REI

Creating a digital basecamp for outdoor enthusiasts

Basecamp is a mobile app concept for REI that extends the iconic REI store experience into the digital sphere. Outdoor enthusiasts can access REI experts and grow their skills through new functionality focused on trip inspiration, planning support, and online learning.

Overview

Every adventure starts at home.

REI has a legendary and immersive in-store experience. Diehard fans refer to it as  "like being a kid in a candy shop.” But when it comes to REI's mobile app, the experience falls flat. Customers are greeted with a generic, browse-and-buy interface that does not reflect the close-knit REI community.

Our team developed a new "basecamp" structure for the app, which aims to create a holistic shopping experience, placing customer discovery and support at the forefront. To achieve this, we personalized the home screen and added functionality focused on trip inspiration, planning support, and online learning.

My team collaborated to develop the early concept, strategy, and designs. Afterwards, I refined and iterated on the idea independently. My role spanned all aspects of the design process, including research, strategy, interaction design, and visual design.

Brief

Reimagine a brand extension in the home during COVID-19.

Problem

REI has not been able to translate its brand value to the mobile marketplace.

In 2021, remaining successful in the retail space means providing valuable brand touch points beyond brick-and-mortar locations. REI is an established name in a competitive (and during the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling) category. Like many retailers, they have not yet been able to translate their brand value to the mobile marketplace.

The current REI app is little more than a digital storefront to browse and purchase products. Many diehard fans don't even know that a mobile app exists. The app's functionality is utilitarian: find an item, find a store, buy a thing. There is none of the promise of discovery that REI exudes in person.

Thought Starter

How might REI create a digital experience that reflects its unique relationship with its customers?

Target Audience

Outdoor enthusiasts spend every waking hour asking “What’s next?” REI can help answer that question.

Outdoor enthusiasts are inspired by nature and experiences. They are constantly testing new gear and planning and searching for their next trip, and they want help leveling up in their favorite activities. REI stores are a place of inspiration for them.

REI's brick-and-mortar locations are popular visits, but customers also need accessible resources at home. Why can’t REI offer the same inspiration and guidance on mobile?

Opportunity

REI can harness the power of mobile to personalize, educate, and communicate, creating a digital retail experience that complements the physical one.

Strategy

Make the REI app a partner through the full scope of the trip planning process.

Introducing REI Basecamp

Our “digital basecamp” approach is an evolution of the digital retail experience, changing the way REI presents products and serves customers in the mobile app.

Personalization

A home screen that focuses on you.

Instead of landing on a generic, browse-and-buy homepage, users see a dashboard that emphasizes a personalized experience.

Solves for: The current landing page is impersonal and the app's features utilitarian: find an item, find a store, buy a thing. There is none of the sense of discovery that REI exudes in person.

Discover

Explore the world from home.

Users can browse exciting locations around the world (or close to home) to find their next trip. Curated trip lists present gear and products in the context of a trip.

Solves For: People purchase gear at REI, but use other platforms for inspiration. Basecamp's contextual commerce approach creates a built-in feedback loop from aspirations to the REI gear that enables them.

Planning Support

New gear lists facilitate solo and group trip planning.

Gear lists now use account data to check the boxes for you. Collaborative features like adding trip members and assigning items help groups stay on the same page.

Solves For: Users bemoan the massive spreadsheets and lengthy email threads that often characterize their trip planning. Creating a single source of truth helps groups stay safe and sane.

Skill Building

Online classes help you level up from anywhere.

Users can learn new skills from the comfort of their own homes, and even download videos to watch offline while out on their adventures.

Solves For: Many novices struggles to find proper mentorship or accessible education, and even experienced outdoor enthusiast need help making the leap to the next level of their activity.

Expert Advice

Talk to trusted experts from the comfort of home.

Customers can use online chat to ask a quick question just like they would in the store, or book virtual appointments with REI’s esteemed Green Vests to talk through more extensive trip plans.

Solves For: Users do the majority of their planning away from REI stores. Convenient access REI staff helps customers make better decisions and keeps REI top of mind.

Process

We followed a user-centered design process to explore how to enhance REI's mobile experience. Guided by several in-depth interviews with outdoors enthusiasts, we identified common pain points and addressed them through new visual and interaction design solutions.

