Patrick Kruse has always been a dog lover, outdoor enthusiast, and maker. At age 12, Patrick hiked the Sierras with his dog, Marriah, and sewed her a homemade dog pack. Years later, Patrick was mountain biking when he noticed his friend trying to offer her dog water out of a plastic bag. “She was literally left holding the bag,” said Patrick. “She couldn’t dump out the water because it was a precious resource, and her dog was not interested in drinking out of a plastic bag.” The experience inspired Patrick to create a collapsible dog bowl from durable, waterproof fabric. The bowl attracted interest from friends. “After enough interest, I figured there was a business there, an opportunity to solve some other problems,” said Patrick. So, in 1994, Patrick launched Ruffwear, a company that offers a full range of dog gear, including trail-tested boots, coats, harnesses, life jackets, and more. Ruffwear was purely a wholesale business until 1998, when it got online and began to market itself digitally.
Ruffwear.com served as an online catalog and direct link to customer voices before it finally transitioned to e-commerce sales. To better compete in an increasingly crowded market, Ruffwear turned to Google last year to learn more about its own digital presence and to get in front of customers. “What I love about the internet is that it offers deep insight into consumer needs and wants,” said Patrick. “The internet allows us to create products that deliver meaningful experiences.” Today, Ruffwear uses Google Analytics on a daily basis to determine where its website’s visitors are coming from and what new audiences it can reach. The company also uses Google Search Console to conduct keyword research and improve search engine optimization.
It took a while to get there, but with the company’s new focus on digital, business has taken off. Since running Google Ads, Ruffwear has experienced 60% year-over-year growth, and about 95% of its advertising budget now goes toward digital. Last year, Google Ads contributed to 24% of the company’s total Q4 revenue. Ruffwear serves 45,000 unique customers annually, many of whom spread the word about its products via social media. Ruffwear also makes an impact both locally and nationally by donating to animal sanctuaries and working with environmental organizations to help protect recreational areas across the U.S. “I’m inspired by the way that we’re able to positively impact our community, our employees, and our customers,” Patrick said. “We can keep growing by continuing to refine and home in on what’s working for us.”
The Merri Artist
In 2004, Dan and Merri Sayers were shopping for watercolor paper when they stumbled upon a small art supply store in Bend, Oregon. “Dan looked around and said, ‘You know, we can do this,’” Merri remembers. Back in their hometown of McMinnville a short time later, “we saw a small storefront for rent at a really good spot near an intersection, and we immediately rented it,” she adds. They named the place The Merri Artist. They started out slowly, until eventually Dan joined the business full-time. In 2006, they created their first e-commerce website for the store.
Personal service is vital to The Merri Artist, but so is being online. “Every month we hear of old art supply stores that have been in business a long time, 50 or 100 years, that are closing their doors,” says Dan. “We’ve been able to keep growing our business by taking it online.” The Merri Artist began using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, from the day they launched their website. Dan remembers running their first AdWords campaign and wondering what came next—until the first online order arrived the next morning. About 70 percent of their business now comes from online shoppers, with AdWords and Google Shopping campaigns accounting for over half of their digital sales. Google Analytics helps them keep their e-commerce site effective, and Google My Business gives customers the opportunity to check out their photos and reviews.
The Merri Artist continues to grow steadily, shipping about 9,000 orders annually across the U.S. Online customers often stop by in-person if they’re visiting the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s famous wine-growing region. The shop itself is also a key element of McMinnville’s historic, 1880s downtown. “Small businesses are what make the community more interesting,” says Sally Borg, the store’s vice president. “The small businesses are the ones donating to schools, programs, auctions, and other local causes”—all of which The Merri Artist does. In addition to supporting their community, The Merri Artist strives to provide each of their customers with a great shopping experience. All of their employees are artists themselves, and are always happy to share their knowledge and insights with the people who walk through their doors. “I really appreciate being in a business that actually can have a personal impact on people's lives,” Sally says.
Full Leaf Tea Company
Eagle Point, Oregon
For die-hard coffee drinkers Matt and Lisa Hammonds, running on caffeine had lost its appeal. They switched to drinking herbal teas, sharing their passion for "tea and conversation" with family and friends. That gave this husband-and-wife team an idea. "We thought e-commerce and tea would be a good combination," Matt says. Neither had e-commerce experience, but that didn’t stop them. “We used Google to do our research and figure out how to build our company from scratch." They cofounded Full Leaf Tea Company in 2014, selling herbal and organic loose-leaf teas, wellness blends, Japanese matcha, and accessories from their virtual storefront. They blend, package, and distribute all of their products from their Southern Oregon facility.
Marketing high-quality teas from around the world, along with "the tea experience," proved to be a winning blend. Google business tools helped the company more than triple their sales in 2016. They use AdWords, Google's advertising program, to attract tea lovers and former coffee fanatics. "AdWords accounts for 40 percent of our traffic and 70 percent of sales," Matt says. Google Analytics lets them see their customer activity in real time and measure the performance of their website, blog, social media, web ads, and email marketing campaigns. And Google Webmaster Tools help them deliver a positive customer experience.
Full Leaf Tea Company has launched a wholesale division and is expanding into retail locations. "We started with $100 to our name, a $2,500 credit card, and no capital to grow," Matt says. "We've grown the company by investing our sales back into digital advertising." They give back to their local community by working with a vocational rehabilitation agency to provide job opportunities for people with special circumstances or disabilities. With 10,000 customers and a growing fan base of tea lovers, the company is poised for greater success. "We have aggressive growth plans," Matt says. "Google products have shaped our company from a small mom-and-pop operation into something that could be really huge."
Central Point, Oregon
David Gremmels and Cary Bryant originally planned to open a wine-and-cheese bar, but in 2002 they visited the Rogue Creamery to sniff out its renowned blue cheese. When they learned the nearly 70-year-old creamery was for sale, they changed their plans and bought the business. Since then, they've taken pride in handcrafting artisan cheeses the old-fashioned way and promoting sustainable business practices—such as farming organically, using solar energy, buying and selling locally, recycling, and community philanthropy. They sell their products at a brick-and-mortar store and through distribution to other supermarkets and specialty cheese shops. Now the Internet is helping these cheesemakers spread the word about their products to an even broader audience.
AdWords, Google's advertising program, helps them reach customers. A targeted AdWords campaign over the 2015 holiday season helped them see a 20% increase in online sales. Google Analytics gives them insights into how users are interacting with their site and where their products are gaining popularity. "I've got Google Analytics up every morning to spot trends and variations," says Retail Manager Tom Van Voorhees. "For example, we saw we were shipping a lot of orders to Arizona, so now we can target more ads there." Their Google My Business listing helps some 40,000 visitors a year visit the cheese store, with directions, reviews, and photos. "We ask people how they found us, and so many say, 'I found you on Google.'"
The business wants to increase its reach among a growing audience of socially and environmentally conscious consumers. To do so, they plan to increasingly leverage social media to share the Rogue Creamery story, including on Google+ and YouTube. And they've recently opened up their dairy farm so visitors can meet the cows behind the cheese. "We’re planning to do a Google My Business listing for the farm," Tom says. "Our website has the most potential for growth. With Google tools, you don't have to spend a lot to get results—it's money well spent."