There's probably not a single industry in all of retail where both brands and shoppers rely more heavily on the expertise of a local store than fly-fishing.
Local fishing specialists are the front-line experts for where to go, what to bring, which flies are hatching, and the right gear for a day on the water.
But with so many changes to our lives and retail, how has that vital relationship held up?
Back in 2016 . . .
Simms was the very first brand in the fishing business to identify the growing disconnect between online shoppers and local stores. They knew that changing consumer behavior was shifting more product research online, but they also knew that much of their dealer network lacked the sophisticated digital marketing skills that could span the gap. That meant that local inventory and expertise was increasingly disconnected from the shopper's brand experience.
Simms taps Locally to build those missing connections.
The initial project started with reimagining the way shoppers are handed off from a brand's site. Instead of just providing an address, Simms+Locally gives the shopper deeper insights into which nearby location has what they're looking for. While most store locator solutions barely exceed the functionality of the Yellow Pages (for those who remember) and just list nearby stores, Locally provides shoppers with a "What's In-Store" view. This additional layer of functionality ensures that shoppers don't get frustrated because they drove to a store for waders and found out that the only Simms products the store stocks are T-shirts.
Secondly, Locally enables Simms' and their dealers' mutual customers to see that items are available at local stores directly from simmsfishing.com product pages. This technology allows brand and dealer to serve as a nationwide on-demand logistics solution where shoppers get the benefit of a partnership working together rather than against one another . . . much like Apple.com and Apple Stores work together to create brand enthusiasm by blending online and offline shopping.
While "give the customer what they want, how they want" helps drive mutually-beneficial shopper affinity and goodwill between Simms and their authorized dealers, it also helps stores gain local insights into what shoppers want to buy in their town by aggregating data from the entire Locally platform. Helping stores know what they should stock and showing customers where they can buy the item nearby is the absolute best way to make sure Simms-acquired shoppers end up buying Simms products—even offline.
Tucker Ladd, Owner/President of Trouts Fly Fishing:
“I had been asking Simms for years to update the store locator on their website and the introduction of Locally has been nothing short of a miracle. My long frustration was not allowing the consumer to see the breadth of our Simms inventory, but Locally was a quick fix to this long-standing issue. The integration of their software into our eCommerce solution took minutes, and we know we see customers daily who are finding us through Locally. It’s an amazing resource for the retailer and manufacturer. I just can’t believe more brands haven’t adopted this technology.”
. . . and this was before 2020 hit!
In March of this year, everything everyone thought they knew about consumer behavior shifted. Expert, in-person advice was out the window. Stores were closed. Travel screeched to a halt. But the need for enthusiasts to connect to their favorite local shops was more important than ever for both shops and their loyal patrons. The retail technology evolution that had been slowly simmering for years suddenly came to a boil and surged forward. Stores and restaurants that couldn't get what they sell into the online consumer's path to purchase were now basically invisible.
But as this was happening, simmsfishing.com was getting more traffic than ever. The quintessential fishing brand launched a new ad campaign in key fishing print and digital sites in March. Suddenly, anglers found themselves spending more time staring at their computer monitors than on the river or in the local shop.
With the spring fishing season and dealer impact still mostly unknown, Simms shifted from wader manufacturing to PPE manufacturing, building 10K units of waterproof/breathable medical gowns for hospitals in more than 26 states. This resulted in significant press coverage that raised the profile of Simms and site traffic even further.
And while it was unclear what would happen all the way back in March, today we all realize that get-outside activities like sportfishing, boating, and outdoor adventure are experiencing increased participation of longtime anglers, as well as a glut of new anglers who wished to socially distance on the water. Fishing has become one of the hottest sports in the age of COVID-19.
As a result, Simms has seen a remarkable increase in interest in the brand, the site, the products, and where to buy them. Visits to the site are up over 50%, with much of the traffic coming from new & first-time visitors. This creates a tremendous opportunity for Simms' authorized dealers. Capitalize on significant site traffic happening in your town by joining Locally (free), and start sharing information about what you sell with these ultra-engaged enthusiasts (who really want to spend money in local shops).
To further buoy its dealer network, Simms raised the profile of the Locally store locator on their homepage and elevated the "Buy it Locally" tool on product pages. Participating retailers have benefitted from sharply-raised online profiles featuring in-stock products and the ease of accepting transactions (if they choose).
The results are extraordinary.
Simms showed customers an online-to-offline path to purchase 15 million times since the pandemic started affecting consumer shopping behavior. In 3.3 million cases, a local store had the item the shopper was interested in and the shopper was able to verify available sizes and colors before calling or driving to the store.
Today Simms is working to grow both their direct engagement with online shoppers and to help dealers better engage with locals. It isn't about one channel versus another; it's about building a solution for shoppers and enabling them to shop in a way that works for them right now while being resiliant in the face of anything the future may bring.
"Simms remains focused on building long-lasting relationships in every channel, online and off, because racing off to catch one fish isn't nearly as powerful as bringing along partners and catching them all."
Mike Moore, Vice President, Global Sales at Simms Fishing Products