December 17, 2009, 12:00 AM

Sharper marketing helps eBags` holiday season sales rise 32%

The online handbag, backpack, briefcase and suitcase retailer attributes its growth to improved search marketing and e-mail marketing campaigns.

Since the Monday after Thanksgiving, also known as Cyber Monday, traffic to was up 40.3% as of Dec. 14 compared to the same period a year ago and sales were up 32%.

The reason? The site weeded out spending on inefficient keywords and introduced personalized e-mail marketing campaigns, says Peter Cobb, co-founder and senior vice president of marketing of , No. 93 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name). In doing so, its keyword returns are up 45%.

“This year we made a conscious decision to be smarter about marketing,” Cobb says. The online retailer set firm targets for sales stemming from particular keywords. For those that fell below the floor, it cut its spending. “Maybe politically it would be nice to own the number one space in the `handbag` keyword, but the return from that spend doesn’t make sense,” he says. “There are a lot of women that just decide to browse for a handbag during their lunch break with no intention of buying and those types of clicks can add up.”

The handbag, backpack, briefcase and suitcase retailer also introduced personalized e-mail marketing campaign based on shoppers’ previous purchases. The return has been e-mail marketing is up 25%.

Product prices represent the third prong that has helped bolster eBags’ sales this year, says Cobb. Two months before the holidays, eBags negotiated with its brands to offer discounting before Christmas. “Usually upscale brands go on sale after Christmas,” says Cobb. “This year, knowing that it would be a challenge, we were able to work with them to have those discounts on Black Friday when people are actually shopping for the holiday.”

Since Cyber Monday, the site has also had four of the top five best-selling days in its 10-year history-Monday, Nov. 30, Monday, Dec. 14, Sunday, Dec. 13 and Sunday, Dec. 6. The previous best-selling day, Dec. 13, 2006, now ranks fourth.

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