Outdoor niche tracks break through a market value of 10 billion, and independent sites can also be well done with Amazon’s sales

Outdoor niche tracks exceed 10 billion market value, independent sites can succeed with Amazon sales

Wearing masks for three years not only gave rise to the stay-at-home economy, but also stimulated the outdoor industry, unlocking various ways to develop the outdoor market.

Outdoor leisure scenes have emerged as a new consumer trend, with a significant increase in consumer frequency in recent years, driving related products to grow rapidly. Coolers are essential for camping, picnics, and food insulation, and demand for outdoor coolers is increasing.

According to data from Xinda Securities, among all global outdoor camping equipment products, coolers, which have always been considered niche, account for 21% of retail sales, on par with outdoor necessities such as backpacks and sleeping bags.

In the United States, there is a brand that specializes in outdoor coolers called “Yeti”, which has created a $3.4 billion brand value (approximately RMB 23.5 billion) for this niche product. It has also repeatedly topped Amazon’s BS list, becoming a high-end player in the niche market with prices ten times higher than its competitors.

Today, we will dissect how Yeti creates premium space, making the outdoor cooler market a “cold place at the top.”

A hardcore product that even grizzly bears can’t destroy

In China, few people have coolers specifically for outdoor activities, but they are common in European and American households. Developed countries have a long history of outdoor sports, and most Europeans and Americans love outdoor activities and have all the necessary equipment at home.

Yeti’s founders, Roy and Ryan, are both avid outdoor enthusiasts.

The brothers, who have been involved in outdoor equipment since childhood, found that the production technology and quality of coolers on the market vary greatly. For example, handles often fall off, the box is easily broken, and ice storage time is too short. They had to buy new coolers almost every other time.

In order to solve this pain point, the two brothers tried various insulation materials and improved and innovated the outdoor refrigerator based on first-hand experience. They made a product that can withstand extreme outdoor environments, even in the scorching sun, the ice inside can be stored for several days.

In 2006, the first generation of Yeti refrigerators “The Tundra” was launched. Roy and Ryan had their unique strategy and never engaged in price wars. They believed that “achieving the ultimate in product quality is winning” and priced their product at more than 10 times the industry average (250-300 US dollars).

At this point, some friends raised doubts: how could Roy and Ryan, who were commercial novices, sell refrigerators that were priced so high, far beyond the industry average of 20 US dollars?

Of course, Roy and Ryan were not foolish. It was precisely because they had been troubled by the “product malaise” as outdoor enthusiasts for a long time that they believed their hardcore refrigerators could withstand high premiums.

To prove how durable Yeti was, Roy and Ryan also applied for a “Grizzly Bear Certification”. “Other brands usually invite influencers or experts to endorse their products, but Yeti invited a real 600-pound grizzly bear to bite, beat, and stomp on Yeti’s refrigerators,” which proved that Yeti’s refrigerators were tough and durable.

Moreover, the two brothers also used four Yeti refrigerators to support a one-ton off-road vehicle to demonstrate its amazing load-bearing capacity.

Such a wild publicity strategy quickly attracted a large group of customers, mainly hardcore players such as hunters, anglers, and adventure seekers. “These customers usually have plenty of spare money and are willing to pay high premiums for such extreme products.” Yeti’s most expensive refrigerator costs 1500 US dollars, so being able to afford Yeti’s products has become a topic of conversation among insiders to show off.

In order to broaden the outdoor consumer scene, Yeti has extended its product line to include soft shell and backpack series, making the cooler no longer limited to the field of car fishing/hunting. Following the current trend of “lightweight outdoor” consumption, Yeti perfectly enhances the outdoor living experience.

Until now, Yeti has been a “self-entertainment” brand within the circle. In order to achieve “dance outside the circle,” Yeti has gradually expanded its product line, establishing a product matrix around outdoor scenes and developing from outdoor products into a lifestyle brand.

