To connect more people to life outdoors, REI Co-op has appointed its first chief customer officer and first chief digital officer. Both roles are focused on enhancing the experience of the co-op’s members and customers no matter how people first encounter REI.
“We’re now seeing people discover the outdoors in new ways and at a pace that we’ve never seen before. While we often go outside to disconnect, we have also seen that technology can be a powerful enabler in helping people fall in love with the outdoors,” says REI CEO Jerry Stritzke. “These new roles reflect our belief that we can inspire outdoor adventures through all touchpoints: in stores, through guided outdoor experiences, in local communities and via thoughtful use of technology.”
REI chief creative officer Ben Steele (pictured above) has been promoted to an expanded role and will serve as executive vice president and the co-op’s first chief customer officer. In his new role, Steele will lead REI’s digital, marketing, brand, stewardship and customer insights capabilities.
Steele served as REI’s chief creative officer for four years, leading brand engagement efforts including #OptOutside and Force of Nature. He has a deep brand and agency background and has previously served in creative and leadership roles at a variety of leading advertising and design agencies. He also serves on the board of NatureBridge.
“This appointment reflects Ben’s outstanding contributions to REI during his time as the co-op’s chief creative officer. His teams continue to bring REI’s brand and storytelling to new levels,” says Stritzke. “In this new role, in partnership with our excellent retail leadership team, Ben can help us present a seamless co-op experience to all of our audiences in an increasingly digital world.”
Curtis Kopf is REI’s first chief digital officer and will report to Steele. He joins REI from Premera Blue Cross, having worked previously in senior roles at Alaska Airlines, Microsoft and Amazon. He has a track record of leading transformation and a passion for building great digital teams and products.
Kopf will be responsible for all of REI’s digital efforts, including REI.com and the REI app.
“Curtis is a great addition to our leadership team. He will build from the strong foundation and performance we have in digital today,” says Stritzke. “Curtis’ reputation as an inspiring leader precedes him, and I couldn’t be happier to welcome him to the co-op.”