Geoff Atkinson was a part of the Overstock.com marketing team during a 6 year period when they went through rapid international expansion, and refocused from selling anything to focusing on home and garden. During that time he went from Email Marketing Manager to SVP Marketing, CRM, Analytics &Demand Management.
Geoff never had intentions of working in eCommerce. He was a competitive skier in college, when his mom convinced him he needed to take a few classes that would help him get a job.
After some marketing classes, Geoff was checking out jobs and was intrigued by Overstock, largely because they were based in Utah — premium snow country.
SEO Driving Success
Geoff started at Overstock in 2005. Shortly thereafter he and his team started hearing about SEO. At that time, they really didn’t know very much about SEO at all when a colleague introduced him to an SEO consultant.
Geoff connected with him and says their first conversation blew him away. He immediately ran it up to the CEO. It was perfect timing — it aligned with the business efforts of completely overhauling the technical portion of the site.
Paul, their SEO consultant moved temporarily to Utah to do a huge knowledge transfer to the existing team. For a year straight, Paul helped them focus on SEO and they started testing how to maximize their SEO systems.
Geoff says that it ended up being a perfect storm and the entire company jumped in to make it happen.
When Geoff started at Overstock, they were known primarily for jewelry, watches, electronics and other competitive marketplace goods — when he left, the company was known primarily for furniture and bedding.
Shifting into the home and garden category really happened mostly from keyword research. Geoff says they saw there was a huge demand for home and garden goods at affordable prices — especially since other players in the space were taking enormous margins.
Hiring for Growth
During rapid growth like Overstock went through when Geoff was there, hiring high level talent was critical for success and became a primary part of his job.
His tactic was really to train the perfect team, so they started funneling graduates from the statistics program at BYU and training them specifically on the topic of eCommerce.
Geoff says they found really smart people and trained them specifically in eCommerce rather than trying to find experienced talent who would be a good fit.
The value gained from this was phenomenal and while they did struggle with poaching, Geoff says they found effective ways to keep people around. Primarily they re-defined the path to career success.
Geoff says they created lots of esteemed, prominent roles that weren’t in management, allowing people to craft a great career without having to sacrifice the doing part of it.
For Geoff, loyalty clubs are especially critical for long term success. Breaking through with customers to get them to become full time, involved customers was critical for Overstock’s success and Geoff says it’s the same for any business.
But — It takes a lot of thought and care to make it work for everyone. The logistics of making free shipping and cash back programs work takes careful planning.
The Overstock team spent about a year and half figuring out how to make the economics of free shipping and cash back really make sense.
The enormous revenue gains that resulted from those efforts ultimately made the whole process worth it.
eCommerce Book Top Tip
- The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results by Pat Spenner, Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- Shameless Discounting — Heavy discounting is extremely powerful. Coupons are also extremely powerful. People are rational, smart and love to spend money.
Tool Top Tip
- Lighthouse by Google. Page experience update coming in 2021. Google Lighthouse analyzes page speed and is a great tool.
Growth Top Tip
- Email and Discounting for quick growth. Email is a great way to get to know your customer.
- Colin McIntosh explains how he took Sheets & Giggles to $1m in 12 months
- When wholesale becomes marketplaces and B2B eCommerce with Ken Kline of VHC Brands
- Exploring the Secret Life of Search with Adrian Rowe. Find out how customers use Google
- SEO: Everything you need to know about Dynamic Rendering with Geoff Atkinson
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