Forum Index » GEAR » From the owner of ProLiteGear.com - What traits do BPL members consider important in an online gear shop???


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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Locale: MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.com
The "makes sense" Test on 01/30/2013 16:38:32 MST Print View

Make sure there are no anti-logical policies. For instance, on REI's web orders, an exchange is not an exchange. REI will refund you the amount of the original item, and then immediately charge you for the new item; if you don't have the money in your account, the exchange gets bogged up.

Why not just send the new item and refund/charge the difference? I don't know.

Another example: If I return an item to REI (sorry to pick on you, REI), it disappears from my order history. If I order lots of stuff, seeing what didn't work for me would be useful as a reference. I don't know why they disappear, but they do.


It's little things like this that go against common sense that stand out to me. If it makes sense, I never have problems with it, and everything goes smoother. Make sure your site and policies pass the "makes sense" test.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
prolite on 01/30/2013 16:48:17 MST Print View

I have purchased from prolite before was only unhappy once,they took care of the problem and went above and beyond without my even asking. I will shop them in the future, the prices and sales are competitive and the customer service is exellent.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
What traits do BPL members consider important in an online gear shop? on 01/30/2013 17:36:29 MST Print View

Thanks for asking. I just checked my records, and I see I've bought the following from you: Inov-8 shoes, CAMP mittens, Montane windshirts. Those are all "speciality" items not widely available. Last week I ordered TerraNova over-mitts and I ended up ordering from UK with expensive shipping because I couldn't find my size/model in the US. So one niche that you've filled for me is making European products available here.

All other things being equal I purchase from BackCountry -- free shipping, great return policy, shipped within a couple hours of the order and arrives 2 days later. Second choice is REI - second to BackCountry because the delay until shipment and arrival time is slower, but favorable because if I do need to return I can do so at the store near my house and save the return shipping.

As somebody else mentioned, when I order a European product I don't know which size I'll need, and it's super important to be able to order multiple sizes and/or models and return all but one or two. In my case, the returns are of brand new products with labels attached, but sometimes it takes us more than 30 days to make a decision - not because we need that much time but because we are easily distracted. I wouldn't need a full year, but the difference between 30 and 90 days would matter a lot.

Also, because I often order more items than I plan to keep, the shipping cost matters. In particular, if it's free or $5 flat to ship, that's OK. If it's a graduated shipping fee based on size of the order, then I'm very hesitant to buy 6 items knowing that I will return 4 or 5 of them.

I don't envy your situation. Competition (i.e. dozens of online vendors) is always good for the consumer, but it's a tough place to be a business.

AmyL

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - M

Locale: NW Montana
re: Return Policy on 01/30/2013 17:49:40 MST Print View

I've never bought from ProLite Gear.

For me, it's all about the return policy. When I am testing something I don't know if it will fit or not, I always buy from REI, Backcountry, Campsaver, etc. where I can return something--even if it's used, for a reasonable period. In fact, Backcountry and REI are just downright unreasonable.

Personally, I think the Campsaver/Running Warehouse model is perfect for me. 60-90 days (I forget which exactly) to decide if a product works for me. No questions asked. This winter, I toyed around with the idea of GTX boots, but couldn't find a pair that fit me well. I narrowed it down to one pair, did a lot of running up and down the stairs in my house, and generally everything I could think of to figure out if they worked before testing them in the field. I liked them, took them out for a short test hike, and could quickly tell I wasn't going to be willing to put a lot of miles on the boots. The same thing happened with a second pair--both for very different reasons but both because of information I just couldn't get without a test hike.

If you were willing to offer some kind of evaluative return policy--say 60-90 days, full return if light to minimal wear, less depending on the condition of the item--I'd be at your site a lot more. You could even have an outlet to sell lightly used items where you could hopefully clear your costs or more on the lightly used stuff, another draw to the site.

Anyway, my $0.02. I will make sure to check out the site some more though.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: From the owner of ProLiteGear.com - What traits do BPL members consider important in an online gear shop??? on 01/30/2013 18:23:31 MST Print View

A good return policy is important, especially for gear you can't try on/out first.

Other than that, I'm one of those (few?) people who don't really care that much about getting the best deal. I don't spend a lot of time shopping around - if I see something I want I buy it without doing a lot of searching around for the best price.

I've purchased from your shop, Craig, and had nothing but great experiences when doing so (even posted in the forums about a great experience I had with your shop). But, like others, I've often, quite often, gone looking to your site early on and found you out of stock on what I wanted. The more often that happens, the less likely I am to visit again early on.

I only have one request, though. Start carrying Haglofs!

