- Outdoor Voices has released an augmented reality app, OV Trail Shop, designed to get customers out onto the trail, where they can shop for its activewear items in close up, according to the company's website.
- Anyone downloading the app is directed to the closest OV Trail Shop spot — locations were selected to reach existing Outdoor Voices shoppers, according to a report from Glossy. The report also noted a total of 50 running paths were chosen as OV Trail Shop spots.
- Along with the app, the Lululemon challenger has released its first running shoe, designed with running shoe brand Hoka One One, Glossy also reports. The shoe comes in three colors for women and one for men and was available through the OV Trail Shop app a day ahead of its official release. Customers using the app will see the collection of items appear on the trail in the designated locations and can purchase directly from the app using Apple Pay, Glossy said.
Outdoor Voices launched as an online-only retailer, which like many once pure-play e-commerce ventures then expanded into brick-and-mortar stores. The Austin, TX-based retailer opened its latest stores in December and now runs seven, in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Austin and Aspen. The company's newest effort to use AR outside those physical locations seems like a natural fit for the once digital-only brand.
Retailers have been using immersive technology like AR primarily in stores, making Outdoor Voices approach novel in pushing customers outside its retail locations and into the environment in which they would wear or use a purchase. To date most AR implementations have focused on in-store augmentations such as furniture retailers offering consumers a virtual glimpse of what furniture would look like in their home or beauty and apparel brands offering customers a virtual try-before-you-buy experience. Outdoor Voices isn't the first to use AR for shoes, but the on-the-trail feature of its app is different from where most have focused.
The company's AR effort fits with its focus on being out in the world and building an engaged community. Outdoor Voices founder and CEO Tyler Haney told Retail Dive in an email last month that it would use the capital raised from its latest funding round "to scale the community we've built around Doing Things. This includes continuing to build shops and host events in new cities across the country, and reaching an expanded audience online."
The company last month announced a Series C round of $34 million, including $9 million from a previous convertible investment to bring former J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler onto the athleisure start-up's board of directors as chairman. The round was led by GV (formerly known as Google Ventures), a new addition to the OV roster, and has raised $56.5M in funding to date, the company said. Other investors include General Catalyst, Forerunner Ventures, Collaborative Fund and 14W.
Outdoor Voices was founded as a competitor to Lululemon, for people who want to be active without necessarily identifying as serious athletes and, like Gap Inc.'s Athleta brand, is giving the athleisure innovator a serious challenge. The retailer is playing in a space that has seen increased competition since Lululemon first innovated the category. Gap Inc., for example, has seen athleisure sales skyrocket at both its Gap and Athleta brands. Athleta moved from mid-teens sales growth in the first half of 2017 to mid-20s in the back half of the year and Gap Inc. CEO Art Peck called the response and engagement from new and existing customers "outstanding."
Still, the ambitious newer brands have their workout cut out for them: Lululemon Athletica last month reported that fourth quarter net revenue rose 18% to $928.8 million as total comparable sales rose 12%.
Like Outdoor Voices, Luluemon, in partnership with Athletic Propulsion Labs, late last year also released a sneaker line, pouncing on a footwear segment that has the biggest potential these days. Consumers, especially women, are kicking off their less comfortable shoes in favor of fashion that goes with lifestyles that are focused on fitness and movement, and which are decidedly more casual. Nike earlier this year also said that women are in focus as it develops new footwear and apparel.
The athleisure movement and its influence on fashion continues to be a primary driver of growth opportunity for the apparel industry, according to the NPD Group, which also found that women are a major driver of those sales. Sales of both men's and women's activewear grew in 2017, but women's styles rose 4% from 2016 to $21.9 billion, according to an email to Retail Dive from Marshal Cohen, NPD chief industry advisor.