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Building Brands in the Digital Age: Richard Robbins' E-Commerce Chronicles

Richard Robbins, Owner of Robbins Athletics

Embark on an enlightening journey into the world of e-commerce with Richard Robbins, an industry veteran whose expertise spans over two decades. In this captivating conversation hosted by Stephen Bland, Richard delves into his remarkable experience, from humble beginnings in dropshipping to the founding of Robbins Athletics, a thriving online sporting goods brand. Discover the strategies, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped Richard’s entrepreneurial path, including insights on SEO, marketing tactics, and the evolution of online retail. Gain valuable insights into the dynamics of e-commerce success as Richard shares his vision for the future and offers practical advice for aspiring digital entrepreneurs. Whether you’re a seasoned e-commerce professional or a budding entrepreneur, this discussion offers a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to fuel your journey in the ever-evolving world of online commerce.

Robbins Athletics, blends quality products with a passion for athleticism, offering a diverse range of equipment and resources.

Richard Robbins
Owner of Robbins Athletics

Hello everyone, welcome to our latest Wytpod. I’m Stephen Bland, your host with Wytlabs an internet marketing agency that specializes in e-commerce. Today our guest is Richard. Richard, feel free to tell our viewers a little bit more about yourself and share a bit of your background.

Hey Stephen.

Sure. So I’ve been doing e-commerce since 2004, 2003. I started with my brother building some dropship stores. Outersports.com was the first one that we did. And when I got married in 2003, my wife and I started robbinsports.com an internet retailer where pretty much everything we did was dropship. We were doing almost strictly search engine optimization, link building, and content publishing. And I built several stores over the last 20 or so years and now we have a new one that’s called Robbins Athletics where we are sharing information about how to become an athlete as well as selling sporting goods products.

We’re teaching our kids how to use a CRM. We’re using HubSpot to keep track of people that we want to sell, especially our custom clothing. We’ve got some custom sublimated stuff that we have made with a partner of ours in Shanghai, China, and then also through one of our local United States-based partners, Augusta Sportswear. And so it’s been a really good opportunity to teach them the stuff that I learned back in the day when I was first starting with this and help them make some money and also incorporate some other things like YouTube videos where we are showing people what our kids are doing to get faster, to get stronger, and to get to be better athletes.

Awesome. Well, tell me more about Robbin’s Athletics, how it came about, and how it goes into your products.

Well, we have an online, and most of our stuff is online. We do have, we built kind of a training facility right next to our house, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. And so we have a showroom and then we also have a decoration that we can do here in terms of like pessimizing clothing, anything from sports uniforms to corporate apparel and things like that. So we do have a combination of online presence, which is the most dominant as well as where local people can buy from us.

Makes total sense. So who’s your target audience for Robbins?

So we’re looking at people who are purchasers for recreation leagues, travel baseball, other travel sports, travel soccer, volleyball, all those types of things. And so we’re expanding out. We do a lot of harvesting of information of people who are rec league purchasers or coordinators, including my son’s played in the local Murfreesboro football league. And that’s one of the places where we started is see if we can supply them with a few hundred football jerseys, basketball jerseys, and other leagues that they run and expand out from there. We also are doing inbound marketing by creating landing pages that we can drive traffic to from Google organically, as well as through paper-click marketing.

Awesome. What makes you different or I should say better than your competitors?

You know, it’s really interesting if you compete on pricing alone, then you probably have that they say that’s like kind of a race to the bottom. So, but we do, we do have competitive pricing, especially since we have a partner in China that can get you a custom sublimated Jersey for more cheaply than you can get it pretty much anywhere in the world with top quality. It’s a friend of mine that I met while I was living in China who ran the factory and kind of gave us special perks for being a good friend of his and helping him get set up. Other than that though, I mean, what I found is if you market hard, if you have aggressive, assertive marketing, then there’s a group of people that you’ll be able to find who will, they find your product, they like the price, they interact with you.

