How REI Took A Retail Break And Reached Outdoor Enthusiasts With Out-Of-Home Messages

"By using 1st-party audience targeting within DOOH, we were able to engage our qualified audience at multiple touchpoints throughout their day, with real impact," said REI exec Amy Ball.

Three years ago, outdoor gear and apparel retailer REI’s decision to keep its doors closed on Black Friday was considered pretty risky.

At the time, the trend toward opening stores earlier — even the night before as consumers were collectively shaking off their Thanksgiving food comas — held that retailers needed to make the most of what has become known as “the biggest shopping day of the year” and the official start of the holiday shopping season.

Judging from the analysis of REI’s bucking of that retail trend with its #OptOutside initiative, as the Black Friday day-off given to its 12,000 employees at its 154 locations, is called, more stores may want to keep consumers waiting another day after all.

Thanks to an out of home campaign and location-based mobile ad targeting run OOH specialist Vistar Media and Acxiom-owned targeting platform LiveRamp, REI saw brand awareness rise 14 percent, along with a 9 percent lift in “consideration” from prospective consumers, and a 7 percent lift in purchase intent.

Ultimately, REI’s retail locations saw a 3.6x lift in store visitation.

REI #OptOutside Campaign used out of home ads and geo-data analytics from LiveRamp and Vistar Media.

“Our aim for this year’s initiative was to raise awareness among our customer base and new audiences,” said Amy Ball, Senior Program Manager, Advertising & Branded Content at REI. “By using 1st-party audience targeting within DOOH, we were able to engage our qualified audience at multiple touchpoints throughout their day, with real impact.”

The REI promotion of #OptOutside relied on LiveRamp’s identity resolution service to connect the retailer’s first-party customer audience segment to geospatial data from Vistar.

Vistar then used location data and its in-house geospatial analytics to see how these groups of customers move throughout the physical world. By examining those real-world movement patterns, Vistar activated cross-screen mobile and digital out-of-home (DOOH) media to reach REI loyalists as well as new customers at places they were most likely to be throughout the day.

“This is a great example of identity resolution technology enabling marketers to finally deliver on an age old adage,” said Jeff Smith, CMO and GM of Brands, LiveRamp. “In this campaign, REI’s first party data provided the context to deliver the right message, and Vistar’s DOOH capabilities then helped REI deliver that message in the right place at the right time.”

A billboard promoting REI’s OptOutside campaign

Aside from keeping REI store associates and sales teams home for Black Friday, the campaign also represented the brand’s deeper focus on using out of home to highlight its “outdoors” message, said Matt Schuster, Vistar Media’s CRO.

“It’s interesting to see how brands like REI have started thinking about OOH media, which was next to nothing two to three years ago, and now it represents about 15 percent of its marketing mix,” Schuster told GeoMarketing.

“Marketers want to see the numbers, and it’s really been the ability to measure against these campaigns and tie them back to improved performance in things like foot traffic and purchase consideration, which is exactly the proof that’s needed for them to consider increasing allocation of their OOH media budgets accordingly,” Schuster added. “What we’re now seeing is a big shift from thinking about OOH as a purely upper funnel tactic, to now viewing it as a lower funnel strategy – and using KPIs like driving store visits will make it an even higher priority for DOOH planning.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.