In my 8 years covering the ecommerce industry, I’ve never seen an online shop so enthusiastically discourage visitors from shopping.
REI’s Black Friday boycott #OptOutside, which shuttered 143 of its physical stores on the biggest shopping day of the year to allow employees and customers to enjoy the great outdoors, was the ultimate expression of the outdoor gear retailer’s core values.
While its online store stayed live, its design and calls to action on its home page were clear – go outside.
We hope you’ll join us outside today
For the rebellious that forged ahead, clicking that Continue link, this screen emerged (with conspicuous use of social proof):
Today we’re closing our doors and going outside. We hope you’ll come with us.
Oh! A million backpackers can’t be wrong! #thepressure
Why this works…for REI
I love this campaign. Not only because it’s such a bad ass response to the discounted, door-crashing frenzy that is the day post-turkey, it’s so on brand for REI. The campaign won the support of several National State Parks (offering free admissions on 11/27).
Outdoor Research, an outdoor gear manufacturer from Washington State pledged to donate $10 for every photo tagged with #optoutside #outdoorresearch to Paradox Sports, a non-profit that provides specialized equipment to folks with disabilities to enjoy outdoor adventures (a cause very close to my own heart!)
In fairness, REI’s less likely to suffer from the sales sacrifice than many other retailers. As a co-op, REI’s customers are owners. In our fickle digital economy, this is about as committed as you can get. These folks will place their orders this season, one way or another.
Would this work for other retailers? They’d feel the hit for sure. And now that it’s been done, the positive brand impact of the novelty has already been absorbed by REI.
The social response
While REI likely had a bleak Black Friday in terms of sales, its hashtag was a win on social media, with some envy-inducing photos published by those that chose to #OptOutside.
And some less envy-inducing 😉
While some cheated a little…
This may just be a new Black Friday tradition.