Enhancing sales with category-specific websites

Targeting Product Categories with Separate Sites: 4 Tactics

Consumers often research online purchases, at times extensively, before deciding what and where to purchase. What if you could give them the information they sought and the ability to purchase the products they wanted all from the same site?

In the following case study, you’ll see how a consumer appliance and garden furniture e-retailer turned several product categories into separate websites to provide a targeted, in-depth informational shopping experience. The strategy helped them weather the recession while lifting sales 25 percent over two years.

About six years ago, Jason Roussos, President, Living Direct, and his team launched PortableAirShop.com, an eCommerce site devoted to portable air conditioners. They hoped the site’s in-depth information and product selection would better serve customers’ portable air needs than the team’s main website, LivingDirect.com.

“Our main site still tries to get people the information, but really this site was our first foray into giving customers a deeper product experience,” Roussos said. “It has really done well for us.”

The new site attracted strong sales, and the team has since launched six other category-specific sites, such as Kegerator.com and SimplyDehumidifiers.com. The category-targeting strategy has helped overall business. According to Roussos, sales have grown despite the down economy.

Here, we dive into how Roussos’ team identifies which product categories to target, what goes into the sites and how they’re promoted.

Tactic #1. Study sales and market data for opportunities

Roussos’ team identifies product categories that are somewhat complicated, and in which Living Direct has a history of expertise and steady sales. Dehumidifiers, for example, are not overly complex products, but they’re not exactly paper clips, either. Customers often research the category to make informed purchases. Roussos’ team has sold dehumidifiers for years, and had the expertise to build a website to meet consumers’ educational and shopping needs in the category. The team also analyzes the competition in the market. It checks competitors’ websites to see if they’re providing consumers with in-depth product information and a broad product selection.

“I think that’s where we try and come in and figure out who we can differentiate and give customers something they’re not getting from a local store or from [large online and offline retailers],” Roussos said.

Tactic #2. Aim for a deep, focused experience

The team focuses these sites on a single major product category. For example, CompactAppliance.com sells only compact appliances.  This approach enables the team to build a site to meet the needs of a specific customer segment, and to do so in a way that sites with broader product selections often cannot accomplish.

The team’s sites include:
o Product category-based navigation
o Educational videos
o Text- and image-based product buyers’ guides
o Ratings and reviews
o Product manual PDFs
o Product and accessory suggestions

“It’s definitely a more in-depth shopping experience [than broader retail sites] and it’s also a more simplified shopping experience,” Roussos said.

Tactic #3. Promote new sites individually

When launching a new site, the team has to get it off the ground without cannibalizing promotion for its main site, LivingDirect.com. They do this by marketing each new site individually through channels such as:

o Press releases
o Shopping feeds
o Search engine advertising
o Product giveaways on social media sites

“We tend to support them through ways similar to our main site,” Roussos said.

E-mail and website:

Although the team promotes each site individually, there is some overlap with promotion for its main site, LivingDirect.com. For example, they sometimes announce new site launches to LivingDirect.com e-mail subscribers. Also, the team links to each of its sites in every site’s footer, including from LivingDirect.com.

Tactic #4. Create links between product-specific sites and parent brand

The team’s additional websites act as stand-alone web destinations with unique URLs and site names. However, the team does not want to lose the impression that these sites are owned and operated by Living Direct. The team ties the sites together in the following ways:

– Links in every site’s footer: As mentioned above, each website’s footer lists the names and hyperlinked icons of the team’s websites. The list is describe as the “Living Direct Network of Brands.”

– Marketing correspondence: Transactional e-mails, order box inserts, print catalogs and other out-bound company information always tie brands to Living Direct, regardless of which satellite site the customer purchased from. The team is refining this strategy, Roussos said, to build the Living Direct brand through each site experience.

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eTail 2010


Jason Roussos, President and CEO of Living Direct, will speak on eTail’s CEO/SVP panel, “Assessing Keys to Growth in 2010 & Beyond.”