An E-Commerce Survival Kit
In a keynote presentation at the NEMOA directXchange Fall Conference in Schaumburg, Ill., last week, Peter Cobb, co-founder and executive vice president of eBags.com, offered his thoughts on how online retailers can remain competitive — and profitable — in a constantly evolving industry. Here are six of Cobb’s tips:
1. Offer something fresh and with a point of view. For example, eBags has partnered with emerging designers to sell their products on its site. eBags can offer these designers exclusivity and promotional opportunities that it wouldn’t find on other marketplaces (i.e., getting lost in a sea of other products on Amazon.com), Cobb noted. He cited the example of Swiss Gear, a manufacturer and seller of luggage and bags, agreeing to have its No. 1 laptop backpack be sold exclusively on eBags.com. You can’t find this product elsewhere, Cobb said.
In addition, eBags has created its own private label brand. Despite having just a three-person team running this segment of eBags’ business, private label products now account for 24 percent of the online retailer’s total unit sales, Cobb said.
2. Expand product categories. “We’re no longer just a bags company,” Cobb said. eBags is actively trying to find and offer products that are complementary to its primary merchandise. For example, Cobb said Tile’s Bluetooth tracking device that can be put into bags — e.g., kids’ backpacks, luggage — to prevent them from getting lost is exactly the type of complementary product that eBags should be selling to its customers.
eBags closely monitors crowdfunding sites to get ideas for new products. Cobb cited Bluesmart, the world’s first smart connected carry-on luggage, as the type of product that consumers should expect to see on eBags. Bluesmart has raised over $2.2 billion on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
3. Incorporate special pricing. eBags has a “Steals of the Day” section on its site where it sells select products at bargain prices for a limited time. This is a win-win situation for eBags and its brand partners. The manufacturer gets to liquidate excess inventory, while eBags generates excitement for its products and frequency of purchase. Cobb is happy to give up the margin on the first purchase in exchange for the chance to acquire a lifetime customer.
4. Personalize the shopping experience with relevant content, products and offers. eBags has begun to show visitors who are on the verge of leaving its site — they’ve moved their mouse towards the browser — a special offer based on their past browsing and/or purchase behavior. The tactic has yielded a 12 percent incremental gain in cart sales recovery, Cobb noted.
5. Don’t forget about search engine optimization … it’s free! Traffic generated via SEO now accounts for roughly 15 percent of eBags’ total sales, Cobb said. While Google is consistently minimizing the real estate that SEO results gets on its SERPs — the tops of SERPS are increasingly filled with paid product images and maps, Cobb said — that doesn’t mean you should abandon SEO altogether. It can still be an effective traffic and sales driver, as Cobb attested to.
6. Think mobile first. Mobile now accounts for 28 percent of eBags’ traffic and nearly 15 percent of its sales. Cobb said he expects those numbers to continue to increase. With that in mind, all development initiatives at eBags are done for smartphones first. Mobile sales might not bear fruit for 6 [months], 12 [months], 18 months, but it’s coming, Cobb said.