September 19, 2008, 12:00 AM

Racing retailer GPTours pulls ahead with its own social network

GPTours created for its web site a social network, YourSpace, designed to retain customers buying its big-ticket auto racing tours. The network has amassed 8,500 members and boosted sales.

Many retailers have begun putting resources into establishing a presence on social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Online racing tours travel retailer GPTours Inc. is building its own social network, dubbed YourSpace, designed to help customers stay in touch with friends they met on racing tours, and to retain these customers.

Since GPTours launched YourSpace on its e-commerce site in November 2006 8,500 members have signed up. By using web analytics to track activity and interactions on the social network, the retailer has directly attributed sales of 12 racing tours, which range from $10,000 to $15,000, to YourSpace. That means it has more than paid for itself, says Barry Simpson, founder and CEO. Sales also can come indirectly, through conversations and recommendations within the social network, but those sales are harder to track, he adds.

“We need to attract people to our site and keep them coming back-75% of our business comes from people who have been on a tour before,” Simpson says. “The main thing the social network does is serve as a customer retention tool.”

The social network-built, maintained and moderated by social media platform vendor, which charges a monthly fee-enables members to create groups and blogs, upload videos, and participate in online forums. Adding video uploading in February 2007 greatly boosted traffic to the social network section of the e-commerce site, the retailer says. Today, 20% of all traffic on the e-commerce site is within YourSpace.

To gain traffic in the beginning, recruited members from racing groups on MySpace. The vendor created a GPTours page on MySpace and used college-age employees to scour the giant social network. It relies on employees of this age to handle MySpace duties because they are the most savvy when it comes to social networking, says Kathy Jacobellia, founder and CEO of

The recruiters invited MySpace members in 2,700 racing groups to link with the GPTours MySpace page, which contains promotional copy and links to the retailer’s YourSpace network. The viral nature of social networking, friends telling friends telling friends about YourSpace, has further increased the number of members in GPTours’ social network, Jacobellia says.

2Dogs handled the implementation after GPTours approved the design. Moving forward, Simpson says one tactic he is considering to encourage continued growth for YourSpace is to integrate the social network and the checkout process. When any customer, YourSpace member or not, completes a purchase, the order confirmation page would highlight YourSpace members who also will be going on the same tour.

“Customers would immediately have an idea of who else is going on the trip,” Simpson says, “and they could instantly get in touch.”

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