How Patagonia.com reflects the company’s ‘uncommon culture’

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merch13_blog icon_80x80-01For merchandisers and marketers, data, numbers, metrics and, ultimately, revenue is what drives everything. The variables you can test are endless, and it’s easy to get lost and focus only on numbers. But when Patagonia’s Vice President of Global E-commerce and Executive Creative Director Dmitri Siegel took the stage at last month’s Online Merchandising Workshop, he took a broader view. Siegel asked, what is it that you want to achieve as a brand.

“You should focus your testing in a way that aligns with your core business,” Siegel said.

Like many premium brands, Patagonia is at a “strategic crossroads,” Siegel said, examining what it is they want their website to be. It’s not just a place to buy things, because Patagonia’s unique story and mission is bigger than that. A few key points Siegel shared reveal a lot about how the company thinks, and how and why they make decisions.

Reflect your culture

This is a brand that was founded by Yvon Chouinard, the adventurer-turned entrepreneur who started the company by blacksmithing his own pitons and selling them out of the back of his car between climbing and surfing trips. Forty years later, Chouinard is an innovator not just in retail, but also in corporate sustainability. His story is the inspiration for a documentary that retraced his journey to Patagonia in 1968. There’s a spirit of adventure that pulses through Patagonia, something their team calls their “uncommon culture.” That spirit shines through the e-commerce site as well.

Tell awesome stories

Patagonia.com Brand Ambassador Page

Pages on Patagona.com bring in social media content from brand ambassadors who test and help design products.

Siegel showcased some of the ways that Patagonia incorporates that spirit into the site, like using content from brand ambassadors. These are real people having remarkable adventures and documenting them on social media. Patagonia displays ambassadors’ posts on their site, allowing “Patagoniacs” to follow these like-minded explorers, nature-lovers and adventure-seekers.

Showcase customer content

Patagonia customers are passionate about the brand. “Everyone who uses Patagonia is a Patagoniac to some extent,” Siegel said.  So the Patagonia team decided to make it easier to find what customers are saying about the products. Using the navigation on Patagonia.com, you can shop by product category or shop by reviews. Customer reviews include pictures of products in use, creating a browseable, Pinterest-like experience that makes it easy to buy the items being raved about.

Practice minimalism

When it comes to design and navigation, they took another cue from the early leaders of the company. Patagonia.com practices the art of removal to simplify pages and navigation.

What remains is what’s truly important to customers. Surprisingly, this includes a tab on the left of product pages that shows where products are made. Revealing the sourcing information demonstrates Patagonia’s commitment to environmental stewardship and shows a respect for customers who want transparency, Siegel said.

Like most online retail merchandising and marketing teams, the Patagonia team tests, measures and tweaks constantly. But the primary goal is being true to the brand and using the website as a way to showcase Patagonia’s core values.

“If it’s not hurting us on revenue and it’s more aligned with our values, that’s what we’re going to do,” Siegel said.

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