Living Direct Since 1999: Offering Lifestyle Choices to Online Consumers

Posted on October 29, 2009. Filed under: Amazon, eBay, Other | Tags: , , , , |

livingdirect

All my life I have been fascinated by business.  I have studied successful companies, as well as unsuccessful ones, in my formal education while I earned business degrees and also “just for fun.”     The very best companies make it all look so easy even though I know just how hard these companies really do work.  

What I have found most often in my lifelong studies of businesses is that many businesses “get it right” in one or two important areas and thus they are able to survive.  But it is so very rare for a company to really excel in every area.  And when I do happen upon a business that is doing everything right, I want to dig deep and learn about them.  So, when I discovered an incredibly successful multi-channel online retailer called Living Direct and wanted to learn more about them, I was just thrilled that they agreed to an interview with me. 

The following comes directly from the LivingDirect.com website:

Living Direct is an online retail company, specializing in consumer appliances, indoor air quality products, and lawn and garden furniture. The company maintains a core business philosophy that incorporates both a customer-focused approach to business and a customer-driven selection of products. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Living Direct encompasses a network of specialty eCommerce websites including CompactAppliance.com, LivingDirect.com, PortableAirShop.com, Kegerator.com, SimplyDehumidifiers.com, and HotWaterSource.com. The company also designs and manufactures two product brands, EdgeStar and KoldFront.”

In 2007 the Living Direct company was chosen as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Hot 500 Fastest Growing Business.  And last year, Living Direct was listed in Inc.com’s “5,000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America.”   As a point of interest, Living Direct’s wine coolers can be found in some of the ritziest suites in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and the Philadelphia Eagles use Living Direct’s compact refrigerators in their VIP boxes.

 

1.      From 2007 to 2008, Living Direct experienced more than 10% increase in monthly unique visitors to the website, the average ticket went from $300 to $350, and sales grew by more than 13%.  These are great numbers especially during these tough economic times.  Living Direct is obviously making some good strategic decisions.  What actions has Living Direct Inc. taken to cause such increases?

a.       The biggest change in our strategy over the past few years is the number of specialized websites in the Living Direct network has grown considerably. Since 2007, we have launched six new retail storefronts around core product offerings. We feel we are able to add more value to the customer shopping experience by devoting an entire site to product categories such as portable air conditioners (www.portableairshop.com) or draft beer dispensers (www.kegerator.com). Before becoming the focus of “micro-sites”, these were product categories that we had a long history with, which is vital because you really must thoroughly know your products to sell them effectively online. Building out more tailored content and a broader product selection (product accessories and cross-sells in particular) have also played a large part in helping attract new customers, increase conversions and the average order value. It is a never-ending process for us.

2.      LivingDirect.com is an online retailer located in Austin Texas.  Has Living Direct Inc. ever considered opening brick and mortar retail stores?

a.       The idea has been explored, but our singular focus right now is improving our online operations. We see countless possibilities for further growth in this regard.

3.      Living Direct Inc. operates multiple domain websites and sells on several third party platforms such as Amazon, Buy.com and eBay.  I noticed that Living Direct’s pricing, as well as free shipping offers, vary on these different venues.  I am sure there are other differences in Living Direct’s strategies relating to each of these third party venues.  How does selling on third party platforms fit in the overall Living Direct mail order strategy?  In other words, are third party venues mainly used for selling excess product or for driving traffic to the LivingDirect.com website, for example.

a.       Our third party platform management strategy is to augment sales from Living Direct storefront(s)—not drive traffic from these sites to our websites per se. We recognize that customers have strong shopping preferences and that some have very exclusive shopping relationships with destinations such as Amazon, Overstock, Buy.com or eBay. We would be missing out on significant revenue opportunities by not having a presence in these shopping hubs. When it comes to pricing strategy, efforts are made to leverage the strengths of the marketplace since each one offers customers a slightly different value proposition.

4.      There has been a great deal written about selling on eBay and selling on Amazon and not so much about the third party selling experience on the Buy.com platform.  I am sure each company’s experience on third party platforms is quite unique.  How has your company found the Buy.com selling experience to be for Living Direct?

a.       We started selling on Buy.com in March of 2009, so we’re still relatively new on the site. Traffic from Buy.com is growing but not yet as strong as Amazon/eBay. However, the traffic we do receive is high quality because we convert a very large percentage of visitors to sales. And to be fair, we are still ramping up our product offerings on their site. We recently did a highly successful email blast through Buy.com. They showcased an overstocked product of ours; the results exceeded our expectations. We see a lot of potential for moving overstock merchandise after the success with that email. For Q4, we plan to add many of our seasonal best sellers which should provide a nice incremental revenue boost to round out the year.

5.      I love the LivingDirect.com Eco Living section which includes recycling bins, organic gardening and green appliances among other things.  I would think this is a popular line for Living Direct.  Since Living Direct has been selling products online for 10 years now, how has the product mix offered by Living Direct Inc changed over the last decade?

The product mix has certainly been expanded upon over the past 10 years. Initially, our product focus was space-saving home appliances such as portable dishwashers, washer/dryer combos and mini fridges. We make a point of listening to our customers—which is many times how we are introduced to new product lines as well as enhancements to existing products. The Eco Living or “Green” product category is one such example. The category originated out of demand from our customers and fit us well because it is a natural extension to the small, energy-efficient appliances we are most known for. 

For those folks on Twitter, you can follow Living Direct by clicking HERE and you can find them on the web at the various URLs below:

Living Direct:   http://www.livingdirect.com/

Compact Appliance:   http://www.compactappliance.com/

Hot Water Source:   http://www.hotwatersource.com/

Kegerator:   http://www.kegerator.com/

Portable Air Shop:  http://www.portableairshop.com/

I’d like to personally thank Carly from Living Direct for this interview and Randy Smythe of MyBlogUtopia for putting me in touch with Carly.

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3 Responses to “Living Direct Since 1999: Offering Lifestyle Choices to Online Consumers”

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Great interview! Living Direct is one of those rare modern companies that really “gets it”.

Wow Brews, I bought my first new washer from these people as CompactAppliance in 2000!

The apartment I lived in then forbade any laundry, so I chose it for its silence. It did not disappoint. And 9 years later, it still runs great.

The kicker? It is still made today, only now it’s $75 less!

Great article! It’s nice to hear about successes out there. Kudos to them for doing it right.


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