From the front yard to the forest, Columbia Sportswear Company has a 70-year reputation for high-performance, functional, and stylish apparel. The brand’s clothing, footwear, and accessories keep outdoor enthusiasts comfortable and protected, no matter where their adventures take them.

In addition to its flagship Columbia Sportswear brand, the company also develops, markets, and distributes products for Mountain Hardwear, Sorel, Montrail, and Pacific Trail. Recently the company posted more than $1.2 billion in annual sales.

One key to Columbia’s awareness among consumers is its carefully cultivated loyalty to — and from — its retail partners. According to Paul Zaengle, Vice President of Ecommerce, those partnerships were top of mind as Columbia devised its ecommerce strategy.

“Retailers are our lifeblood,” he said, “and we had to be 100% sure that our ecommerce initiative wouldn’t step on their toes and compete with them. For us, ecommerce is primarily about supporting our retail partners’ selling efforts, and only secondarily about direct-to-consumer sales.”

The Columbia team saw opportunity to bolster these partnerships when a report revealed that consumers had ranked manufacturer websites as the number one source for information about the products they buy — more than friends, publications, or advertising. More than half of all buyers research their prospective purchases online before they buy.

With Commerce Cloud, Zaengle and his team could create benefits for Columbia, its partners, and, most importantly, its customers. First, a mobile ecommerce experience was a big win for the brand and for retailers.

“We saw that mobile ecommerce was particularly interesting and attractive to Columbia,” Zaengle said. “As [consumers] stand in the aisles and look at the product alternatives, they want to look at videos, user reviews, prices, and more — right from their mobile devices. It’s about providing just-in-time information to the consumer.”

 

Our mobile commerce site also emphasizes the importance of user reviews. People trust these ratings and we think that’s crucial to driving sales — so we’re taking that ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and effectively putting it in our retailers’ stores.”

PAUL ZAENGLE | VICE PRESIDENT OF ECOMMERCE AT COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR

Columbia hasn’t forgone launching a top-notch web storefront. The company’s classic ecommerce site was a priority for several reasons.

“This site is a source of revenue and profit,” Zaengle said. “There are going to be some situations where a consumer will want to purchase online. For example, he might not live near one of our retail partners.”

The desktop storefront, powered by Commerce Cloud, is a representation of the Columbia brand online. “If you’re buying outerwear or footwear, we represent the brand and products better than anyone else. We invest in the creation of images and videos for our own site, but also provide those to our retail partners to improve their ability to sell our products online as well,” said Zaengle.

 

With help from Commerce Cloud, the Columbia team launched support for popular mobile devices in just six weeks. The company opted to support about half of the major handsets in the market, which generate approximately 90% of traffic.

This new storefront — columbia.com/mobile — gives outdoor enthusiasts unprecedented access from their mobile devices to learn about Columbia products. They can shop on the ecommerce-enabled site. Storefront features include a full product catalog, subcategories, product detail pages, customer reviews, a store locator, and seamless checkout.

 
Columbia simultaneously manages the day-to-day operations of both its ecommerce website and mobile storefront through a single, unified environment. This greatly reduces the amount of site maintenance as well as duplicate changes and updates. In addition, with Commerce Cloud’s integrated development environment (IDE), Columbia can customize, extend, and enrich the capabilities of its mobile storefront.
 

Columbia expanded its mobile commerce strategy to its Mountain Hardwear and Sorel brands. The company anticipates launching both the mobile and traditional storefront sites simultaneously. A new mobile search engine marketing strategy is also in the works.

“We believe that merging the online and offline world is the right strategy for our business,” said Zaengle. “[Mobile commerce] is about surprising and delighting consumers who can research products and make decisions right there in the store. [Commerce Cloud] made that a fast and affordable option for us — and it’s strengthening our brand and our relationships with consumers and retailers.”

 
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