Category: Blog

Friction on Purpose: REI’s Ballsy Black Friday Home Page

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.


What is the Edgacent Possible?

In 2002, Stuart Kauffman introduced the theory of the adjacent possible – a concept that biological systems don’t make radical, divergent changes as they evolve, instead, they make smaller, incremental changes over time that consume relatively less energy.

The concept of the adjacent possible has been embraced in the business context by authors like Steven Johnson in “Where Good Ideas Come From.” In ecommerce, the idea is business transformation happens by exploring and leveraging the right-beside-you opportunities on a continual basis, not on radical, long-term and high risk investments.

As a digital business leader, you’re challenged with surviving and winning in an ever-evolving ecosystem of disruptive technologies and competitors. Nothing stays static. Amazon takes 1 of every 2 dollars spent online. Facebook, Google and other social networks want to own your sales on their own platforms. Advancing technologies mean customers demand your site be compatible on whichever screen they’re using in the moment, and take no longer than 2 seconds to load.

What’s more, the digital space is filled with a lot of trendy hype. While some marketing tactics and technology innovations may be adjacent – within your reach and seemingly “no brainer” value add to your business, they’re not all worth the time and effort because they are just hype. Exploring them ends up costing far more in time and resources and lack-lustre customer experiences. And we’ve seen countless shiny objects come and go in our over 50 years of combined experience in this industry.

The Edgacent Possible is selecting the right investments that will truly give you the edge and hit your short and long term revenue targets. Our team of seasoned ecommerce leaders and analysts are here to give you the answers, beyond the trends, the vendor sales pitches and the pay-for-play tradeshow floors.

We help ecommerce leaders small and large with vendor selection, customer experience and online marketing strategy. If you’re ready to explore the Edgacent Possible, contact us today!