In most cases online business success comes as a result of sound digital strategy, building relationships with prospective customers and plenty of hard work over time. In the case of GadgetDuck.com, spiking traffic and sales in recent weeks have arrived as the result from a completely different type of activity – a series of disturbing, headline-grabbing incidents involving its flagship product, the Knee Defender, some 11 years after it was first launched, had caused a big spike in traffic, as well as in sales.
Using SimilarWeb we can gain a deeper understanding of exactly when and to what extent things took off for Knee Defender’s eCommerce.
How Headlines Broke the Website
On August 24, United Flight 1462 from Newark to Denver was rerouted mid-flight to Chicago when two passengers argued heatedly about legroom. One passenger believed she had a right to recline her seat, but the man sitting behind her, 6-foot-1 James Beach, disagreed, having installed a pocket-sized clamp called the Knee Defender that locks neighboring seats in the upright position. In the week that followed, not one but two similar incidents took place on flights originating on the US East Coast, and the world’s airline customers were riveted.
A public debate on the questionable ethics of using the Knee Defender broke out, Airline policies towards the gadget were re-evaluated, and many claimed to have seen the situation coming, having noted shrinking seats and gaps between seats (and growing Americans, too) in recent years.
Ira Goldman, the 6-foot-3 inventor of the device, exclusively sells it directly to consumers via his own website, GadgetDuck.com, a distribution model that ultimately proved to be problematic. When the news stories started sending scores of legroom-starved travelers his way, the site couldn’t handle the surge. As Goldman explained to CNN money, “We had 500 times the normal traffic. Maybe Amazon can handle that, but I can’t.”
All in the Referrals
For the past 11 years, Goldman’s web traffic has been negligible, but as he told CNN, to date, he’s invested less than $2 on paid media and hasn’t engaged in any proactive marketing efforts – it’s all been word of mouth and referrals. Web traffic referrals, of course, have gone through the roof for him in recent weeks, thanks to all the news coverage, opinionated blog posts and social media debate surrounding his product.
SimilarWeb PRO indicates that 65% of the site’s total incoming traffic over the past four weeks came in as clickthroughs from other sites. Here we can see to what extent some top publishers have contributed to the staggering success of the controversial gadget, leading to over 420,000 referred visits in August.
Only 20% of these visits came from sites that SimilarWeb classifies in the Travel category, with approximately 70% having been referred by sites in the News category.
And Americans are apparently not the only ones who would like to protect their knees. SimilarWeb PRO geo data shows that while nearly 60% of GadgetDuck.com’s traffic originates in the US, the site got an even more significant increase in traffic from other countries such as Germany (4,5553%) and France (8,419).
Does Bad Publicity Pay?
Using the popular pages feature on SimilarWeb PRO, we were able to identify traffic of specific pages which are part of GadgetDuck.com’s conversion funnel. With some basic calculations, we were able to chart the site’s revenue growth from July to August.
One widespread startup bootstrapping principle that Goldman has surely reinforced is the recommendation to “scratch your own itch.” Goldman invented the Knee Defender because of his own need to protect legroom while flying, a need that has only become more extreme and more universal in the years that have followed.
This phenomenon is a classic example of “feverish demand,” which allows the supplier to reap huge benefits in a short-term timeframe. We are already seeing traffic to GadgetDuck.com returning to where it was back in early August. Growing airline bans on Knee Defenders will surely diminish demand for the product, but with interest in non-US markets having been so great last month, it will be interesting to see if Goldman reinvests any of his recent earnings on trying to leverage global buzz to make marketing inroads internationally.