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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5 Responses to “Mobile Applications: Could A Store Locator Drive Bikers Away?”

  1. I think REI might be well advised Paul’s advice to “commercialize” the application, but not for the reason he suggests.

    Indeed, adding commercial features to the application like a GPS store locator would probably add some small incremental revenue. Compare that, however, to the potentially large increase in customer loyalty and goodwill that REI gains from keeping the application non-commercial.

    One of the most powerful psychological factors in Cialdini’s studies was the overwhelming human need to reciprocate acts of giving. To throw that away by adding a small feature like a store locator might do more harm to the top line than good.

    Since even the faintest whiff of self-interest will cancel the reciprocation effect I would recommend REI stay away from half-measures. Keep it completely non-commercial and gets lots of community love or go all out on the hard sell: links to the product catalog, mobile purchasing capability, marketing offers, etc. Trying to straddle both positions will certainly produce a sub-optimal result.

  2. Oops, “well advised to ignore Paul’s advice” that should read.

  3. Why try to second guess what people want?

    REI could simply ask the app users what features they want to see in future versions. If enough people want it, then add it.

    Of course something like I would have OFF be default and the user would have to go into some settings screen to turn it on.

  4. Pdfstack says:

    One of the most powerful psychological factors in Cialdini’s studies was the overwhelming human need to reciprocate acts of giving. To throw that away by adding a small feature like a store locator might do more harm to the top line than good.

  5. heather says:

    as an avid biker, i’m excited to learn about this app from rei, and plan to download it now.

    but as far as the need to commercialize it–does *everything* need to be about selling me something?! i would imagine that most bikers already have their preferred bike stores, and to display an rei location on the map would just be a visual nuisance.

    while, this app won’t make me bike straight to an rei and buy something, i now have a very positive experience with rei, which i’ll relay to family and friends. i’ll have a positive association with them when i see their ads or name in the public. building a better brand isn’t just about selling more stuff.

    do something nice for the sake of being nice, not to make a direct profit. people–particularly the kind who are commuting and biking–can smell consumerism a mile away.

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