The online retailer has spent nearly $300 million acquiring three shipping software vendors over the past nine months.
The e-retailer lets brands associate with community-generated content.
Outdoor goods e-retailer Backcountry.com is offering paid social hubs to manufacturers that sell through the site so that the brands can associate their goods with content uploaded by the Backcountry.com user community. The North Face, Mountain Hardwear and Marmot currently participate in the program and Backcountry.com chief marketing officer Dustin Robertson expects 20 to 40 brands to have social pages by the end of the year.
“They are getting their message out in an authentic way around consumer content," Robertson says. "They can give their message exactly the way they want. We have the most authentic community that is focused on the product.” He says Backcountry’s active user community exceeds 100,000 members.
The company calls the vendor social hub pages “hyper friendly” for search engine optimization. That’s because pages feature a combination of photos, videos, consumer-generated product reviews, sponsored-athlete information, product information and social media streams from the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Flickr—a lot of unique, ever-changing content that search engines like. Featured products link to product pages on the site. Vendors select the content and also can have brand-produced photos and videos appear if they prefer. All page management is handled in-house by Backcountry staff, although Robertson says the company plans to build a platform in the next 12 months whereby vendors will have more immediate access to manage their own pages.
Robertson declined to disclose what Backcountry charges brands for the pages but said the fee calculation is based on the volume of products the manufacturer sells through the site. Brand manufacturers with low product sales volume pay at a higher rate than high-volume manufacturers. Robertson says the more popular brands were offered the social hubs first. The North Face social hub service went live in June.
The pages are designed to keep consumers focused on gear, Roberson says.
“The pages are focused on the product and that’s been a key thing," Roberson says. "Conversation gets loose on brand pages on Facebook. They’ll be talking about trips and stuff that’s not relevant to e-commerce.”
Backcountry is monitoring return-on-investment metrics for the pages including bounce rates, conversion rates and average order value. Roberson says it is too early in the program to solidly measure results but that the company is looking at softer measures as well, such as the level of community content being loaded about the featured brands. “We’re hoping to get more contributions per visit,” he says.
Backcountry.com is part of Liberty Media Corp., No. 11 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.