Either they trust your store or they give you a call or they email you and you develop a relationship. So there’s also that thing where we have relationships we’ve developed. It will continue to develop. They bring us repeat buyers.

Awesome. So for most of our listeners, our e-commerce entrepreneurs, what are some challenges that you faced in the last few years that you were able to overcome?

Probably one of the biggest things that I have faced being an e-commerce store owner is the sharp increase in shipping. Also, there have been a lot of issues in the past couple of years, especially with the things that have been going on since 2020 with inventory. Some of our suppliers, including we have San Mar’s, one of our suppliers is one of the largest clothing distributors in the United States. And whereas they normally had had 400-500 of every piece of every style, every size and color, and stock, we’ve found a lot of backward stuff that we’ve had to deal with. And in a lot of cases we’ve had to cancel orders, but we’ve also, in a lot of cases, been able to find something similar from another supplier or a different style that was similar from that supplier. But those two things, especially as I look back over the last 20-plus years, Shipping as a cost, a percentage of what the total order was, was nowhere near as high as it is now. And that’s something that, you know, with inflation and everything that we’re all having to overcome.

Awesome. So what are your top-selling products on the site?

So we have some cycling jerseys that we do, custom cycling jerseys that a lot of these events that people have throughout the year, they want to get something that has involved logos and designs. You can’t deal with traditional like heat press or screen printing, but we can do them with custom sublimation. Typically, if it’s an order that’s about say 500 or less, we’re extremely competitive with our pricing and our turnaround time, we can get it done in like two weeks for most, you know, outside of the busy season. And even if it is a busy season, if we can, you know, if it’s a priority customer, if there’s a reason why we can get it done, then we will get it done for them. We also have a really good relationship with a company called Garrett Sports, and we sell a lot of portable basketball backstops that they have. There’s one that they have, it’s called the Mini the micro E54 is just like a $2,000 home unit, a portable unit that you can put indoors or outdoors and move around they keep those well stocked and we sell quite a bit of those.

Got you. Have you seen that they came out with an airless basketball? Did you see that yesterday like during the all-star week?

Yeah, I have seen that. My son was telling me about it. I haven’t looked too much into it, but I’m sure we’ll be selling it soon enough.

Yeah, I mean, they’re they’re $2,500 right now. I feel like it’s gonna go down eventually. So I mean, it’s it’s it’s crazy. It makes it makes no noise. Like you could bounce it, you know, you would make it wild. So I saw that this week. So wait.

Yeah, it would have to if they can reach the market, right? In a household full of lots of kids that like to bounce balls, I mean maybe that might be worth $2

Stephen Bland (09:00.955)
Yeah, I was like, yeah, I was thinking it’s some people might see the investment there. I know you mentioned some.

For sure. Yeah, the technology, I’d be interested in seeing how they make that work. I mean, it’s really interesting to see how people come up with new things you’ve never even thought of and then it ends up being in the market.

Yeah, I mean, for sure. I mean, it’s not going to change the basketball. Just another option, right? So yeah. I know you mentioned you do a lot of marketing. What are some ways, I know you mentioned SEO, what are some ways that you’re promoting the website and your business in general?

Right. You know, it’s been interesting. I used to write all my content or I would outsource it to people. Just recently I spent probably $2500 outsourcing to some writers in the Philippines to write product descriptions and everything. We have become, we’ve jumped into this AI thing, which has been interesting. And so using chat GPT with plugins and prompts and things like that, It’s like a super-efficient business partner. I think time will tell in terms of how well Google decides to rank those pages. So far they’re doing not too badly. But we kind of become, instead of content writers, in a lot of cases for the text we do, we have become content aggregators. And that’s been a major change in just like the last couple of years that I’ve seen happening.

What’s the most effective marketing strategy for your business you’ve seen so far?

