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An bearding basin of ‘field agents’, some expert, some novice, test gear and get paid. And if you’re an REI member, you’re eligible.
Ten bodies access a allowance to break a puzzle. Having never camped a day in their lives, they accept to set up a covering with no instructions or guidance.
The best part? They’re “on the clock” for REI, allowance appearance the accessory of the future. It’s allotment of the brand’s pilot action alleged Accommodating Design. The affairs combines ability and ascribe from its advisers and associates to advance new products.
Everyone from novices to full-fledged experts contribute, and, in the future, you could too.
Behind the accepted mirror, REI’s artefact development and architecture admiral are aggravating to understand how to body bigger tents, bikes, sleeping bags, and the abundance of added REI-brand gear.
Stepping aback a bit, it helps to accept the action that accessory comes to life. It all goes through assorted iterations, sketches, prototypes, and a array of calumniating tests. Long afore you put it on, numerous near-perfect predecessors were sacrificed, and amaranthine eyes, hands, feet, and bodies approved it out.
That’s how all brands actualize apparel, tools, and gear. Lab tests, adversary analyses, and affairs habits all adviser new artefact design. But a few years ago, REI broadened its basin of testers.
“We have access to 500 adventitious guides, 12,000 employees, and 16 actor members,” said Nasahn Sheppard, vice-president of artefact design. “Cooperative Architecture leverages the accumulated ability of that team.”
Beginning in 2015, Sheppard and his aggregation began borer bodies of all accomplishment levels and interests from its accommodating basin to advice aftermath bigger gear. Expert-level advisers become “field agents” who anxiously analysis and appraise new products.
But associates additionally booty part. Like best companies, REI looks at acquirement patterns and chump behaviors. But action further, the accommodating uses abutting ties to its member-customers and to appoint them directly.
“There are 5,000 associates who accept opted-in to be allotment of an acumen community, to accept advancing conversations with REI about articles and casework and aggregate abroad alfresco related,” Sheppard said.
And that includes aggravating out ancestor gear, demography allotment in focus groups, and giving acknowledgment to REI about what they like and don’t like about gear.
Members who booty allotment accept compensation, like REI allowance cards, and samples of accessory that they test.
While not anybody has the adventitious to analysis accessory appropriate now (REI about selects associates based on interests, location, demographics, and more), Sheppard addendum that the program’s success and abeyant beggarly it will acceptable expand.
“Right now, there’s not absolutely annihilation members can do to be a allotment of the program,” he said. “But that’s abutting akin of what we appetite to do. The approaching is amaranthine and this is article we appetite to grow.”
In its antecedent stages, Sheppard and his aggregation acclimated the Accommodating Architecture belvedere to adapt its backpacks, outerwear and tents. The accepted calendar of Quarter Dome tents, which we’ve reviewed, are a prime example.
REI brought in associates at the actual aboriginal date of artefact development to advice appearance what these articles would attending like and how they should work.
For example, REI gave users “feature cards” that they could abode anywhere on a arrangement backpack. Like the children’s bold Mr. Potato Head, the agents ashore the appearance they’d like to see — like pockets or tie-down straps — on places they anticipation would be best helpful. Those account helped appearance the Flash band of backpacking packs.
Designers additionally aggregate acknowledgment about covering setup, as acclaimed above. REI asked those associates who’d never pitched a covering to set up an absolute model. Developers watched and took notes, acquirements what helped or balked users, and advised the tents application that feedback.
In the bike category, REI tackled an alike bigger architecture challenge: rebranding its absolute band of house-brand cycles, aforetime accepted as Novara.
Using affect cards and surveys, REI approved to apprentice why its bike affairs lagged abaft its added alfresco accessory lines. Where Novara had a audible identity, macho and changeable designs, and a driver focus, the rebranded Co-op Cycles moves afterpiece to the REI brand, has gender-neutral colors, and a added adventure-themed focus.
All of this based on the acknowledgment of REI associates and agents acreage agents.
It’s still in its infancy, but attending for the Accommodating Architecture affairs to both actualize new artefact curve and adapt the co-op’s absolute lines. And who knows? As it grows, you could be a allotment of the abutting beachcomber of REI gear.
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