Customers steer design process at GGBailey.com

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Emily Bailey is e-commerce director at GGBailey.com, the online face for Racemark International, a leading manufacturer of car mats to upscale automakers worldwide. Selling car mats online, especially made to order, is not easy. But Ms. Bailey is determined to make e-commerce a key component of her family-owned company's strategy, and she discusses this with DM News' Mickey Alam Khan.

What is your top challenge online?

Increasing traffic that converts.

Why the need to go online?

The Internet ... gave us the opportunity to provide customers with the tools to have endless creative possibilities with our products. Through our online channel we can offer products in as many colors and patterns as we like. We are also able to continually offer our newest car mat innovations directly to the consumer.

What is your strategy for 2007?

Grow brand awareness to the general consumer so that they know they can purchase the highest quality mats available that they can create and design on www.ggbailey.com.

Through our manufacturing facility we can produce custom mat orders in two business days. Through GG Bailey's parent company, Racemark International, we have been manufacturing and supplying the premier luxury automotive brands with our car mat products for over 30 years in the United States, Canada and Europe.

However, our brand has been a silent one to the general consumer, so our challenge is to educate the consumer about our products and our history in the marketplace. We are the only automotive mat manufacturer selling directly to the consumer online. The typical consumer doesn't pay attention to their car mats even though it's a product they interact with daily.

A big challenge for us, and also an opportunity, is that people don't realize the impact a new set of mats has in your vehicle, including the trunk area. Car mats cover one of the largest interior spaces in a vehicle, and if they are dirty or old it makes the whole car look terrible, and for relatively little money consumers can purchase new mats that will literally make their cars look brand new.

What is the nature of your products, including price points?

Our main product is automotive floor mats. We have thousands of unique patterns. We offer two lines of mats called Car Couture, which starts at $185, and Design Your Car Mats, which starts at $70.

Car Couture offers woven carpets that come in many oriental and animal designs and are made of 72.5-ounce weight, 100 percent polypropylene fiber for superior stain resistance. Design Your Car Mats lets customers custom design their car and trunk mats. The customer selects the carpet style and color, edging style and color, heel pad style and color and embroidery style and color.

How do you manufacture your products?

We manufacture all GG Bailey mats from start to finish, from the cutting and the edging and heel pad application and the direct embroidery. Everything is done in-house. And because of our high-tech manufacturing, we can produce custom mats in two business days.

Who are your key customers?

Our Racemark customers are the premier automotive brands in the United States, Canada and Europe. For GG Bailey, we have many customer bases including the fashion, luxury, car enthusiast, classic car and utilitarian buyers.

What is the profile of your direct to consumer customer?

Our customer profiles vary by what product they purchase. Our Car Couture buyers tend to fall into the luxury buyer category, who average three high-end vehicles in their household. Our Saratoga Car Mat buyer, which is part of our Design Your Car Mats line, with bright colors like pink carpet and matching polka dot ribbon edging falls into our younger fashion buyer customer profile.

Why the need to expand to reach consumers directly?

We wanted to push the envelope with our product in terms of color and innovation, and selling directly to the consumer allows us that creative freedom.

We also wanted to empower the customer with the tools for them to be creative and design their own custom car and trunk mats. Through our online trademarked Design Your Car Mat process we have a Virtual Mat that helps the customer with the design choices and updates real time with the carpet style and color, edging style and color, heel pad style and color and embroidery style and color.

What's changed with the car owner, what triggered that and why?

I think there has been a general consumer change for customization, and not just in the automotive industry. We are seeing custom sneakers, custom furniture, and you can even order custom labels with your name for Heinz ketchup and other consumer products.

Customers are looking for products that are unique, and manufacturers have needed to adjust to the changing market to be able to produce one-off custom products efficiently to meet the customer demand.

What kind of marketing are you doing to focus on customer

acquisition and retention? What's working best and why?

Affiliate relationship marketing has been a great source of customer acquisition and retention. When we find a company with the same type of customer base, we have seen success in acquiring and retaining these customers when marketing to them through that new affiliate channel.

What's not working?

We are seeing an industry shift in pay-per-click search advertising as more players move into the market, causing a dramatic increase in keyword cost per click. This is something we have to manage closely and be creative for it to remain a cost-effective marketing tool for our business with good ROI.

What is your primary interface with the customer?

It is our online channel at

www.ggbailey.com. Orders also can be taken via our toll-free line at 866-644-2245.

What are some issues with the current site?

One area I would like to improve is our Virtual Mat area. I would like to add more zoom features with detailed imaging to improve the customer's shopping experience and help them see as much of the product detail as possible.

What type of customer experience do you offer on your site?

We try to involve the customer in the creation of the product as much as possible. This is challenging when working in a virtual environment because the customer cannot touch and feel the product.

For customers who want to exactly match their color interiors we provide sample swatch kits. But for customers who prefer to order online we try to take as much of the guesswork out of the process as possible and make the ordering process seamless and fun.

What is exciting for our team is to watch the color combinations that customers create and the creative personalization. We recently had a celebrity order from actress Shannon Elizabeth, who had her favorite charity, Animal Avengers, personalized on her mats. I thought that was a great idea.

What's your company's history?

Racemark, originally named B&B Motors, was founded in 1964 by Bob Bailey, current chairman. During his years racing as a world-class driver for the Porsche of America team, Bob became friends with the late Mark Donohue, a winner of the Indianapolis 500. In 1972, Bob and Mark took their racing and engineering experience to the business world through Racemark International.

Bob's wife, Ginger Cannon Bailey, current CEO of Racemark International and founder/CEO of GGBailey.com, joined Racemark in 1972. In 1996, Ginger thought of launching GGBailey.com. She saw this as the perfect channel for us to reach consumers directly.

And your story?

My mother put me to work on the production floor when I was 13 on my first school break. I didn't see the opportunity I had to make a unique contribution until my mom mentioned launching a new channel through the Internet. This got my attention because this was something new, and I had the opportunity to make a unique contribution in the beginning of this new company.

In 2000, I joined the family business, and in 2001 we launched GGBailey.com. For me it is exciting to create new products like our Saratoga Car Mats. We have an affiliate, CKBradley.com, that sells its own line of clothing. I was in the Manhattan store one day, and the way they had all of their belts rolled up on a shelf was the same way we store the binding for our edging, and I thought, "Wow, I wonder if we can use this material as edging on our car mats."

A few months later we were manufacturing these car mats with pink, Kelly green and navy polka dot edging. They have been a big hit.

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