April 27, 2012, 2:37 PM

Retailer Campus Colors brings in more green after outsourcing e-commerce

Sales more than doubled last holiday season after Ability Commerce took over web site management.

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Since collegiate sportswear retailer Campus Colors handed over responsibility for web site development and marketing of CampusColors.com to Ability Commerce last year, the retailer’s online sales have seen record growth, including a year-over-year sales gain of 100% to 200% each month for products sold through the Amazon marketplace.

Ability Commerce, an e-commerce software and marketing services provider, took control of e-commerce for Campus Colors last May, with sites and feeds going live in September.

In November, the CampusColors.com e-retail site saw a nearly 130% revenue increase from November 2010. In December sales were up 110%. The holiday season typically accounts for 58% of Campus Colors’ annual online business, the retailer says.

Campus Colors has sold apparel online since 2008 and in six Chicago-area stores since 1990. Currently, about 15% of its revenue is generated online, says vice president Jon Rubenstein. The retailer’s goal is to generate half its sales online within three years. “We are very optimistic about the growth potential of our online business,” he says.

“Ability Commerce will play a vital role in this success as we will rely on their marketing capabilities to drive this growth,” he says. “We view their team as an extension of our company, as they are responsible for the all of the online marketing efforts, technical support and programming of the website.”

Prior to working with Ability Commerce, three Campus Colors’ employees maintained all its e-commerce systems in-house, bringing in extra help during the busy fourth quarter, Rubenstein says. “From day one, we recognized that we were in a competitive industry and that our competition was more advanced and much larger than we were,” he says. “We also recognized that we did not have the financial resources to hire the necessary human resources to compete.” So when the company’s sole employee dedicated 100% to e-commerce abruptly left in 2011, the time seemed ripe for seeking outside help.

“They didn’t have the expertise, nor did they want the learning curve,” says Diane Buzzeo, founder and CEO of Ability Commerce. “They’re the kind of company that needs to optimize for pay-per-click for four hours a week, and you can’t hire someone for pay-per-click for four hours a week,” she says. Ability Commerce provides the service instead.

“We felt that by partnering with Ability Commerce, we could work towards achieving the goals we had set for e-commerce without having to hire multiple e-commerce professionals,” Rubenstein says. 

“We no longer have to spend time trying to make decisions in complex areas where we have limited knowledge,” Rubenstein says. Instead Campus Colors is free to focus on what he says they do best: finding products that consumers want.

Mark Shimahara, Internet marketing manager at Patagonia, Inc., will be speaking June 6 from 1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in Chicago at a session entitled “What's the future of affiliate marketing sites?

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