REI Starts with One-Way Blog Approach

Discussion
Jul 25, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A report in the Puget Sound Business Journal says managers at Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) stores will begin making posts to weblogs next month to communicate information of interest to customers who shop in their stores.

In this first attempt into blogging, the company is creating sites with one-way communication. Unlike other blogs where visitors respond directly on a site, the REI blogs will only post comments from the managers.

The blogs may also be translated into email so that the managers at REI’s 78 stores can send news of events and classes in their area to interested shoppers.

David Geller, president and chief executive officer of WhatCounts, the firm that developed the blogging technology for REI, said he was not aware of any other retailers in the Puget Sound area using blogs to communicate with customers.

REI’s email manager, Meg Reynolds, said the company hopes to further develop its blogging capabilities moving forward. “Eventually, I think it would be cool to have local customers talking about their favorite hikes,” she said. “I think we will see how this baby step in blogging is perceived and take it from there.”

Moderator’s Comment: What do you think about REI’s initial steps into blogging to communicate with shoppers on a local level? Are blogs something every
retailer should consider doing?

George Anderson – Moderator

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12 Comments on "REI Starts with One-Way Blog Approach"


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Greg Coghill
Guest
Greg Coghill
15 years 7 months ago
This is in continuation to my posting above… Here is a good example of consumer ‘checks and balances’ in blogs…the first posting is a marketer’s worst nightmare, but the one that follows immediately afterwards is the balance that a GOOD product will receive on an associated blog. (This product is ‘D-Skins’, a cover for compact discs) 3. Posted Aug 5, 2004, 6:11 PM ET by Denise Buckner DON’T BUY THE D-SKINS. My son got some for his birthday and put one on a new CD which he got for his birthday. He then inserted it into a new 5-disc changer CD player which he got for his birthday. Guess what? Because of the skin the CD got stuck in the back of the CD player. Some birthday. They may be fine for a player where you open the lid and lay disc inside, but they do not work with mechanical open/close units. They also tried one in one his friend’s car player and it does not work. It will end up costing you more. It… Read more »
Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

I find blogging analogous to the “Reality TV” trend. When practiced in its usual form, Reality TV is a tedious, sloppily edited look at someone’s mundane existence. When done well, it’s a well-produced documentary.

The vast majority of blog material on the web is self-indulgent diary-writing that goes largely unread. The good stuff is first person commentary that, in any other context, would not seem at all innovative in form.

So I agree with Doug: if retailers are going to make use of this non-genre genre, I’d recommend employing all of the good writing principles that you would in any other popular media context: keep it concise, poignant and useful. In other words…get a professional to at least edit it properly.

Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Great concept, Warren: blahgs. I wholeheartedly agree, and I doubt that bland corporate PR, dressed up as a blog, will make customers feel a better connection with REI.

At the same time, however, it’s nice to see companies dipping their toes in the water like this. If/when someone figures out exactly how to “move the needle” via blogging, a company like REI will be in a much better position to take advantage of the opportunity.

So it seems like a low-cost, low-risk way to retain some option value for a technology that might eventually be worthwhile from a commercial perspective.

Greg Coghill
Guest
Greg Coghill
15 years 7 months ago
Several of the above posts ask for a young blogger’s perspective. Here is my take: Most blogs, in my experience, are ‘blahgs’, but certain bloggers with credibility and popularity are extremely influential. To draw a parallel, most websites are useless and boring, but some are obviously invaluable… Blogging is obviously a powerful tool, but not necessarily something to be commandeered by marketers. Blogs tend to be powerful BECAUSE of the fact that they are coming from real people with honest opinions. As soon as you put an inherent ‘big-business’ marketing message into the mix, the information become just as irrelevant as clutterful TV spots. Again, blogging is powerful, but it is not set up to be a tool for marketers. It inherently avoids the negative corporate influence, which is the reason they are consulted. For the foreseeable future, my best advice for utilizing the effectiveness of blogs would be to encourage product reviews by offering test products and samples to the most influential bloggers. They have credibility and are listened to. The catch: you better… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

