When Outdoor Voices hit the athletic wear market in 2014, founder Tyler Haney wanted to offer a simplified alternative to the overwhelming array of performance gear already out there, which inflated leggings and tanks with complicated descriptives like “flex gear,” “fly knit” and “tech fleece.”
Since launching with a streamlined collection of leggings, a sports bra and a crop top, Outdoor Voices has built out its product assortment, while sticking to three core activity categories: rec (for daily activity), tech (for high-intensity activity) and studio (for classes like yoga and Pilates).
Today, the brand is using that initial philosophy around pared-down performance wear to revamp its online store.
“The No. 1 thing for us is experience — we’ve always been about the simple, frictionless experience,” said Haney. “Shopping for new activewear can be cumbersome, when you’re trying to sift through all the options and match pieces that might be made for different activities. We wanted to make our product assortment a no-brainer for people to sort through.”
According to Haney, Outdoor Voices’ core assortment — the product it launched with — makes up 25 percent of overall sales. Using that knowledge, as well as research around how customers traveled through the site, Haney realized that a majority of customers were buying a top and a bottom, while having to navigate throughout the site to find them.
So, Outdoor Voices overhauled its product page, grouping items into three “kits” around its activity categories. Customers can scroll through two tabs, one for tops and one for bottoms, that match together prospective outfits. Items can be sorted by style and by color, and then, once a size is selected, the whole outfit can be added to the cart. Customers who buy an outfit get a discount — a top and bottom that would typically cost $130 together cost $100 when purchased through a kit, for instance.
The Rec Kit on Outdoor Voices
The evolution of the site reflects the progression of Outdoor Voices’ product development, said Haney.
“Product development has always been thought of in the form of outfits. I really like the notion of a uniform, and this lets people mix and match quickly. It takes the guesswork out of it,” said Haney. “It’s similar to our position in the market — there are so many options for activewear right now, but the shopping experience so often offers very little direction.”
It’s no secret that the athleisure boom has led to a market flood of companies offering chic takes on fitness gear. The options for a pair of fancy leggings have ballooned over the past three years, with brands like Aday, Alo and Alala joining Outdoor Voices in the race to offer the best stretch and sculpt. Carbon38, a Net-a-Porter-style marketplace for luxury athletic gear, has popped up to gather the glut of options under one e-commerce umbrella.
While the athletic and technical performance gear space has hit some bumps, with the decline of brands like Kit & Ace and the troubles facing Lululemon, a 2017 Euromonitor report suggests the bubble hasn’t burst. In 2016, the athletic apparel market hit $78 billion, a 7 percent increase over 2015. That outpaced the growth of the overall apparel market, which saw a 4 percent increase year over year.
Outdoor Voices, which has raised $22.5 million in funding and has four brick-and-mortar stores (two in Manhattan and two in Texas), hopes to be a breath of fresh air that cuts through the noise of the rest of the market with simplicity, said Haney. The goal is that, eventually, the kits will be the only way to shop the Outdoor Voices site (for now, it’s a separate option beyond the product page). She also said that future product development and brand collaborations will be thought of in the frame of the kits. The technology behind the kits, which was in development for nine months, also tracks customer behavior in order to offer smarter recommendations down the line.
“We’re facing decision fatigue. The nature of the activewear business is that everyone is telling you about all these high-tech features, but you end up not knowing what you’re getting in the end,” said Haney. “The goal is to really pare down and focus the assortment and almost be a sigh of relief for people navigating this market.”