Targeting Women: An Success

Patrick Byrne focused’s marketing message on women to build a stand-out online outlet.
Latest posts by Rich Sloan (see all)

Name:  Patrick Byrne


Patrick’s Story:

Everyone knows someone who knows “a guy” who can get you a watch or a purse or a suit for “real cheap,” and you can’t figure out how he does it. But Patrick Byrne knows how, and this knowledge is making him the wealthy owner of

In fact, if you’ve been invited to “look for the ‘O,'” you already know about Patrick’s company. You hear that ad slogan everywhere now for, a fast-rising dot-com that sells designer-brand apparel and other merchandise at deep discounts.

Patrick was a serial investor, turning around bankrupt or broken companies and then selling them to new investors. started as a small supplier of surplus merchandise to flea markets when the vision struck Patrick that he could turn it into an online giant. He believed that the business principle behind would prove every bit as powerful as the concepts that have helped a few other dot-coms – including Amazon, eBay and Travelocity – survive the late ’90s and prosper even today.

“It isn’t ‘hot’ merchandise,” Patrick says. “It’s just another way of understanding supply-chain theory. This ‘guy’ that your father or uncle always knew was tapped into a community of jobbers who live on the fringes of retail. And on a much larger scale and on the Internet, that’s what we do.

“The American retail system is set up for dealing with mass quantities of a particular item of merchandise,” he explains. “When it becomes available in tiny lots of 100 or 1,000 because some order gets canceled, or there’s a little bit left over, some distributor will dump it out the back door just to get any cash for it. We scoop it up, and the market rewards us by allowing us to sell it a little bit cheaper, and on special terms, out on the Internet.”

After displayed slow but steady growth, a couple of years ago potential competitors “began sniffing around this space,” Patrick says. That’s when he got serious about trying to grow his company into an Internet giant, unveiling a blow-out national marketing and branding campaign that has made an $800 million concern.

“We decided to spend $20 million branding ourselves now rather than $800 million fighting deep-pocketed imitators later,” he says.

And Patrick’s far from finished. “We’re trying to turn e-commerce into ‘O-commerce,'” he says. “Our game plan is now becoming visible. We’ve got the best online store on the ‘net. Auctions with half the fees of eBay. Books with prices below Amazon’s. Travel with the lowest booking fees and the best deals online. Eventually, ‘O’ is the only place you’ll have to go.

“That’s the $50-billion idea, anyway. I’m not sure if we can do it. We’re shooting for the moon.”

Targeting Women

Partick byrne

Nearly every retailer, of course, aims at female customers. After all, they control the vast majority of consumer spending in most societies. But Patrick knew that drawing women to was even more important than for most other e-tailers or retail stores.

More or less, you see, is the Internet equivalent of Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, a couple of chains of retail stores owned by TJX Corp. Their merchandise is much of the same stuff being sold in fine department stores, but these big boxes don’t do much merchandising and don’t have high overhead and just kind of throw their attractively priced things on racks and let customers come in and search out the best bargains.

“We just put the treasure-hunt aspect of this online,” Patrick says. “We have hundreds of thousands of people who visit every two or three days just to see what’s new.” And these visitors, of course, typically are women because this is not the kind of shopping that most men enjoy.

Patrick had trouble for awhile getting people to understand that, for his company, it’s all about women . Ad agencies he initially worked with, for example, would deliver him poor ideas that were obviously created by men who didn’t have a clue. “Lots of ads are written by men for men,” he says. “But women want ads that will inform them.”

So picked out its own TV spokeswoman a few years ago – “She’s a 40-ish woman who is sexily confident and can be appealing to both men and women,” Patrick says. And he’s proud to note that Overstock hired a director and wrote the scripts themselves instead of relying on an ad agency to do that.

More recently, the company has introduced ads representing as “Your Online Outlet” and promoting its $50,000 Family Bailout Plan Contest, along with a “Love Story” ad depicting a true story about a loving couple named Joey and Rory. All of these messages consistently appeal to their female shopper audience.

“Now,” he says, “there’s no mistaking the female shopper we’re after. She knows it, and she’s coming to”

Previous Article

Recycle everything you can

Next Article

Grassroots Marketing: Garden Fresh Salsa

Related Posts
Read More

The Fear of Commitment: Why ‘No Obligation’ Is Music to Your Customers’ Ears

We live in a world with endless options and opportunities: where to live, where to eat, where to travel. Things to do, things to see… …Things to buy.  With so many options (and many at their fingertips), why would customers want to commit to something? They wouldn’t. And often don’t. After all, having too many...
home-based businesses
Read More

The Value of Home-Based Businesses to Economic Recovery

The challenge of America’s economic recovery, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, is to spread it to every community – and especially those that have been historically excluded. The key to meeting that challenge is to appreciate the civic and economic value of an overlooked resource: home-based businesses. There are about 16 million home-based...
Read More

WJR Business Beat: Job Switchers Rewarded with Higher Pay (Episode 406)

On today's Business Beat, Jeff Sloan talks about how it's going to be more difficult and costly for small businesses to hire the best talent because job switchers during the pandemic have seen significant salary hikes. Tune in to today's Business Beat for more:   Tune in to News/Talk 760 AM WJR weekday mornings at...
startup team
Read More

5 Strategies for Building a Great Startup Team

The way you treat your employees, their time, skills and abilities in the early phases of your union as a team influences the rest of your company's course of action. Mark Zuckerberg once said, "The most important thing for you as an entrepreneur trying to build something is, you need to build a really good...