Fresh off a $34 million Series C investment round, athletic apparel startup Outdoor Voices is debuting its first running collection with the help of an augmented reality app.

To promote the new line, Outdoor Voices developed a standalone “OV Trail Shop” app, which gives consumers access to the running collection a day before its official launch on Wednesday. Using GPS technology, the app notifies users of running trails near them that have been activated for an in-app virtual store experience that displays products in augmented reality using a mobile camera. The collection of nine products — including running shorts and the company’s first pair of sneakers, designed in collaboration with running shoe brand Hoka One One — will appear on the trail, and shoppers can purchase them directly using Apple Pay before they’re available online and in-store.

Tricia Katz, senior software engineer at Outdoor Voices, said the OV Trail Shop was intended to “get customers outside and moving” while incorporating AR in a way that felt like a natural extension for the digitally native brand. When designing the virtual shop, Katz said the team began by selecting 22 cities home to Outdoor Voices shoppers and then located a total of 50 running paths. The technology was designed so the team could add and remove trails as necessary, and in order to incorporate other geographic areas depending on demand.

“For us, this is really on-brand,” Katz said. “Technology can oftentimes be a distraction from physical activity, but the AR trail is designed to enhance the experience rather than detract from it. It pairs perfectly [with the running launch] and encourages customers to get outside.”

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The OV Trail Shop app experience

The app points to a new phase of marketing for Outdoor Voices, as it experiments with fresh consumer engagement tactics and unique pathways to purchase. While the OV Trail Shop does not require users to provide an email address or create a login, it is designed to increase customer acquisition and drive loyalty, particularly for a new demographic of runners.

Though Outdoor Voices began exclusively online in 2014, it now operates four physical stores and two pop-up locations in Texas, New York, California and founder Tyler Haney’s home state of Colorado, with a forthcoming store slated for Boston this summer. Still, digital remains at the core of Outdoor Voices, which grew in popularity thanks largely to social media: Today, Outdoor Voices has nearly 225,000 followers on Instagram, as well as several local accounts for its stores, which regularly host meet-ups and workout classes. As a result, the OV Trail Shop will be primarily promoted on social media, with posts throughout the day designed to direct followers to the app.

The collection also opens the company up to potential emerging product categories like footwear with the launch of the running shoe, a strategic move to capitalize on the consumer fixation on exclusive sneaker collaborations.

“This is the first time our customers can wear Outdoor Voices head-to-toe, and we’re excited to deliver it,” Katz said.

For Haney, expanding into running gear, which is typically more technical by design than other apparel, has long been a goal. As a runner herself, Haney said the process for the collection began by gathering consumer feedback on current products and soliciting ideas for new ones.

“Knowing that running is such a leading activity among our community, and one that’s been a huge part of my personal life, I knew it was important to develop a technical capsule designed specifically with the needs of a runner in mind,” Haney said. “And that process started with us asking our customers what they wanted in a running short.”

A post teasing the OV Trail Shop on Instagram

However, part of what initially set Outdoor Voices apart was a focus on simplicity and catering to a wider, more inclusive range of activities and consumers. This tended to err on the side of low-impact movement, as compared to brands like Nike and Adidas that design for rigorous physical competition. For example, former versions of the website allowed users to search by activities like dog walking, or use its now defunct “kit shop” to mix-and-match tops and bottoms into different ensembles based on general activities like “recreation.”

Ultimately, Haney said adding a running collection doesn’t change the company’s tone; it only opens up Outdoor Voices to a wider consumer base.

“OV’s current product assortment is focused on versatility: styles and materials that work well across a range of activity,” Haney said. “As we grow, we want to be able to deliver the perfect product to people who are looking for specific solves for activities like running.”

Image courtesy of Outdoor Voices