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Columbia Sportswear exec: 80pc of ecommerce sales in Japan come from mobile

BOSTON ? A Columbia Sportswear executive at's Annual Summit said that approximately 80 percent of its ecommerce sales in Japan come through mobile. The exec said that the United States' mobile commerce revenues are not nearly as high as Japan's.

Mobile plays a critical role in Columbia Sportswear's overall strategy. During the ?Gear up for Growth: Innovation in the Outdoor Industry? session, the executive discussed how Columbia Sportswear is using QR codes and mobile to drive consumer engagement.

?Mobile is critical and quite honestly it is not there in the U.S. like it should be,? said Mick McCormick, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Columbia Sportswear, Portland, OR.

?Our business through mobile is through the roof in Asia,? he said. ?That trend is only going to move forward and it is going to be turbocharged in the U.S.?

Video connection
QR codes play a big role for Columbia Sportswear.

However, retailers still have ways to go to create a strong experience for shoppers.

?QR codes are critical in Asia,? Mr. McCormick said. ?In our own industry, there are very few QR codes that go some place other than a contact page.

?You have one chance with shoppers ? think about where they go and how are they energized,? he said. 

There is potential for a pushback from retailers when manufacturers include QR codes on in-store marketing like hangtags.

However, the right execution can help avoid this.

?If the QR codes drive to a Web site it is going to get complicated with retailers,? Mr. McCormick said. ?Our QR codes go directly to the video and don?t drive to a Web site.?

When Columbia Sportswear embarked on a strategy several years ago to transform its four brands, the company realized that digital assets delivered online and via mobile would play a key role in telling its story.

?You have to be able to tell your story,? Mr. McCormick said. ?We have spent money on big video monitors but retail sales associates hate them, they aren?t updated regularly and they are inefficient. 

?QR codes have allowed us for the first time to train our retail sales associates and execute a program where in-store shoppers can find out about a product,? he said.

This year, Columbia Sportswear introduced hangtags featuring QR codes.

In-store shoppers can scan the codes and find out about the technology associated with a particular item. 

Since the company began moving to a comprehensive digital approach in 2008, its Web traffic is up almost 400 percent and revenues in 2011 are projected to total $1.7 billion, up from $1.2 billion in 2008.

Additionally, the company has been able to reach a younger demographic, with the average age of the Columbia consumers dropping by 10 percent in one year.

The brand is also using QR codes on shipping boxes to support an effort to be more environmentally friendly.

Instead of recycling boxes that are used to ship products, Columbia Sportswear is reusing them.

In addition, customers are encouraged to reuse boxes they receive and to track the progress of the box via a QR code.

?The feedback from consumers is phenomenal,? Mr. McCormick said. ?Today, more than 60 percent of ecommerce orders go out in reused boxes.?

Final Take
Dan Lowden is vice president of marketing for Digby, Austin, TX