SIMA held its first Boot Camp in several years Wednesday, March 1, to discuss its findings from the Consumer Insights Study, an in-depth look at the surf-inspired market based on data that was gathered in 2015.
Created with the help of SIMA Insight Committee board members and Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS), the 140-page report dives into consumer categories, reached by classifying consumers into four broad segments based on similar behaviors. This “cluster analysis” produced the “core influenced” consumer, the “affluent” consumer, the “fashionista,” and the “impulse” buyer.
SMS VP Keith Storey walked the group through key takeaways from each of these demographics and how each relates to the surf industry business as a whole.
“If a brand knows how and where their target audience shops, which social media platforms they favor, and even the motivation behind why they purchase certain products/brands, than that brand can actually build forward-thinking strategies rather than reactionary strategies,”said SIMA’s Executive Director Sean Smith.
Brett Savage, of Savage & Sons, followed up with an interesting look at the consumer continuum and how a brand progresses from small and trend-setting to largely available at Big Box chains. The exercise was meant to get brands to think about their customer before they begin to develop product, and create marketing and merchandising strategies that keep their brand relevant to tastemakers by dialing in product segmentation.
We caught up with Smith on some of the additional questions we had following Boot Camp.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you explain the methodology of how you arrived at the size of the surf market at 2.2 million? Does this number represent just the United States?
The 2.2 million adults represents those survey respondents who said that they had surfed at least once in the last 12 months. It’s important to note that this study is not intended to be a participation study, so we weren’t out to determine the breakdown of how many core and casual surfers there are in the US.
We did need to quantify some level of participation in order to create our consumer profiles, so this was the best way to accomplish that. And, yes, that number represents just consumers in the United States.
What do you personally feel are the most relevant and applicable takeaways from these findings?
First, I would say that the sheer size of the potential consumer market was great news. Surfing is very much alive and desirable in this country. And the potential for growth for the culture, industry and sport is huge. Second, the influence and impact of the female consumer has been so understated and frankly often ignored by our industry, that I hope this study is a wake up call.
Finally, I think many in the industry already knew that e-Commerce had become a game-changer in regard to consumer channels, but with this study, we now know that every brand and retailer needs to have some type of e-Commerce plan. And we’re all going to need to work together on strategies that engage and involve both brands and specialty retail.
The average age of the core influenced consumer was 31 and the average age of the youngest demographic, the Fashionista, was 26. Is this an indication that the audience who is the most interested in surfing is skewing older these days?
I don’t know if the entire surf audience is skewing older these days as the study did not include respondents under 16. However, it’s probably safe to say that, in general, the consumer audience that’s interested in and/or inspired by surf is skewing older.
To be honest, I wasn’t too surprised by those numbers. It’s an indication that many surf brands have matured over the years and become desirable to a wider audience than just the proverbial “surf kids” portrayed in mainstream movies, music and media over the last 60 years. But I think it also shows that there is huge potential for brands to target today’s youth with brands and products that speak to their generation.
Almost 70% of the core influenced consumer said they researched online and then bought in store (in contrast to 37% who researched in store and bought online). Do you have any additional information on what the consumer was researching prior to purchasing to get a better feel for what those factors were driving the purchase?
While we don’t have specifics about what they researched, it is safe to say the consumer is researching styles, looks, brands, models and pricing. One of the key attributes of the core influenced consumer is they are more engaged with the specialty channel and they are better and better informed through online research. This may help to reduce specialty retailers’ concerns about show-rooming.
Discuss the decision to use Hollister as a core brand to gauge consumer interest. How relevant is Hollister these days as it relates to the surf industry? What about the relevance of mall stores?
The inclusion of Hollister in the list of brands was not necessarily about relevance or mall store relevance as much as it was about brand perception and consumer scope. In the study, we listed out some of our industry’s most widely known brands as the basis for asking the survey takers if they are interested in and/or buy surf brands.
The bottom line is that Hollister is widely known as a “surf” brand to broad-based consumers throughout the country. They may not be as relevant to our industry today as they were five years ago, but the name still resonates with many consumers as “surf” when they hear it or see it. So, we included them in the brand list as a way of determining just how large the overall surf inspired consumer base is as some consumers may not be super familiar with our actual core brands, but they’ve heard of Hollister before. Those consumers represent a big opportunity for our brands to take back.
This report verified what we already suspected: consumers are gravitating at a rapid pace to online retailers like Amazon. What learnings can a brick and mortar retailer and brand within our space take from this to help their overall strategy?
What it tells our industry – brands and retailers alike – is that everyone better have an e-commerce strategy. It may be different for each brand and retailer, but online shopping is not going away. Companies like Blockbuster chose to ignore consumer trends and no longer exist. Ignoring a consumer trend like this in our industry could be a death sentence.
That doesn’t mean brick and mortar surf shops are going away because consumers are shopping online more and more. It just means retailers and brands need to adapt and evolve. It also shows the importance of an industry association. Trends like this are industry wide and being able to come together to seek out and develop potential strategies often yields positive results. It also demonstrates the importance of retailers carefully selecting their inventory to provide products and an experience that cannot be replicated online.