February 18, 2011, 3:01 PM

Batter up! (And not just for ball players)

As baseball begins, an e-retailer hopes social media will boost bat sales.

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The reappearance of big league baseball players in Arizona and Florida this month signals the start of the hallowed annual tradition: The busy season for Sam’s Bats, a Canada-based manufacturer and multichannel retailer that caters to both pros and amateurs.

This year, Sam’s Bat will look to social media and a new e-commerce platform to increase its revenue, including in its sweet spot for sales that runs between February and June, aiming to increase sales by at least 10%. So far, the signs are encouraging, says Arlene Anderson, the company’s president.

During a typical month in the busy season, the company sells about $40,000 worth of bats through the site, with the price of bats averaging $100. “We hope to double those sales by next year,” she says.  The company also sells its bats, which customers use not only to hit balls with but also to collect autographs on, via other web sites and bricks-and-mortar stores. The company sells its maple wood bats to about 130 major league baseball players, but those players receive personal service instead of having to buy from the site.

For this season, Sam’s Bat is trying out social media to see how much it can increase sales. Late last year, around the time the San Francisco Giants were imagining the champagne taste of a World Series victory, the company launched its Facebook page, from which consumers can link back to the e-commerce site. And about a month ago, as baseball players were starting to pack for spring training, the company launched its blog. Anderson says minor league players will contribute pieces to the blog that describe their playing experiences, with the blog also including links back to the site.

Another boost for Sam’s Bat this year could come from an improved e-commerce platform provided by Shopify. Launched last May, the new platform makes it easier for Sam’s Bat to track sales and adds features that address customer complaints about orders that did not process correctly and the lack of e-mail confirmations. “Now all of this stuff is seamless,” Anderson says. She says sales have  increased about 20% since then, and the growth appears poised to repeat itself based on trends in the first part of February.

The retailer also might have a chance to sell more of its bats internationally. About 90% of the company’s customers live in the United States, but Anderson sees an opportunity in Australia, where Major League Baseball has invested in the Australian Baseball League, a professional organization.

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