In addition to its high-end product line, Yeti also has entry-level insulation products. Continuing Yeti’s hardcore attributes, the “superb insulation capability” has been applied to other product series. From drinkware, blankets, backpacks, clothing to pet products, since their launch, many popular Yeti products have made it onto the Amazon BS bestseller list.

The entry-level insulated cup mentioned above has a reputation comparable to Yeti’s flagship cooler and has been on top of various water bottle sales charts on Amazon for years, with over ten thousand positive reviews and causing a phenomenon-level buying spree of “hard to find a cup.” Since 2023, Yeti has sold $91 million worth of water cups.

Today, Yeti sits firmly at the “ceiling” of the outdoor industry with its top-notch coolers and vacuum insulation products.

In 2018, Yeti successfully went public on the NYSE in the United States; in 2022, Yeti’s annual revenue surpassed $1.5 billion.

Looking at Yeti’s performance data in recent years, in addition to the annual increase in revenue, there is also a data that has been rising with the tide, and that is the DTC business. In 2022, Yeti’s DTC channel had an annual revenue of $900 million, accounting for 55% of the brand’s total revenue. In contrast, this index was only 8% ten years ago.

Yeti’s Independent Thinking

For a long time after its launch, Yeti has been focusing on the Amazon platform and offline retail channels. With the arrival of the Z generation consumer era, Yeti has begun to explore “youthfulization” and layout independent stations, integrating DTC marketing thinking that directly faces users.

“Customization” is a common topic in the DTC industry, and everyone can imagine using “algorithms” or “questionnaires” to tailor products to customers. Yeti’s brand spirit is to constantly break through imagination and not follow the rules and routines that everyone else does.

Yeti chooses to repeatedly refine this commonly used customization service, focusing on “multiple groups, multiple preferences, and multiple needs”, constantly upgrading creative ways to break through user circles, and “playing out” the customization.

Yeti’s customization options have four choices, namely “Product Type Selection”, “User DIY”, “Style Gallery”, and “Team Club Logo”.

I believe that everyone is familiar with user DIY and team logo customization. Yeti’s ingenious idea is this “style gallery”.

The style gallery offers 13 styles to choose from, including fishing and hunting for outdoor enthusiasts, cute pet portraits, as well as landscape and artistic printed patterns. Click on one of the style categories and there are dozens or even hundreds of patterns to choose from, such as this “coastal beach style”.

What is most stunning is that Yeti has designed exclusive logos for hundreds of universities in the United States, each of which is highly characteristic of the college.

Because customization always involves the problem of “high production costs and low order efficiency,” many brands dare not delve into it. Yeti cannot avoid this problem either. Although its slightly higher selling price can spread the cost, it is really difficult to make the customization line so fine from a profit perspective.

This is the emotional value that Yeti wants to convey to the public besides its hardcore products – Yeti’s scene mining and demand satisfaction for personalized needs.

With good service and consumer experience, customers will naturally repurchase or even spontaneously recommend your products. Therefore, even though Yeti’s products are priced slightly higher than other brands, consumers are still willing to buy them.

In addition, Yeti has another purpose in doing customization, which is to attract traffic. Google Trends data shows that the search volume of long-tail keywords related to “Yeti cups,” such as “custom Yeti cups,” is constantly soaring.

These long-tail keywords correspond to highly accurate customers, and conversion can be generated directly. Yeti can effectively increase the flow of precise customers from natural searches on Google independent sites by optimizing based on this data.

Yeti also emphasized in the Q4 2022 financial report meeting that expanding customization options will continue to be one of the important initiatives in 2023.

In terms of website content, Yeti has also launched a dedicated “podcast section.” It invites celebrities and athletes from different fields to tell their moving stories of gaining strength and healing through outdoor activities such as drifting, fly fishing, and surfing in their spare time.

In addition to the celebrity effect, the storytelling on the podcast has also increased the affinity of Yeti and sharpened its “life + outdoor” brand positioning.

According to Similarweb data, the proportion of “direct access + natural search” on the Yeti official website accounts for 70% of all sources, indicating how well-designed the website content is.

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