While the eCommerce era puts a literal planet’s worth of goods at consumers’ fingertips, not all purchasing experiences are created equal. Some items are much easier to buy online than others. Generic consumer commodity items – paper towels, toothpaste, batteries, etc. – all ship in complete form and are ready to use out of the box. The best place to buy those kinds of goods, evo Founder Bryce Phillips noted, is a marketplace like Amazon, where a combination of long reach and discount pricing assures the best possible experience for the customer.
But when retail gets more niche or specialized, like in the arena of specialized outdoor goods and equipment, the consumer’s interests and needs are a bit different. Quality and function are generally bigger considerations than price alone, which means the customer is often seeking a wider range of very specific products.
An eCommerce hub is ideal for that kind of mass listing. evo’s core business is an incredibly extensive eCommerce site, but that solution comes with its own challenges. Shipping technical hard goods – bikes, ski boots, surf boards and so on – is difficult. If the company relies on customer assembly, the products may not work properly, which can easily dampen any enthusiasm the shopper might have had for the outdoor lifestyle. Phillips has great confidence in the goods sold on their site, noting to Men’s Journal that they are “all the things we love,” but added that nothing works well when it is not configured properly, is ill-fitting or does not living up to its function.
And, perhaps more importantly, when it comes to specialized, high-cost products, it is not just about the goods. It is also about the end-to-end purchasing experience and then the use of the product, which is why evo’s whole business is a lot bigger than its eCommerce core. Apart from online sales, they have brick-and-mortar stores (in Seattle, Portland, Denver and Whistler, and British Columbia, with a 100,000-square-foot retail operation under construction in Salt Lake City), an adventure travel business and an outreach program to local retailers. All of those points of expansion, Phillips said, are intended to build a retail operation around a community of enthusiasts, and to reap the rewards of those synergistic effects.
The company’s locations that exist today are large, sprawling complexes that both sell the merchandise and adjust it in their on-site service shops. But they are also home to skate parks, test tracks, art installations and restaurants – places to hang out even when shopping is not on the agenda. The planned SLC Campus location in Salt Lake City is primed to take that experiential retail design even further, with a hotel, art gallery and creative work space joining the skate park, restaurants and recreation areas.
"Our vision is to create a place for the community, bringing ethos-driven businesses together along with customers who share our passion for the outdoors and all of the cultural elements that surround the lifestyle," said Phillips. "It's the sum of its parts that's so exciting – a seamless experience, celebrating the intersection of our shared love of the outdoors and the urban environment."
But those destination stores are only available to residents of the four (soon to be five) cities that host them – which is why evo has also spent years developing its La Familia affiliate program. Customers can buy from evo online and have their goods shipped to a local shop that is part of the La Familia program. The shop doesn’t make money on the sale, but does gain a connection to the customer. The customer, meanwhile, gets access to a trusted and vetted technician to help them care for their goods throughout their term of ownership. The goal of the business – and in the future, of niche retailers in the age of digital commerce – is to use the medium to carve out deeply connected communities.
In some sense, they are sharing the customer, who might well choose to purchase future goods from the local provider – but they are also building a base of hobbyists and deepening their relationships. And evo’s offerings are geared to expand along with that interest.
That is how they found themselves in the travel vertical, hosting between six and eight trips each year through their evoTrip program. So far, the program has included surging trips, ski trips, surfing adventure and various mountain biking events. The goal, according to Phillips, is to continue growing that business segment.
“We want to have a presence where people are participating in the sports we represent,” Phillips noted. And a presence in their customers’ lives, even when they aren’t actively shopping for their next piece of gear.