This is a grand opportunity for me to ask in this space if people can give me specific instances of when blogs demonstrably moved the needle with efficiency and ROI. I read the Business Week cover story on blogs a couple months ago, and it just danced around the issue with nothing really concrete. I keep hearing and reading about how great blogs are, but I have not yet seen proven tangible financial results. I spent almost an entire day chasing down blogs, and it was a wasted day. Blah blah blah. I think they should be called blahgs. Incorrect information, ego, and boooooring! So, this dinosaur doesn’t get it. I know lots of pups out there read this, and occasionally they throw me a zinger, which is fine, because sometimes I learn from them. So anyway, I hope people who post on this question can offer some thoughts on my blahg above. Thanks!

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 7 months ago

REI is a great store for blogging – their clientele is likely to be computer savvy; they have managers who, in most cases, use their product and enjoy the sports for which they’re designed so have valuable information for clients; have the opportunity for new news – e.g., when the weather changes, the sport changes. I don’t know that Macy’s, for example, has the same opportunity.

Companies have, for a long time, tried to come up with ways to communicate regularly with their customers. In most cases, these initiatives run out of steam because there just isn’t that much new information to give out on a regular basis and, after two attempts, they fizzle due to lack of interest.

It’s a great initiative for REI; other retailers should tread carefully.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 7 months ago

REI should communicate with its customers and be helpful to them by supplying only the most appropriate and timely information. They must be careful to avoid overkill. So much is being crammed onto the internet that anything that isn’t interesting or pertinent can be counterproductive.

Blogging: a medium, so called because it is no longer rare nor well done in many transmissions.

Doug Fleener
Guest
15 years 7 months ago
I’m all for retailers having local management connect and build relationships with their customers like REI is doing. Nothing builds loyalty and advocacy more than a strong relationship. The challenge is that these local managers all have varying degree of writing and spelling capabilities. Every time a manager communicates with the customer, it is a representation of the retailer and the brand. In communicating with managers as well as reading the reviews that they have written, having them represent the brand in writing is a scary thing. I would advise any retailer who is creating a local blog like REI to first put together the appropriate training and mechanisms to ensure that the communication is a good representation of the retailer. Before launching the blog, I would require each manager to first take and pass an online course on basic writing skills. Secondly, I would require the first number of postings to be reviewed by someone to ensure they meet the necessary standard. After that, I’d let them loose. So should other retailers do blogs… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

I wonder if what REI is testing is blogging or just marketing e-mail, since the customers cannot respond publicly.

I also read the Business Week article and read various blogs it suggested. A number seemed to be written as ads, not personal experiences.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

This isn’t about a blog, it’s about a corporate newsletter. Blogs about retailers and/or products should be from users and customers, with only occasional comments from managers responding to what has been said. I’m not generally a great fan of blogs, tending to agree that they are frequently egotistical blahgs, but where business is concerned, I definitely think that the terminology and technology here are being mis-used. As it’s described, it’s just another form of advertising.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 7 months ago
We be bloggin’ to increase hits on our websites. It’s cheaper than Google and Yahoo!, to which we pay thousands monthly, and the hits are more informed and not fake-out affiliates to boost search engine revenues. We do everything “blog” as described in the REI article, and more. It works, but it needs to be managed and understood. First, many surfers think that blogs are for asking questions for immediate response from hosts. Clearly, education is needed here. Blog threads often provide answers to FAQ, providing the user can read and has a moderate attention span (sadly lacking, I’m afraid). But, retail blogs are really for the informed exchange of ideas and to help hosts quickly spot negative trends and address them. Second, blogs are just controlled chatrooms. One can control topics, grammar, and comments, but not the idea that the content is, in fact, controlled. The trade-off for blog followers is that one doesn’t have to wade through a bunch of inconsequential chat to get to germane content. Third, blogs gain credibility through consistently… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Thank you, Greg Coghill! Yours was the first perspective on blogs that actually made sense to me. I do appreciate it.

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