possibly daunting to someone just breaking into a jargon-heavy sport like mountain biking or skiing. So, if your website isn’t quite beginner-friendly, social media and retail become even more important touchpoints to make a relatable brand connection with people new to outdoor.
This leads to our final survey question. When asked “How can shops make it easier for people to get outdoors?”, every response from Whistler to Chamonix featured one or both of these two answers: well-trained staff and accessible events. Based on regular interaction with real live newbies, retailers believe the best way to get more people outside is with well-informed staff and accessible events that lead to the trailhead. Once a person has stepped into a shop, clicked onto a website, or scrolled past a post, it’s our responsibility to inspire all people to get outside. For first-timers, the message could be as simple as an invitation to come out and play.