Mountain Hardwear Augmented Reality App Eases Shopping

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Mountain Hardwear Augmented Reality App Eases Shopping

By Dan Ochwat - 10/01/2019

When selling outdoor equipment like a tent or sleeping bag, brick-and-mortar stores tend to lack the floor space required to showcase a range of built tents and unspooled sleeping bags. Yet, these are meaningful products that consumers want to experience before buying.

To rectify this, Richmond, Virginia-based Mountain Hardware, a subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear, launched its first mobile app in June, leveraging augmented reality to help shoppers view the brand’s new line of technical gear at scale and virtually climb inside. This month, the app will expand in a partnership with Gore-Tex to offer an AR look at snow sports outerwear (jackets, pants and gloves).

“The idea behind this is utility first and really helping our customers make a more informed decision,” says Jeff Brandon, associate director of brand development at Mountain Hardware. “We chose to launch the app specifically with equipment first, as this is one of the items that’s less available when it comes to brick-and-mortar retail, as well as it’s really difficult to merchandise and preview in a retail environment, and that goes for our own branded stores as well.”

Mountain Hardwear’s design-forward equipment and apparel is available through 350 retail partners, including brick-and-mortar stores like REI, Moosejaw, Summit Hut and Paragon Sports. The company also has flagship stores in both Portland and Seattle. The launch of the app coincided with a rollout of newly redesigned equipment from the brand.

Consumers who download the Apple iPhone app open the AR feature with one click, granting access to the phone’s camera, and then select from the different equipment options they’d like to appear in the room. The user can swap between colors, sizes and styles of tents, sleeping bags and backpacks. There’s also an option to change the look of the office or room the user is in with one of four natural, environmental backgrounds such as a snowy mountain landscape.

Transparent House, San Francisco, developed the app. Photorealistic AR images within the app are highly detailed, giving consumers a real feel for the equipment – right down to the texture of the fabric, Brandon says. In addition, users can explore the size and contours of the equipment. He says a user can start with a tent and then put two sleeping bags inside. “What’s cool is you can actually get inside the tent and get an idea for the interior volume.”

To promote the app, Mountain Hardwear is leaning on paid ads, primarily over social, and launched a sweepstakes with The Mountain Guides, a company that represents guides who help lead people on climbing trips. App users can enter for a two-day climbing trip to Red Rock or Moab with The Mountain Guides, and that includes free Mountain Hardwear product and a $2,000 gift card to help pay for travel.

Mountain Hardwear has partnered with the company for more than a decade and considers The Mountain Guides to be part of its AAI (Athletes, Ambassadors and Influencers) program, Brandon says.

Brandon hopes store associates use the app to show shoppers products in greater detail, and then pull the actual product to provide more detail. He stresses the app isn’t meant to take away from the physical shopping environment but to enhance it.

Mountain Hardwear first brought in Transparent House to look at developing 3-D assets that could be viewed by consumers on product pages online but a bigger focus on AR grew out of those meetings. Brandon says the company will continue to develop its AR capabilities going forward.