Rise and Shine: Tortuga Backpacks
Rise and Shine is a segment dedicated to emerging eCommerce brands. Profiled companies are selected by offering an impressive product, exhibiting creative marketing strategies, and utilizing a variety of technology and tools. Profiled companies may or may not by Yaguara customers.
Name: Tortuga or Tortuga Backpacks
Categories: eCommerce, Retail, Travel
Date Founded: 2010
HQ: Los Angeles, California (legally)
Alexa Ranking: 56,323 (Global) & 15,170 (US)
The Skinny: The backpack they told you not to worry about. Steve McQueen meets Amelia Earhart. Don’t carry on my wayward son.
2009: The co-founders, Fred and Jeremy, were on a eastern European excursion when Tortuga spawned from their one desire: remote control. The desire had a dual meaning. On one hand the two were dealing with daily equipment struggles that impacted the trip. On the other hand the two were yearning for a location-independent business. Basically, why are travel backpacks poorly designed and why does one have to sit at the same desk everyday? That's when Tortuga found its purpose.2010-2018: Bootstrapped growth.
2018: Things are a bit different now for Tortuga: a 100% remote team. Multi-million dollar business. Expanded product line. A Chinese manufacturing partner. Popular blog. This is a competitive space, a market that includes niche brands and the behemoths that can mass-market a backpack division. Nevertheless it’s a gigantic opportunity. Over seven billion people call Earth home. A bunch of them travel. A bunch of them enjoy not having to carry their items like a restaurant busboy across foreign lands. If you combine that need with a product whose only legal concerns are dimensions and containing liquid have quite the open market. The pieces are there to slowly build a strong brand and community, nibbling away at the greater travel pie.
We broke down this growing brand:
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Tortuga is minimalist. The color pallet is more or less black, white, and grey. The menu contains four options: Shop, About, Contact, Blog. The product descriptions are light and straightforward. And all of this mirrors their products. Say no to excess! Visitors are heading to the catalog whether they like it or not.
Peppered throughout Tortuga’s site are downloadable lists and packing templates:
These, of course, require an email for capture which funnels visitors to the almighty email distribution list to later introduce new (or old) product lines. But they are polite and upfront with their intentions:
Content has been king and queen for Tortuga over the years. Their subjects tends to be travel strategy and logistics with Tortuga backpacks sprinkled throughout the posts, so not too much of a surprise:
What was surprising was the amount of guest posting. Guest posts aren’t bad, it's just a way to go about your content. Most of the guest posts display the author’s name below the title, unlinked and unattached to a date:
But keep in mind this is a remote-first company, so this freelance method fits their DNA. Not many gear companies advertise their blog submission process: https://blog.tortugabackpacks.com/submissions/
In 2017 it appears they made a major decision by going all in on their self-hosted blog, Packsmith, and turning off the lights of their Medium publication, On Your Terms.
Discontinuing Medium efforts has been a growing movement. While the mighty hordes of Medium have their allure, serious content teams are realizing having control their blog’s style and functionality is key to certain messages. And let’s not forget about having all that traffic being yours versus Medium’s. This shift in distribution also shifted content strategy. On Your Terms pieces covered a wider range of topics: travel, entrepreneurship, travel gear, remote work, work-life balance, etc. Packsmith is all in on driving Tortuga visitors towards gear sales. Look at the titles of recent posts:
What to Pack for Thailand
Folding vs. Rolling Clothes for Packing: Which is Better?
How to Embrace Minimalist Travel and Pack Less
How to Pack a Hat for Travel
This strategy is a more natural fit. Going too wide into heavily sedated categories (e.g. entrepreneurship) can bury worthy content. We approve of the double-down on traveling-with-gear-and-intelligence thoughts. A lovely sample of their blog: https://blog.tortugabackpacks.com/airport-outfits/
Tortuga's keeps their content light and fun with a dash of inspirational posting. Product placements are in a large percentage of their posts, hero images, and links.
Here's a truism: If a business operates 100% online they will 100% have an exceptional technology stack. We dug into the Tortuga site:
Shopify is a crowd favorite for small-to-medium shops. So there’s a long list on why Shopify makes sense for Tortuga: eCommerce-focused, easy interface, quick installation, SEO management, scalable pricing, SSL, etc.
Google is Google. Their Analytics feature is cheap, easy to setup, and connected to almost everything on the web.
Kissmetrics lets the Tortuga team take one step further with site visitors. Instead of tracking visitors in isolated sessions, Kissmetrics allows for lifetime journey stories which leads to more accurate targeting.
Sift Science offers a full suite of fraud prevention products that mitigate every type of fraud and abuse. Villains beware!
Klaviyo is an email marketing tool built specifically for eCommerce stores, with means every feature released has this use-case in mind. The Klaviyo team cares deeply about transactional data, such as abandon cart and winback emails, unlike competitors that emphasize speed and open rates.
Contrary to its name, Sumo often operates as a small plug-in that is key to lead generation and conversion. The platform provides an interface that is fast, friendly, and ready to pounce based off of visitor triggers.
Sumo in action:
Social reviews: the final and silent requirement before any purchase. Yotpo offers a suite of loyalty and review products that nudge Tortuga shoppers over the finish line after reading of a positive travel experience.
Yotpo in action:
Facebook is the ultimate B2C advertising playground since users are often sharing personal interests and tendencies. Tortuga’s target market is the everyday traveller, so Facebook Ads are the perfect place to introduce an inspiring, but friendly message.
Facebook Ads in action:
CDNs are the backbone to websites, allowing content to be stored and pulled quickly for each unique visitors. Tortuga stores most of their assets on Amazon’s CDN option, Cloudfront. This is most likely a financial decision if the rest of their technical stack is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Defense wins championships, but performance converts users. eCommerce teams have to handle the daunting balancing act of exhibiting dynamic images and videos of their product without sacrificing the website user experience. We analyzed several parts of the Tortuga performance story:
Here are Yaguara's hot takes:
- Tortuga displays large hefty images
- Amazon re-sells their backpacks, which drives more sales but takes a cut
- Tortuga has a smaller sitemap than most eCommerce shops
- Average load time is a bit above industry average
- Tortuga sees healthy returns from referrals across the web
Press, Awards, and Initiatives
How do you think $1,000 and a free backpack sounds to a History major? Tortuga donates directly to a university's study abroad program.
The Tortuga Setout wins best in show.
The Setout wins again!
Forr the nostalgia effect.
There are several reasons to be interested in Tortuga’s story. Anyone bootstrapped eCommerced team doing millions in revenue will raise eyebrows, mainly because of it angelic connotations. It has the "we didn’t have to go on Shark Tank and battle Kevin O’Leary for equity" effect. So if you didn’t appear on a CBS show, or take on rounds of private funding, people will wonder how they made it. Was it the mafia? No, most likely thoughtful economic and expansion tactics, which takes time.
After all, this is a classic tale of the Tortuga and the hare.