John Whynot
(jdw01776)

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: From the owner of ProLiteGear.com - What traits do BPL members consider important in an online gear shop??? on 01/30/2013 18:51:47 MST Print View

The only thing I really want is a return policy that let's me easily return items that I decide I don't want -- even if it is limited to 60 days.

I've purchased a few items from Prolite Gear. The prices were good, and the items arrived quickly. Close-outs and specials seem to be very aggressively priced.

The key for me was gear/brands that wasn't available elsewhere. One example -- Evazote sleeping pads in various thicknesses are almost always in stock.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Online Gear Shops on 01/30/2013 19:24:24 MST Print View

It seems that I'm with Craig and Mike. Normally online gear shops don't play any role in my decision of WHAT gear item to buy (with massive sales being the exception). Normally I decide what gear item to buy based on information from BPL and manufacturers websites, and then I head over to online gear shops when I'm ready to acquire it.

So because I'm not relying on the gear shop for help with the purchasing decision, price including shipping (to Canada) is the biggest factor. Reputation or return policy are tie breakers, because pretty much every shop has at least a reasonable policy. I like to use Google shopping (Froogle.com) to quickly give a slew of prices and then I head over the cheaper sites until I find one with reasonable shipping as well.

The shortcomings of Dealer agreements are really an issue to leave between shops and the manufacturers. Customers have no idea what the agreements are or if they're being broken. Most people aren't going to pass on a sale price and spend more elsewhere just because there's a chance the sale dealer is using loop holes in their agreement. While I'm not informed on the details of these agreements, to the lay person like me they seem like a form of price fixing by the manufacturers and a way to artificially protect margins from the realities of a free market.

I think your first point (carrying foreign brands/small brands than no one else does) is the best strategy, but it's still indirectly competing on price - it's just less crowded. Competing on price is probably the least desirable business strategy, but the reality of the internet is that it's what people are looking for.

Edited by dandydan on 01/30/2013 19:27:34 MST.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife
Re: Lowest Price, No Tax, and Free Shipping on 01/30/2013 19:26:13 MST Print View

+1 w Craig W.

I've done all my homework before I hit that purchase button. All I want when I am ready to buy is that is in stock with the aforementioned pluses.

Edited by kthompson on 01/30/2013 20:22:49 MST.

Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
prolite gear on 01/30/2013 20:08:13 MST Print View

I have purchased from PLG and like your site, and find your prices usually competitive, which is really important. But like others here, you didn't have what I was looking for in stock recently. Although there is tons of info online, I find it remarkable how many manufactures don't have meaningful websites and don't provide concrete info about their products online, including pictures. So I appreciate how PLG puts an actual weight on the item, and often a custom description. As an example, there has been discussions here about bothy bags, and Integral Designs (a company you carry) has new bothies out, but they have no pictures and limited info out anywhere.

For price, for several years now it is really hard to beat deals off steep and cheap. So anything that has a chance to pop up there, I would tend to wait and see, which sometimes means waiting a long time. BC's main site is also good and a place I buy gear from.

To me, the real niche for PLG is getting innovative lightweight gear into the US that isn't readily available here. So I looked at RAB at your site long ago since you were one of the few places to carry it then. I would be interested in trying something from Paramo for example, but not sure that is available here even now, at least not easily available, google shopping turns up nothing. There has been a lot of talk about stoves from Firemaple, and I would be interested in one of those, but not sure I am going to order one from some sketchy unknown importer. I don't know of anyone that makes good light shell gloves, and that gets talked about here too.

PS, you have excellent deals on some interesting gloves and mitts right now, including prices that are below steepandcheap, so that is tempting. But it drives me crazy on websites when I navigate to a page like Mens Gloves and Mitts, and view all 29 available items, and your website has other gloves that don't display there (including one I really like a lot, the OR Extravert Glove).

Edited by mbenvenuto on 01/30/2013 20:21:40 MST.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
For most purchases on 01/30/2013 20:13:49 MST Print View

"Lowest Price, No Tax, and Free Shipping". Smart shopping is just smart shopping.

edit - Forgot to mention I've purchased at your site a time or two. My expectations are this: when I open the box the item is as shown on the website and that it arrived fairly quickly. It doesn't have to arrive in one or two days, but within the week. I don't want you or me to be spending on expensive shipping options.

Edited by WarrenGreer on 01/30/2013 20:22:45 MST.

