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Why Rock Bottom Golf sees bigger web markets beyond eBay


By diversifying its merchandising plan RockBottomGolf.com is ending its days as an eBay-only merchant. Rock Bottom, No. 255 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, began as a web retailer three years ago by selling close-out golf equipment exclusively on eBay.

But this year only about 35% of all e-commerce sales will come from eBay auctions, while 65% will come from other sources. In 2006, the company expects RockBottomGolf.com to generate about 70% of all sales, with eBay accounting for the other 30%.

“EBay got us going, but now we are a more diversified retailer,” says Todd Rath, chief operating and marketing officer for Rock Bottom. In the last 18 months, Rath says Rock Bottom has diversified its marketing plan. The web retailer now has an active search engine marketing plan, but the biggest source of new sales leads and visitor traffic is coming from the new arrangements Rock Bottom has with shopping comparison sites and portals such as Shopping.com, Shopzilla.com and GolfReview.com.

With a more diversified marketing plan, Rock Bottom expects to grow web sales by about 25% in 2005. The company is also investing more sales dollars in certain comparison shopping sites depending upon individual monthly results. “If a certain shopping syndication arrangement generates $100,000 in new monthly sales, we like to return between 10% and 15% of the total for the next month,” Rath says. “It’s a good way to get a better return on investment and maximize the arrangements that are generating the most sales.”

Rock Bottom uses Yahoo Stores as its e-commerce platform and web store front. The company is also moving into a new and larger fulfillment center and holding initial discussions with vendors about purchasing and installing a more robust supply chain management program. “We talking with all the big names,” Rath says.

In a very crowded online shopping segment, Rock Bottom will stick to its niche of selling close-out golf equipment. Sales are growing and Rock Bottom is becoming a more mainstream web retailer because new marketing efforts such as a frequent e-newsletter that goes out to an opt-in list of more than 100,000 subscribers are helping to diversify the company’s customer base. “We aren’t afraid to purchase ladies left-handed clubs from a manufacturer because we know we can move them,” Rath says.