Sports & Outdoor brands' online performance: our analysis

By Alex Kuner
Sports & Outdoor brands' online performance blog header illustration

Following on from the success of our 2023 DTC ecommerce report - where we benchmarked the direct-to-consumer (DTC) websites of 100 consumer brands across 10 product categories - we decided to assess 10 additional Sports & Outdoor brands' online performance against the same criteria. 

To ensure fairness, we benchmarked the UK websites of 10 global Sports & Outdoor brands against our digital experience scorecard: Berghaus, Brompton, Atomic, Arc'teryx, Mammut, Rab, Mountain Equipment, Raleigh, Head and Bogner

The category achieved an average score of 59.1% of the possible total, compared to the overall average score for the 100 brands of 58.6%. In comparison, the Premium & Luxury category had the highest average score of 66.2%, while the Footwear category had an average score of 64.5%. In this article we will be looking at the Sports & Outdoor category’s overall performance in more depth, providing insights and inspiration for brands who want to invest in their own digital offering. 

Perfecting the basics

Mastering the basics is essential. This is an area in which the Sports & Outdoor category performed strongly, demonstrating an understanding of what consumers expect from a digital shopping experience and highlighting the strengths in the Sports & Outdoor brands' online performance. 80% of the 10 brands demonstrated a best practice navigation while an impressive 90% had an optimised on-site search tool, enabling customers to quickly locate specific products and reducing barriers in the journey from interest to purchase. 

Additionally, most brands displayed product pages with detailed product descriptions and a selection of useful, high-quality images to support customers in making an informed purchase decision. Every brand displayed at least some delivery information directly on the product pages, with 50% including enough details for customers to weigh up delivery costs and timeframes without having to leave the product page. 80% of the brands in the category managed to effectively incorporate user reviews and ratings, adding a crucial layer of social proof that enhances credibility and trust. 

We also noted that 90% of brands in the category had an easy-to-use store and stockist finder tool, acknowledging that many customers still prefer to view products in-person before making a purchase decision. However there is still room for improvement, as only 30% of those brands provided all the information we were looking for on store listings, including contact details and opening hours.

Email customer service outperformed live chat

We sent realistic customer enquiries using both email and Live Chat (where possible) to assess the customer service of each brand – 80% of the Sports & Outdoor brands provided a useful response via email within one business day, compared to 51% of the original 100 brands reviewed. 30% provided a helpful Live Chat function that was able to answer our questions immediately, on par with the 33% of the original brands who achieved the best practice standard for Live Chat. Maintaining a smooth customer service experience is an essential building block for customer satisfaction and loyalty, particularly in a market where post-purchase support can make all of the difference. 

Sports & Outdoor brands' online performance - adding more value

One area where the Sports & Outdoor brands fell short is in their ‘added value’ offerings. Most brands in the category have yet to invest in products, services or content to differentiate their DTC websites from other online sales channels for their products.

One notable area for improvement is the lack of unique product – only 20% of brands in the category offered products that were marked as exclusive to their DTC site, and none offered exclusive bundles. In comparison, 48% of the original 100 brands benchmarked offered at least one of the two. This is a missed opportunity for differentiation, as these exclusives encourage customers to purchase direct rather than from a third-party stockist or marketplace. 

Similarly, we noticed a lack of added value content on the websites of the Sports & Outdoor brands we assessed. While 80% of the brands feature how-to guides or helpful blog content, only 50% provide video demonstrations of products. 40% of the brands in the category utilise user-generated content on their websites. Just 20% offer a product discovery tool to support customers with choosing the most appropriate products, despite the very technical features and functionality of many of the products being sold.

Expanding the use of content could not only boost engagement and SEO, but also provide customers with a more supportive shopping experience, increasing their confidence when it comes to making a purchase decision.

Another criteria assessed was the competitiveness of each brand's fulfilment services. While 90% of the Sports & Outdoor brands did offer a free delivery option, only 50% offered a next-day delivery service, compared to 68% of the original 100 brands. Additionally, only 20% offered a click-and-collect option, compared to 24% of the original 100 brands. In today’s fast-paced retail environment, customers have come to expect quick and convenient delivery options and enhancing these services would likely greatly improve customer satisfaction.

Optimising website performance

While the Sports & Outdoor brands showcased excellent sustainability initiatives concerning their products, they still have work to do to mitigate their websites' carbon impact. 80% of the brands displayed great information regarding their sustainability initiatives, however only one brand, Berghaus, met our carbon page weight target. Reducing this would not only enhance site performance but also reinforce the brand’s commitment to sustainability. 

And only 20% of brands in the Sports & Outdoor category scored any marks for mobile site speed; the others scored 0 points across all three mobile page types we assessed. Implementing many of the recommendations to improve this (including reducing picture file sizes and optimising picture formats) would also help to reduce a site’s carbon weight, as touched upon above. 

Finally, all of the brands in the category scored at least half marks for mobile web page accessibility, but only one brand scored full marks. Inviqa considers accessible design to be a better design for everyone, especially when shoppers are using mobile devices. Optimising for accessibility not only broadens a site's potential customer base, but improves overall user experience and satisfaction.

As we’ve explored in this blog, brands in the Sports & Outdoor category have built a strong foundation with their ecommerce sites, but have many opportunities to elevate the experience they deliver further. By increasing their added value offerings, optimising delivery and fulfilment options and improving technical aspects such as site sustainability, site speed and accessibility, Sports & Outdoor brands can hope to better meet evolving consumer expectations. 

To read the full report on the Sports & Outdoor category click the button below.

Download our Sports & Outdoor DTC ecommerce research report now