Russell Adams
(russ_outdoors) - F - M
Good experiences on 01/30/2013 21:04:47 MST Print View

Craig

I've purchased a number of times from PLG with good experiences. Only one time have I needed customer service. I ordered a pair of Integral Designs rain pants and while the packaging said XL, the pants inside were L. This was probably an error on Integral Designs part, but you guys shipped me out the correct pair next day at no cost and took care of return shipping as well. I was and still remain a very satisfied customer.

The main reason I frequent your site is because you carry some of the more niche brands. Brands that will never be found at REI or the like.

For me, be competitive on the price, have a good return policy, be nice on the phone, process orders quickly and carry what I need and my $$$ is yours.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Locale: www.hikelighter.com
Re: From the owner of ProLiteGear.com - What traits do BPL members consider important in an online gear shop??? on 01/31/2013 02:10:51 MST Print View

I tend to have a great deal of loyalty when it comes to where I buy gear from.

I have ordered hundreds of dollars from PLG and hopefully will continue to do so.

I have also ordered from backcountrygear, backcountryedge, and amazon.

The last one is the kicker for me. Until recently amazon was tax-free in California, where I live, so it got a large portion of my orders, plus as a prime member I have my gear in under 48 hours.

To me, this statement really nails it:

"Lowest Price, No Tax, and Free Shipping"


However, I also realize that all that this does is drive to a cut-throat situation where, in order to keep making online sales, every online company has to keep lowering and lowering their prices to stay competitive. This eventually leads to a point where the companies are not making enough profit to make it worth it. We as consumers need to be aware of this and think about what consequences this "lowest price possible" means in the long run.

In the end I will continue to remain loyal to the companies I buy from. I will continue to hunt through the three through five of them looking for if any of them have a product I want on sale. If none of them do it is a flip-the-coin situation for me.

I will be honest and say that the fact that PLG actually has a scale and lists the weight of many of the more popular items, is a HUGE attraction for me - and that is what caused me to buy from them in the first place and them make it into my list of companies I buy from.


Regarding return policies. Personally, I could care less about return policies. I have never returned a single piece of gear I have bought. It seems unfair to these companies to have to pay for shipping and handling (both directions) just because I screwed up and ordered the wrong size product. They should not have to pay for my screw-ups. I man up and take responsibility for my own actions.

-Abela

Jacob Smith
(Wrongturn) - MLife

Locale: The Soda
Re: on 01/31/2013 04:55:16 MST Print View

I've ordered all of my windshirts and rain shells from PLG over the years, but as far as needed gear and availability on PLG I find little overlap for me in the Southern Appalachians.

I've moved from Outdoor Research shells to custom Cuben rain gear. My pack is Cuben, my fleece layer and insulation came from Backcountry when I had a 20% off coupon, and I bought my wool tops and bottoms of different weights from whomever had the best deal at the time.

I have no need at this time for climbing or mountaineering gear. I'd like to get into snowshoeing and winter trekking, but still would only need a new Cuben mid shelter from MLD and a set of NorthernLites snowshoes.

BPL and the quest for going ever lighter is dependent on cottage gear manufacturers.

Gary Yee
(lakemcd)

Locale: NW Montana
Feedback on 01/31/2013 09:29:45 MST Print View

Strengths of PLG:
Good selection of gear. Instead of 1 or 2 items of a Patagonia down sweater type jacket I can count on you tho have 5 or 6 options from as many companies.

Customer service. When I call your people know their stuff and can give me a hands on appraisal and not just recite whats on a spec. sheet.

Returns: You recently handled a return of mine on a Montane Nitro with an improperly filled baffle. It took a little longer than expected but all things considered I was happy as oppose to trying to deal with the US Montane Distributor and got no where.

Weaknesses of PLG:
Low inventory of Sale items. Might be related to your #1 strength on how much inventory you can reasonably carry. Some retailers will make special buys to put things on sale thus having an ample supply and not getting the hopes up of customers only to be disappointed.

Not user friendly website. Have had to hunt for items in the past. Had to be creative in searching for things on your site. Sale prices that are listed in product a category are often not on the page of the specific item. Now having to hunt for the item I need to figure out which price is accurate, thus requiring another email or phone call. Inconsistent display of objective data. Take a look at your down jackets some have fill weights listed some don't some info is in grams others in ounces or both. Now I have to go to other websites to get the info. And guess what might happen when I go to other websites.

