Patagonia Shares Catalog's Culture With Web Site

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The most serious patrons of Patagonia's print catalogs have been known to collect them over the years as if they were classic issues of Sports Illustrated or Life magazine. Clearly, creating brand loyalty through direct marketing isn't a problem for the longtime outdoors apparel and gear retailer.

Refusing to rest on its laurels, Patagonia has redesigned its Web site to better reflect many of the lifestyle and cultural aspects that it has incorporated into its catalogs. For instance, the Ventura, CA, company wants to emphasize its contributions to environmentalism at the site at www.patagonia.com.

To this end, the multichannel retailer used Google's mapping technology to let visitors not only find storefronts but also locate recipient organizations of Patagonia's environmental grants in their respective locales. Viewers can see the donations that the retailer made to nonprofits in their area, obtain contact information and click on a link to learn more about the cause.

Conveniently, the top of the redesign includes only three main site channels: "Clothing & Gear," "Sports We Do" and "Environmental Activism." That the latter two categories have more to do with content than products underscores a chief initiative behind the redesign, said Chris Todd, global Internet marketing manager at Patagonia.

Mr. Todd said that the new site encompasses a higher degree of interrelationship with the firm's content-heavy summer catalog, which reached nearly 1 million consumers last week.

"What we've found was that the [former] Web site was almost like a glorified order form," he said. "The brand was not being communicated as strongly as it was in our catalog.

"The goal is to make a Web site that is more in keeping with the overall brand experience on the print side," he said. "We are also working a different visual scheme where it's a very clean experience, but where the non-product images will communicate the idea of lifestyle much better."

In the Sports We Do category, articles on paddling, marine conservation, surfing and mountain climbing are featured prominently. Readers are greeted instantly at the section with the proclamation: "We enjoy silent, human-powered sports done in nature, where the reward involves no audience and no prize other than hard-won grace."

Bill Boland, creative director for Patagonia eMedia, said that the redesign aims to break down the barriers between the products and the stories related to them. The previous site had too much tunnel vision in terms of focusing on merchandise rather than highlighting Patagonia's customer culture, he said.

"It was a complete soup-to-nuts rebuild," Mr. Boland said. "Like we have done in the catalog, we're letting online readers dive into the photos. And we have given them more information about the photography through captions. We're trying to better leverage the Patagonia aesthetic throughout the design."

Patagonia estimates that 70 percent of catalog-driven orders are achieved online while the rest are made by telephone. But the company, whose average customer spends at least $100 per six months across channels, has learned that phone orders are normally 20 percent to 25 percent higher than Web orders.

The difference in order size mainly reflects the firm's knowledgeable, helpful customer care staff, Mr. Todd said, which is why the redesign entails tools designed to make the Patagonia.com experience more interactive in the offline sense.

First, the site now offers a shopping-comparison feature that lets viewers instantly contrast the differing styles, colors and features for the various lines of clothing and gear. In one example, a casual polo shirt can be viewed in marina blue, black, chili or brown ash, along with the option of zooming in and out.

In a second measure to quicken navigation, Patagonia.com ramped up its drill-down menus to involve five major categories and more than 30 subcategories.

And lastly, the site's Catalog Quick Order feature, which lets customers punch in a catalog number for a hastened purchase, has been moved to a more accessible position on the front page. An extensive blurb about the feature appears near the center of the Patagonia summer catalog.

Mr. Todd said that 10 percent of Patagonia.com's traffic has used Catalog Quick Order recently.

"The conversion rate for traffic that uses the Catalog Quick Order is much higher than average," he said. "We've heard from people that they like to carry the catalog around the house as they go about their days, spend some time with it, thinking about it and then eventually go onto the Web site and place their order."

Meanwhile, the 87-page summer book focuses on a smaller volume of products and regularly informs readers that an extended number of items can be found online. The firm, founded in the late 1950s, calls the mentions in the catalog "Web bugs."

"Multichannel shoppers are more valuable," Mr. Todd said. "We always try to create more synergy, making our retail stores, catalog and Web brand as unified as possible."

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