So one thing that I noticed with a lot of competitors, when they have product pages out there, oftentimes the questions that a person would have when they come to the page that would keep them from buying that product, those questions are not answered. And so with our ability to use AI to be able to put a very thorough product description, including, for instance, these micro Z basketball goals, they ship via freight, and there’s sometimes that can be tricky in terms of getting a, you know, check out where someone comes and buys it right on your, your website and checks out with it. You’ve got to integrate freight options and things like that in there. But, also specifications for whether this can be used for specific leagues versus others. We try to put every bit of information that we can, both to get that page ranking well on Google for some of the long tail phrases that we want to target as well as to make it to where any roadblocks that a customer might have that would keep them from buying it. Those are taken out because like, hey, I fully understand what this thing is. And we’re including not just texts and images, but also explainer videos and reviews and things like that that we do personally to make it to where those products are more appealing, both to the search engines as well as to the people that find the pages.

Awesome. Do you have an agency you have an SEO or you’re doing SEO yourself?

We do it ourselves at this point. I’ve been doing it for about 20-plus years and I do sometimes get help or consultations from others. I know there are a lot of things, especially technical SEO that you’re not able to do yourself, or that you need another set of eyes. So in those cases, we reach out to consulting.

Great, sorry for the dog bark. What’s your plan with Robbins Athletic, and your other brands, what’s your plan?

Well, so with Robbins Athletics, we’ve got a lot of fun things we’d like to do once the business is large enough to kind of start maybe goofing around. We have a program, a show we’re going to do called Coaching the Pros, and it will involve my boys and guests. Kind of a comedy, coaching professional athletes on how to be better based on maybe like the knowledge of a 10-year-old wreckball player. So that should be a lot of fun. Also, our YouTube channel that we’re building up, we’re hoping to be able to have a situation where people find it, they’re trying to get better, they’re trying to get faster, more athletic. They find the page and they come and they buy the products that we’re selling. And my son mentioned the other day wanting to be able to build our line of baseball equipment. They’re huge into baseball equipment. And a lot of us, these baseball gloves are, you know, two to $300 they’re buying they’re hoping to be able to set up something where we have our actual brand name on some baseball bats and baseball gloves.

Awesome. Well, those are all the questions I have. Is there anything else that you want our listeners, our viewers to know about your brand, yourself? Is there anything that I missed that you want our viewers to know?

You know, one thing I would say about e-commerce and this whole opportunity, is that I have an Udemy course that’s about how to build, basically a $ 60,000-a-year income. You can go more than that if you want to, but that’s really what it’s set up for, how to find suppliers and things like that. However, I found an e-commerce business and using the internet to make money to be the quickest way to scale from struggling maybe in a job, a nine-to-five to be able to make really good money that benefits and blesses your life and your family. I’ve been able to work from home with my family, building these businesses over the last 20 years and it’s just been super amazing. So for anybody that’s looking to get into e-commerce either for like a side hustle or if it’s something where you’re building something that’s like a bigger company.

There are so many different levers and buttons and things like that that if you develop your skills on them, you don’t need a four-year degree for it necessarily. You just need to be able to get in and take a course and be hyper-focused and then apply what you’ve learned and see this uptake off.

That’s awesome. Where are you promoting that?

So my course is on udemy.com. It’s called How to Build a 60K a Year Business, E-Commerce Business. So as the main target, I had a bunch of people that I was helping for free who wanted to get an e-commerce. So instead of giving the same information to everybody manually or in person, I would have just created a course. It’s been probably about seven years ago I created it, but a lot of people still use it. A lot of the stuff that’s in there is super irrelevant to what’s going on today. I don’t have anything in there about AI, but I probably will update the course in the next year to put some more things in there about how to build content with AI.

I mean, that’s the name of the game now. So it’s changed. Well, Richard, I appreciate you having on, and thank you for coming on the wytpod. Thank you.

Seems like it, yeah.

Thank you. Appreciate it.

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