You are a valued business and I appreciate your presence in the market.
A quote from Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwoood Mac, " Any one who is any good at what they do, knows that can always get better"

Edited by lakemcd on 01/31/2013 09:54:07 MST.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
different on 01/31/2013 11:03:57 MST Print View

i just think you'll want to be different. carrying the small/euro companies items is great and a way of doing that. checking in here at bpl is another way of doing that. give people a reason to spend $40 with you when backcountry has a similar item for $35. ideas to consider:

-offer swag with a certain dollar amount spent - stickers, water bottles, t shirts
-post stories of your backpacking life here (ie, become a forum member)
-highlight a particular item from time to time in a special part of the webpage. gear of the week or whatever. have someone test it and write up a performance review.
-include a thank you note in your shipping boxes. a local small engine shop around me does that (sends a thank you note when i purchase an expensive item). it is something small that i appreciate.

i don't know. those are just a few ideas that jumped into my mind. lastly, there have been numerous posts about your gear being out of stock and how that has caused you to lose some business. that is the community responding to your question. so that should probably be the first issue you address. whether it's removing those items from the webpage as they go out of stock or adding more stock or whatever. good luck...

Louis Jewett
(lfjewett)
Online Purchases on 01/31/2013 12:04:28 MST Print View

I typically only purchase online when I know the exact Item I want and I'm looking to save some $$ by hitting a sale. Rarely can I not find an Item locally and then must resort to online purchases.

One thing that I think a small retailer like yourself could do to set yourself aside is put up a VIDEO and review of every single product. Introduce the product, show us the 360, tell us what it feels like, smells like, etc. If it's a piece of clothing ( ok maybe not underwear ) put it on so we can see it. If it's a box of matches, light one. The hardest part about buying stuff online is I can touch it and have little idea other than a picture often times taken ' in the products best light ' and the stats. Setup each tent and show us the setup processes, jump in the sleeping bag and zip it up. Give us your honest opinion on the build quality, the pro's, and the con's. If your a fair reviewer you'll find people will flock to your site for details. Text and Pictures just doesn't cut it in this day and age.

Edited by lfjewett on 01/31/2013 12:21:12 MST.

Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
Selection isn't that great on 01/31/2013 12:32:10 MST Print View

I considered ordering some things for my wife and I (insulated pants) from you guys over the holiday season...I was excited to put together an order because I wanted throw in some evazote pads. I ended up going with some other small online retailers because of the limited sizes, lack of women's models and low selection of odds and ends (like a BD pole link converter) I wanted to pick up at the same time.

Extending the return policy to allow for sizing clothing is a good idea. I'm usually only way to pay near full price If I can be sure it will fit. I also think you would be better served by ordering larger runs of gear and figuring out a way to do end of season clearance without harming your relationship with the manufactures.

Including better info about sizing (reviews from employees with their measurements etc) would make me more likely to buy some of the specialty the clothing options you offer instead of going with a possibly inferior product that I can find better fit info about and return if it doesn't fit.

If you really want to stand out as a premium non discount option then perhaps adopting the model offered by some online shoe retailers where they will ship you multiple sizes and you keep the ones that fit would be a good idea.

Craig Delger
(cdelger)
thanks - reviewing all of your suggestions with the team right now... on 01/31/2013 13:58:17 MST Print View

I sincerely thank everybody for your feedback and ideas... especially those that took the time to contact me personally.

I sat down with the team and we have reviewed EVERY bit of feedback. We are excited!

We are taking it into consideration as we are writing up our orders for next Fall right now.

We are also taking it into consideration as we review our return policy, price strategy, shipping costs, etc.

As one person stated - there is always room for improvement and I completely agree.

Also, based on your feedback I have some exciting things to announce regarding stocking unique very lightweight gear... but I need to sit on that secret for a while longer and keep you guessing until we take delivery! :)

Regarding inventory levels... I intentionally took them lower over the last 18 months due to the uncertain economic climate and market conditions, but I am starting to "intelligently" increase them again now. I am in this for the long term... and hearing the horror stories other stores have gone through the past 2 seasons I think that was the right call.

Regarding videos, blogs, etc we are increasing our investments in that content and getting better at it. If you haven't seen our videos please check them out at:

http://www.youtube.com/user/prolitegear

or

http://www.prolitegear.com/videos.html

I am also looking forward to increasing my participation within the BPL community.

thanks again for all you suggestions!

Craig Delger
ProLite Gear

www.ProLiteGear.com

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Info on 01/31/2013 14:36:10 MST Print View

If its a product unique to you, adding more info like size etc. will help people on the fence, however if its widely available product producing info is just money wasted as people will still buy at the cheapest site.

After that, quick and cheap shipping are good. Returns indeed are essential for something I haven't been able to try on or feel.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Lartnec Nagihcim
Re: Info on 01/31/2013 15:21:17 MST Print View

My favourite outdoor shop in Europe (I am from Ireland) is ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk as they display what each size weighs and have comparison charts for most items.