Last month, we sponsored and took part in the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 trade show. It was NetSuite's fourth trip to an Outdoor Retailer show, and we were there to help support our new outdoor category customers, including HydroFlask, Solio and X-1, as well as a number of other exhibitors who have been using NetSuite for years. Being on the show floor, talking to people in the outdoor industry and thinking about their business challenges really cemented why I find the outdoor wholesale/distribution market so fascinating. Most of these products are designed to help people enjoy life, which means the stuff is fun to play with and to learn about. But behind that are some intense business challenges, and I'm impressed by how well these outdoor companies are adapting and succeeding.
This year's show demonstrated how pervasive social commerce is becoming in the outdoor market. One of our clients just added a staff member strictly to act as a social marketing manager. Another NetSuite user, action camera maker GoPro has done a phenomenal job building its business by making it easy for prospective buyers to find videos of its products in action in any sport or activity you can imagine. And the company has grown 380% year over year since using NetSuite. Companies succeed when they help their customers imagine doing incredible things with the product. GoPro has become a master at this social reinforcement.
Social commerce only goes so far—timing is still a huge factor in this industry. Like the outdoors themselves, most outdoor businesses are inherently seasonal. That means large variations in consumer impact and interest over the course of a year or even the course of a season. It also means a company's fortunes can sink or swim based on how well new and updated products match the changing tastes of an increasingly well-educated audience. These companies need incredibly detailed and accurate inventory data in order to make profitable decisions. That includes demand planning and dynamic forecasting, which I'm pleased to see gaining acceptance in the outdoor space. Nobody wants to be stuck with hundreds of pairs of ski boots in May.
Outdoor wholesale/distribution companies also need tremendous back-office efficiencies in order to cope with the tremendous diversity in their retail partners. Boutique shops, dedicated outdoor superstores and mainstream discounters are often buying the exact same products, with vastly different margin expectations, quantities and lead times. Serving so many retail segments is not easy to do, but by putting themselves in the driver's seat of the supply chain, the best and brightest in the outdoor segment are making this juggling act look easy.
Every show I’m surprised by how much the industry is growing and changing. And yes, I’ve already got the Winter Market on my calendar.
Ranga Bodla - Director, Industry Marketing, Wholesale Distribution and Manufacturing