Mobile Applications: Could A Store Locator Drive Bikers Away?

REI recently launched an iPhone application (in addition to its Ski and Snow Report) called Bike Your Drive. The app helps cyclists keep track of their rides, including mileage, gas savings, CO2 offset, time and calories burned. iPhones with GPS capability can show exact location and compass direction. Users can upload photos of their ride which are geotagged and plotted on a map to share with friends.

REI offers an online counterpart for non-iPhone users who still want to access Bike Your Drive’s informative content at http://www.rei.com/bikeyourdrive. The resource offers “how to” videos, calculators for the CO2 offset, calorie expenditure and money savings of biking instead of driving, and recommended cycling gear.

Bike Your Drive is not REI’s first mobile application, its Ski and Snow Report is already one of the most popular applications in the Application Store’s weather category. Ski and Snow Report offers current conditions and weather forecasts at different mountains and resorts.

As I mentioned in our Multichannel 2.0 webinar, a mobile application doesn’t have to be transactional to be valuable. REI’s reaping many branding benefits from offering apps with real utility and “fun factor.” In fact, making an application commercial could hinder its popularity. But I came across a Bike Your Ride user who loves the application, but wishes it was a little more commercial:

Why wouldn’t REI show you the location of the nearest store? Put a button in there to press and when I want to buy bike parts, clothing, anything..there is the nearest store.

Thousands of daily bike commuters are in Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake and many other cities. It would be good to know how close you are to REI while riding to or from work.

REI, you’ve provided this application for free and its a very good idea. My applause. Now, please tie-this back to selling merchandise. Offer store locations. Encourage these commuters to visit your store. We won’t mind.

We want you to continue to prosper so you can do more of this.

The question is: is Paul Kirwin just one voice crying in the wilderness, or do more Bike Your Drive customers feel the same? Would adding a GPS-enabled store locator or otherwise tying the app back to the REI store drive sales or drive users away? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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