To explore the sources and solutions for this problem, we employed the following research and design methods:

Market Insights

Many retail companies are struggling to upgrade their e-commerce game.

  • Social distancing means less foot traffic – Customer appetite for visiting physical stores has ebbed and flowed, and will continue to evolve due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • E-commerce habits are here to stay – Sales reached 23% of all US retail sales in 2020, and is expected to continue growing over the next few years.
  • Mobile shopping is on the rise – 63% of people use smartphones to browse and buy products online.
  • Consumers increasingly consider a retailer's digital presence as a factor in their brand preferences.
  • Brands that relied on in-person experiences must pivot – REI has closed their brick-and-mortar stores for extended periods in 2020. Despite re-opening, many core aspects of the in-store experience, such as classes and members-only Garage Sales, have been disrupted or put on hold.
Audience Insights

People love REI stores, but there are unmet needs outside of the in-person experience.

  • Interactions with REI are ongoing – The lifestyle of an outdoor adventurer involves constant testing and pondering “what’s next?” REI’s physical stores are a place of inspiration for them.
  • Trip planning is a group activity – From text and email threads to exhaustive gear spreadsheets, trip planning requires tight coordination to ensure the group is fully equipped for their upcoming adventure.
  • Planning is both exciting and serious – Planning phase is a source of enjoyment and anticipation, but there are also practical safety considerations to having the right amount of the right equipment for a given activity.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts want help growing their skills – There are knowledge gaps for people doing their own research that can make it difficult to “level up” in their chosen activity.
User Journey

The map is not the territory.

Following our interviews, we mapped out the user journey to assess the high-level phases of an outdoor experience. We noticed that the trips themselves were such a small part of the overall journey, and much of the excitement and frustration arose during the planning stages.

We also discovered that trip planning is a fluid thing. Each phase of the journey is not a discrete set of tasks. There are many entry points and moments of backtracking during every phase. With that in mind, we treated this map more like a compass and aimed to support users across the spectrum of the planning experience.

Design

Design Goals

Setting goals to measure project success

Following our initial research insights, we explored how to address user pain points and opportunity spaces in the mobile app. We set project goals to guide the design process.

Ideation

We brainstormed new features with brand consistency in mind.

We brainstormed new features as enhancements to the existing REI app. This would help streamline communication channels and keep the planning and purchasing actions in the same ecosystem.

Based on our user interviews and research, we identified several prominent user needs and defined the core features that would address them.

Design Iterations

Refining the design details from low to high fidelity

I used wireframes to quickly sketch initial ideas about the layout and information architecture for each page. I wanted the experience to be visceral like the outdoors, so I looked for opportunities for images to carry the informational load.

Then I developed high-fidelity mockups and prototyped the experience using Figma to test each flows with users.

During testing, several users remarked that instead of seeing a list of products on the home screen, they would prefer to see the new "basecamp" screen first. So we made the decision to reorganize the navigation, moving the product and category scrolls to a secondary Browse section.

Prototyping

Sewing it all together with Figma's prototyping tools

I used Figma to build an interactive prototype of the experience to better convey the Basecamp concept during user testing.

Takeaways

REI is about more than shopping. Its app can be, too.

REI has a unique relationship with their customers because of their co-op membership model and the natural camaraderie among outdoor enthusiasts. It is a community built upon a love of finding new limits.

Because of that, there is an opportunity to create a shopping app that doesn't feel like a shopping app, to integrate into their customers' daily lives in a way that helps them learn and grow outside the store doors.

Reflections

  • It was an interesting challenge to consider how digital platforms can complement or mimic a highly tactile and immersive environment like an REI store.
  • I would have liked to do more hands on testing with users to validate the smaller design decisions. We got a great response to the concept and feature design, but there are always usability improvements to be made.
  • This project solidified my desire to pursue product design because I enjoyed the challenge of designing the end-to-end experience.

Team

  • Curtis Winiesdorffer — Experience Designer
  • Mayana-Jael Williams — Experience Designer
  • Maddy Crews — Experience Designer
  • Sophie Whitfield — Experience Designer