Live From NEMOA: How Patagonia Creates Intent

Boston–How are multichannel retailers going to survive the recession? One thing they need to do, according to Clark Scheffy, is to create intent.

What does Scheffy, a designer for Boston-based design firm IDEO, mean by “create intent?” During his keynote speech Thursday at the NEMOA spring conference here, he said it didn’t necessarily mean create a reason for a consumer to immediately make a purchase.

Instead, Scheffy was talking about giving consumers a reason to keep your store at the top of mind, so that when consumers are ready to buy again, they will buy from you.

“Typically the building of brands is a culmination of touch points and experience, and we tend to think the best way to do that is through the sale of products,” Scheffy said. “But this is a time where people are buying less, and you’ll still have an opportunity to touch them.”

How does Patagonia do this? One way is through the editorial content the outdoor gear and apparel merchant offers in its catalogs. The stories from adventurers and Patagonia-product enthusiasts create excitement, Scheffy says.

“Even if you’re not going to buy anything, you’re going to read those articles,” he notes. “And it’s going to build that same desire.”

But Scheffy said Patagonia takes it a step further by creating intent on its Website, too. And that’s a pretty rare thing for an Internet merchant, he adds.

“There’s a great reason to be on that site, whether you’re going to buy Patagonia or not,” Scheffy said. The merchant also makes good use of blogs and video. “That’s the best expression I’ve seen in the online world of how to enable people to participate with your brand without buying from you.”

Those activities may not generate revenues in the short term, “but when we get out of this economic downturn, you won’t have wasted time building those brand connections,” Scheffy said.