Meet Our Advisory Board: This Month -- Peter Cobb
From time to time, eM+C Weekly e-letter readers have an opportunity to get to know a member of our Editorial Advisory Board. This month, meet our newest member, Peter Cobb, co-founder and senior vice president of marketing for eBags, the Greenwood Village, Colo.-based online bags retailer.
eM+C: Tell me about your company.
Peter Cobb: eBags.com is an e-retailer of luggage, handbags, business cases and backpacks for every lifestyle. We have more than 35,000 products from 500 brands. eBags.com was launched in March 1999, and from the very beginning we wanted to be a very customer-focused site with lots of features to help customers view our products. We have great photographs and we've also added video. Also, from the very beginning, we wanted to be very different from the brick and mortar environment, so we added customer reviews. Today we have more than 1.4 million customer reviews.
eM+C: What is your marketing philosophy?
PC: The starting point is to offer such a great customer experience that our customers really become a key part of our marketing vehicles. We feel strongly that if we offer a great customer experience, people are going to pass on the word. The opposite holds true as well: If we don't offer a great experience, then people will tell others about it. So that's really first and foremost.
Secondly, we are a pure-play online retailer, and we still think of ourselves -- 10 years after starting -- as still being in startup mode. As a result, we're very frugal. And that really grounds us. In addition, in terms of marketing, it is very important for us to test rather than just throw a lot of money at something and hope that it works. It has to have a positive return on investment.
eM+C: What e-trends are you tracking right now?
PC: From the marketing side, you have to differentiate yourself from the competition. So, that may mean being the first to bring new categories, new products or new brands that others don't have to your Web site. And, you also have to have new tools to help consumers find those products and find out more about them. On our site, a perfect example of this is that we offer videos and Q-and-A features about the 80-plus handbag designers that are on eBags.com, but not in the big-box department stores.
eM+C: What are your goals for eBags.com for the balance of the year?
PC: This year will be a challenging one for all global businesses. In the current economic situation [we are in], all of us really need to focus on what areas need to be improved in terms of the customers' experience on the Web site.
All of us are facing strains on profitability as costs go up, and obviously it is going to affect probably UPS charges and things like that. And, I think on the whole, customer confidence is shaken right now. So, for us, it is about focusing on making sure customers have a great experience on our site. Customers online today have a lot of choices, so we just need to make sure that eBags.com is the choice that they feel comfortable with, that they are happy with and that they will tell others about. That's really going to be our focus through this year.
eM+C: What digital marketing tips and best practices can you share with our readers?
PC: People need to continue to figure out how to optimize search -- both search engine marketing as well as search engine optimization. If you are going to be successful online, you really have to figure those out. And then, you should look for some low-cost alternatives, such as affiliate marketing, which still can be a viable way to drive customers to your Web site. Then, once they become customers, use e-mail marketing.
But e-mail marketing has gotten stale at most companies, and most need to re-energize their e-mail marketing campaigns. What does that mean? It means going from e-mail blasts to more customized and personalized e-mails. Not enough e-retailers are doing that. Finally, make your site new, fresh and different, and then tell the world about it.
Reach Peter Cobb at email@example.com.