Winnebago Industries, Inc. has unveiled findings from its first consumer research initiative on outdoor recreation and announced the development of a new facility and expanded resources dedicated to innovating next-generation technologies for the recreational vehicle and marine industries.
Winnebago's inaugural report found that future demand for outdoor recreation is strong, with nearly 90% of outdoors enthusiasts planning to participate more than or as much as they do now over the next six to twelve months. This follows rising participation over the past two years: those who participated in an outdoor activity increased 19% (60% to 79%) from 2020 to 2021*.
“Winnebago Industries is excited to roll out a new, concerted effort in sharing our insights into the health of the outdoor recreation industry. This initial report showcases how important exposure to the outdoors is for so many consumers,” said Michael Happe, president and chief executive officer. “The idea that outdoor interest would recede with loosening COVID-19 restrictions is false. We are seeing that the popularity of outdoor activities may continue to grow.”
The survey identified the primary reasons people are heading and staying outdoors, as well as their future expectations. Included are key findings.
Growth, Connection, Freedom
Outdoor enthusiasts have many reasons for participating outdoors, but the Winnebago Industries survey identified three central themes of growth, connection, and freedom as primary motivators for heading outdoors.
A perceived lack of skills is not likely to stop outdoor enthusiasts from trying a new activity as it offers an opportunity to grow: 50% of outdoor enthusiasts stated that challenging themselves is a primary reason they participate in outdoor activities.
The great outdoors offers a chance for individuals to connect with family and friends; 70% of outdoor enthusiasts stated that sharing experiences with others was a primary motivator in participating in outdoor activities. Between 2020 and 2022, there was an 22% increase in individuals who said outdoor activities are a great way to connect with family & friends*.
Being outdoors offers an opportunity to disconnect and enjoy a sense of freedom. 70% of outdoor enthusiasts stated that “escaping the everyday grind” and “feeling free and uncontained” are primary motivators for participating in outdoor activities.
The Next Generation Holds Different Expectations
Millennials (Gen Y) and Gen Z are engaging for different reasons than their older counterparts. Gen Y and Z are more likely than older generations to cite “stress relief” and “time for myself” as benefits that drew them to engage in the outdoors. Their number one ask of outdoor recreation manufacturers is to help identify and access campsites that offer “more privacy or peace and quiet.”
This accompanies a desire from Gen Y and Z to have a “concierge” level of engagement. When asked what outdoor recreation manufactures can do to make outdoor experiences better:
- 69% of Gen Y and Z (vs. 58% overall) say “offer an app that guides you step by step while you are participating in the activity until you feel comfortable”
- 53% of Gen Y and Z (vs 43% overall) say “offer curated RV or boat experiences (i.e., having a guide who helps with planning and logistics)”
“Younger generations have come to expect more around their entire outdoor experience. They seek ease and convenience when planning, so once they get to their destination or activity, they can realize the benefits of stress relief and enjoying nature sooner,” said Amber Holm, chief marketing officer. “We will continue to focus our efforts in the areas of consumer experience; the rollout of the Winnebago App is one recent example of our commitment in this area.”
New R&D center
The Winnebago Industries Advanced Technology Innovation Center will focus on incubating and prototyping new technology applications across a wide range of technical and product-feature categories, including alternative energy management and autonomy. The facility will be well-equipped with leading-edge technology and sized to meet the needs of the Company’s outdoor product portfolio.
Development of the Advanced Technology Innovation Center, which will be located in the Twin Cities, will begin in early 2023. Other details of the facility were not disclosed.
“Innovation is a cornerstone for Winnebago Industries. Our ability to excel in the market and further our industry leadership will hinge on our ability to advance the consumer experience through technology,” said Michael Happe, president and chief executive officer. “That is why we formed the Advanced Technology Group in 2019 and why we are now making a physical investment in and deepening that commitment to innovation by establishing the Advanced Technology Innovation Center.”
The focus of the Winnebago Industries Advanced Technology Group (ATG) is to improve the company’s ability to identify, evaluate and deploy industry-changing products and services within each of its brands across four key technology areas – alternative energy management, data & connectivity, material science, and autonomy.
“Our category leading brands have always operated with a keen focus on bringing innovation to their product lines. The Advanced Technology Innovation Center will allow Winnebago Industries to partner with the business units to augment those efforts across multiple technological timelines to meet short- and long-term strategies and goals,” said Shailendra Singh, vice president of Advanced Technology. “We are committing to combining Winnebago Industries’ growing bench of research and development talent, new technology applications and a growing ecosystem of technology partners under one roof.”