How a Brick-and-Mortar Furniture Shop Struck Ecommerce Gold

How a Brick-and-Mortar Furniture Shop Struck Ecommerce Gold
Image credit: Wesley Law
Web master: Steve Goedeker.
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This story appears in the March 2015 issue of Start Up. Subscribe »

Like many brick-and-mortar retailers during the Great Recession in 2008, Goedeker’s, a Ballwin, Mo.-based appliance and furniture store, saw sales drop significantly and lost market share to big-box competitors such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s. At the time, owner Steve Goedeker decided he had to expand his market to survive, and since opening new physical stores was out of the question—no one was doling out capital—he decided to launch an e-commerce site. 

A DIY guy, Goedeker taught himself as much of the site-building process as possible. He attended a Search Engine Strategies marketing expo and an Inter-net Retailer design conference. Then he hired a web designer to coach him through building his site and adding some of the 2,500 product listings to the initial online store. 

Fast-forward to the last half of 2014, and Goedeker’s had transformed itself into a fleet-footed e-tail powerhouse with a national customer base. Goedeker says the site features more than 200,000 products and brings in 92 percent of the company’s revenue. Meanwhile, the staff has grown from the 15 people the store employed seven years ago to more than 90, most of whom work on the online operation and in the warehouse, which ships products to 48 states. 

California is Goedeker’s No. 1 sales region, with New York, Texas and Florida rounding out the top four. 

“We thought if we could do 5 percent of our business online that would be enough to get us through the hard times,” Goedeker reflects. “Now we understand that online is where the business is. That’s where the growth is.” 

That’s not to say it was easy—he admits the learning curve was steep. Here are his top two e-tail lessons.

Master your domain 

Goedeker’s launched online under the generic-sounding domain name, which Goedeker believed would have greater national appeal than the company name. A year later, after adding furniture and plumbing lines to the site’s offerings, he decided to change the name to Finally, in 2011, he renamed the site 

He now says he should have stuck with the company’s real name from the beginning; all those changes cost years of valuable search-engine credibility.

Lesson: Choose your domain name wisely, then be prepared to commit to it for the duration of your company’s life. 

SEO all the time

Now that he runs an e-tail business, Goedeker has moved his battle against big-box stores online. 

“If I want to build my organic search results for, say, ‘GE refrigerator,’ I have Sears, Lowe’s, The Home Depot and all these people who get the top rankings,” he explains. 

To help Goedeker’s earn a spot near—or sometimes atop—the search-engine rankings, the company now employs a five-person, full-time SEO team. Their efforts include maintaining careful keyword placement on each page of the site, writing relevant blog posts to boost search results and continually studying and testing the latest optimization strategies. “It never stops,” Goedeker says.

Lesson: Thriving online requires a near 24/7 commitment to SEO through keywords, fresh content, relevant information and the constant addition of new product listings.

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