Some innovative consumer direct companies are changing the way we get our gear. Is it a good thing?
The world of business is constantly changing. Over the last decade, we've seen the rise of e-commerce and the direct effect its had on retail stores.
Right alongside this shift, consumer direct businesses have been evolving the way we as hunters find, buy, and use gear. It's changing how the outdoor industry is ultimately structured. While it isn't just exclusive to outdoor gear, our industry is a great case study on how it's influencing the broader markets in general.
The internet has changed the way consumers will forever purchase. If companies can conduct their business without someone stepping foot in their store, the need for markups and fees is diminished. This direct-to-consumer concept allows brands to present and send gear straight to a customer, giving them a more customized experience, building better brand awareness, and even collecting valuable data.
Because of this, specific companies creating high-end products without the additional retail markup are emerging in the superiority rankings. Some of these companies have already become so popular that it seems like just a matter of time before a consumer direct business becomes the norm.
Before we get there, let's zoom in on some of the trailblazers in the industry so far.
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“The definition of an "old warrior." These short moments after first laying hands on a ram are enough to make it all worth it, and sustain my drive and passion for the next 364 days, of however long it takes to find myself in the mountains again.” — @gregmchaleswildyukon #KUIUNation #KUIU
Jason Hairston was a pioneer in the hunting gear space for technical hunting clothing. He originally found Sitka Gear before selling his share in 2009. With such great experience in creating the technical clothing that was growing in demand, he decided to adopt the consumer direct business model and take on outdoor retailers with KUIU.
When starting out, he shared the entire design and development process, which really helped educate potential customers about the differences between the KUIU product line and other, more traditional big box brands.
Hairston, who tragically passed away this year, has left a lasting imprint on how consumers and companies are ran in the outdoor industry. KUIU has catered to the western big game hunting market well, and is a frontrunner for merino wool apparel options.
Much like clothing, optics often see large mark ups. The founders of Maven wanted to provide high-end glass for hunters without falling in the common traps of specialized gear. They didn't want to merely hit a certain spec sheet or price target. They set out to make the best optics they could, and were able to keep them affordable.
I'm currently testing their C Series binoculars and have been very impressed with the quality thus far. It's their base level optic, but I would say it's up there with any high-end glass I've used before. For a whitetail hunter like me, it's almost perfect.
Maven also prides itself on custom-made optics that are the epitome of premium products. If you want the specialized customer experience, Maven delivers.
Exodus Trail Cameras
Once again, the common theme amongst direct to consumer companies is their ability to use high-quality components to build a solid product. Exodus manufactures high-end trail cameras, a super-saturated space, at a really competitive price point. Over the last few years, they've released various cameras that all come with an industry-best five-year warranty.
How have these companies positioned themselves so well in front of potential customers? Social media and various forms of digital advertising have changed how cost effective it is to reach a target demographic. In even the early 2000s, an extensive budget would be required to find the people who really want a certain product, but all of that has changed.
Aside from social media, Amazon has become an absolute giant in e-commerce. Many customers shop heavily on Amazon, and consumer direct companies can compete side-by-side with brands on that storefront as well as their own.
It's important to note that these new companies have entered competitive product categories and each one has etched their space in the market. I predict more consumer direct companies will rise and continue to push the envelope for many more product categories.
It's an exciting time to be a consumer, as long as companies keep fighting for your dollars with an arsenal of solid products.