Old School Store Aces Internet Sales with PPC

It's a big plunge to take a locally owned and managed business out of its comfort zone of brick or mortar and into the compelling, sometimes overwhelming world of eCommerce. Kelly Swaney, Internet manager for the Denver, Colorado area based Arvada Surplus Army Navy, decided it was time and began working on Arvada Surplus' first online store in 2007.

We do everything old-school here. We've been around 25 years and we still hand write records which means we know our inventory well; that's how we base our ordering. Having an online store and committing to spending dollars on a PPC campaign was a major step for us.

We put our trust in the guys at Solid Cactus, and it's been awesome.

—Kelly Swaney, ArvadaSurplus.com

Arvada Surplus Army Navy is certainly not a novice in the retail business.

"We've been around 25 years and we still hand write records which means we know our inventory well and that's how we base our ordering," says Swaney.

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It's a big plunge to take a locally owned and managed business out of its comfort zone of brick or mortar and into the compelling, sometimes overwhelming world of eCommerce.

Because of this experience, these industry experts were ready to conquer the Internet.

Going Digital

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In 2008, not long after the initial eCommerce store ArvadaSurplus.com was launched, Swaney decided it needed some revamping and customization to become more professional. She reached out to Solid Cactus' team of skilled designers to take the store to the next level. Swaney is still amazed at the transition from Arvada Surplus' original online store to the newly enhanced version Solid Cactus redesigned. Tack on a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to bring traffic to the newly-designed online store and sales really began to rise.

Getting Traffic, Getting Sales

Swaney trusted ArvadaSurplus.com in the hands of Solid Cactus and hasn't looked back. First, the redesign, and then getting more traffic meant enlisting the Solid Cactus Internet marketing team to develop and manage a profitable PPC campaign.

"Having an online store and committing to spending dollars on a PPC campaign was a major step for us. We put our trust in the guys at Solid Cactus, and it's been awesome," says Swaney.

Arvada Surplus approached Internet sales slowly and methodically. The budget for a PPC campaign was kept small, which challenged the Solid Cactus PPC supervisor to be creative and cautious.

"We did extensive A/B testing of ads, geo-targeted different ads that spoke to different locations and capitalized on the fact it is a surplus store – which is synonymous with low prices," he said.

With the goal of making a profit on volume, Swaney asked her Solid Cactus representative to focus on a certain brand of jeans, the bread and butter of sales in the store and a product they could position at a lower price than competitors.

A surplus of sales!

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The store saw steady sales and gains in all metrics throughout 2008 and 2009 and a decision was made to boost ad spend for the 2009 holiday season. The results continued to be strong. A three-fold increase in PPC ad spending resulted in a four-fold increase in sales. In just over a year, ArvadaSurplus.com went from seeing a 159% return on ad spend (ROAS) to a dramatically larger 871% ROAS.

Swaney and her boss were thrilled with the results; increased conversions, higher order size and a lower cost per sale. A redesigned store mixed with a closely monitored, targeted PPC campaign gave this company towering results.

Pay-Per-Click Results

Before Solid Cactus
MAY 2008

After Solid Cactus
NOVEMBER 2009

14 conversion

100 conversions

14 unique transactions

261 unique transactions

$41.35 CPA (cost per conversion)

$16.27 CPA

1.22% conversion rate

4.32% conversion rate

$65.80 average order size

$141.80 average order size

159% Return on Ad Spend

871% Return on Ad Spend

Swaney complemented the PPC spending increase by offering free shipping on orders over $100 and by working with her Solid Cactus representative to create a specific Cyber Monday ad. Sales were going so well, that more inventory had to be ordered in order to prepare for the increase in sales.

"We carry what people need not want," said Swaney. "And we keep the prices low so it was important to make sure we had the inventory they were looking for. If they ordered something we didn't have in stock I would call them immediately. We also found people were looking at the website before they came into the store to shop."

Once the end of year inventory was completed, Swaney began looking to the future with some specific eCommerce sales goals, including an increase in online inventory, especially its Carhart line. One thing that won't change is Swaney's reliance on the Solid Cactus staff.

"I'll meet with the boss here to decide what our PPC budget will be, but I'm leaving it up to my Solid Cactus representative to determine the campaign. I trust him and that's what we hired them to do," she said.

Arvada Surplus Army Navy

Located in the Denver metro area, Arvada Surplus Army Navy provides men's, women's and children's clothing including Levi's, Carhart and Dickies. The store serves the surrounding Boy and Girl Scout troops and has camping/hunting gear for all outdoors enthusiasts.

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Internet manager Kelly Swaney welcomes shoppers to visit the Denver, Colorado area based Arvada Surplus Army Navy location or shop on her online store www.arvadasurplus.com.

... I'm leaving it up to my Solid Cactus representative to determine the (PPC) campaign. I trust him and that's what we hired them to do.

—Kelly Swaney, ArvadaSurplus.com

To learn more, visit www.arvadasurplus.com