Jill Cartwright, founder of Go GaGa, is an entrepreneur who has successfully harnessed media and social networking channels to help catapult her brand.
When Jill began designing ergonomically friendly diaper bags in late 2007, startup funds were scarce. To get started on the cheap, she found a way to outsource everything. “I needed to find experts but I had to be very careful about how I spent my money.” In lieu of employees, Jill has found dozens of partners to help her create, brand and sell her ergonomic bags.
“Having a virtual organization was sort of a perfect match for the seasonality and the cycles that my business follows.” Now she’s expanded the line to include a range of multipurpose bags.
When did you get started in ecommerce?
We added ecommerce to our website just over a year ago.
What type of growth have you experienced since starting your website?
Selling online has increased our sales by 25%.
How do you get traffic your website?
Blogs have been the biggest traffic driver to date, but we’ve recently received some terrific coverage in national magazines that have also been helpful in driving people to our site. We’ve recently expanded our email marketing program, which has given us more consistent volume over time.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
Since I sell direct to consumers through my website and I also sell to retailers, my biggest challenge has been to try and build my ecommerce business without alienating my retailers. I’ve done that by trying to minimize any competition between us – I don’t run sales, I make all of my products available to retailers and don’t keep any exclusives for my website, and I make sure list all of my retailers on my website.
What aspects of running an online store do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy the direct interaction that I get with customers by selling directly to them online. I send each customer a personal email thanking them for their order and use that as an opportunity to start a conversation so that I can learn how they heard about our collection, why they chose our bags instead of our competitors’ totes, etc. It’s an invaluable way to learn what PR is and isn’t working as well as get ideas for new products.
You mentioned getting exposure through blogs and magazines. I can also see from your press page that you have done an excellent job promoting your brand though a wide range of media including celebrity endorsements. Do you have any tips for other retailers that are looking to improve their brand recognition through a variety of channels?
Celebrity endorsements have helped us in a number of ways – they’ve created a buzz about our brand as well as given credibility to our claim that our bags are both comfortable and stylish. Granted, celebrity endorsements can be very expensive, so if that’s not an option for you, I’d recommend looking for partners that can help do the same – validate your value proposition and create interest and enthusiasm for your brand. Look for other retailers, manufacturers or service providers that complement your assortment and think of creative ways that you can work together. For example, our diaper bags are large enough to accommodate cloth diapers, so partnering with a cloth diaper manufacturer on a promotion could generate sales and visibility for us.
What tips would you share for others trying to grow their ecommerce business?
Use the flexibility of the web to your advantage – test new products on a small scale, segment your customers and offer them different promotions, etc. No other sales channel enables you to be so nimble and test so many things, so take full advantage of it to find what works for your business and what doesn’t.
To hear more from Jill, view her video interview on Forbes.com Video Network series: Boost Your Business where she talks about the benefits of running a virtual company in a tough economy.Google+