Basecamp is a mobile app concept for REI that aims to drive customer engagement by extending the iconic REI store experience to the digital sphere. Outdoor enthusiasts can now access REI experts and grow their skills in-app through new functionality focused on trip inspiration, planning support, and online learning.
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 aspirational and 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. Afterward, 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Users can browse exciting locations around the world (and 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 people's aspirations to the REI gear that enables them.
Gear lists now use account data to check the boxes for you. Collaborative features like adding trip members and assigning items help groups stay up to date.
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.
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.
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.
Basecamp is not a shipped product, so I do not have real-world outcomes to discuss. That said, I developed a few potential metrics to think through how REI might measure the impact of this work.
Potential performance metrics
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:
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 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.
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.
We used the REI Cedar design system for visual guidance, with minor adjustments to match Basecamp's intent. Relying on this structure helped to maintain a cohesive feel with the rest of the app while introducing new functionality.
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.
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.
I used Figma to build an interactive prototype of the experience to better convey the Basecamp concept during user testing.
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.