Off the back of Timbuk2’s new Melbourne store opening, we sat down with Patti Cazzato, the global bag retailer’s CEO, to learn more about the brand’s international expansion plans.
While Timbuk2 has been selling its products online to an international market for quite some time, in 2015 the brand took its cross-channel approach to the next level, opening its first store outside of the US, in Singapore.
“We’ve always been a brand that catered to the urban individual who thrives in big cities and adventure. These individuals don’t just exist in the states, they can be found all over the globe, so we felt confident breaking out of the US,” Cazzato says. “It was a smart move, as international business accounts for 20 percent of Timbuk2’s sales.”
Timbuk2 has recently brought its global cross-channel strategy down under, with the launch of its first Australian store in Melbourne. With this new shop front, has also come a new localised website that allows shoppers to purchase goods in Australian dollars from a local warehouse.
“Prior to Australia, we were going the expensive route and shopping all the way from the US. This forced the customer to purchase in US dollars, which led us to find an amazing partner in Retail Prodigy Group to help us launch our very first true international website,” Cazzato says.
As part of a broader e-commerce strategy, Cazzato also speaks of the company’s new online presence, which has been designed to ensure shoppers are met with an engaging experience when they jump online.
The updated website was rolled out in 2018, and according to Cazzato, nailing the site’s customer experience was a key driver of the project.
“It’s important to have an engaging interface, especially because of all the product offerings we have and also because a big part of our company is the online customer.”
Through the updated interface, Cazzato says the company is able to further market new product launches by giving goods a “hero collection landing page on the website”, helping the company gain a greater level of traction on its advertising initiatives.
“Our latest product page was for Never Check, which is a great way to tell the story, by framing up our amazing lifestyle images and this video our creative team spent a lot of time creating.
“It’s a great example of how we’ve managed to use our website to really show off our collaborative efforts on creating and marketing each key collection out of the year,” Cazzato says.
Timbuk2’s Australian Plans
With the recent launch of an Australian e-commerce site and Melbourne-based store, Cazzato says it’s an exciting time to be part of Timbuk2’s expansion process.
“Initially we wanted to duplicate the customer experience our fans were used to,” she says. However, she also recognises that one of the biggest challenges of localising an e-commerce website is “updating” the platform to “suit the needs of the specific country”.
“It is very challenging to localise a website, as each market has its own individual needs and catering the site to those needs are important in order to really connect with each consumer and do it right.”
Timbuk2 works to reduce the impact of this by seeking out areas that align with the company’s values. Melbourne is an example of a city that fits well with the San Fran-based business’s goals.
“Cities that value urban mobility, community, and individuality are what we look for, so we often don’t have to adopt different means of marketing for each location,” Cazzato says.
When asked about the company’s local strategy, Cazzato says that in-store fulfilment isn’t something the business is able to do due to storage limitations, but click and collect services is something Timbuk2 is looking into.
“We do see click and collect within the next six months, and of course, we already offer express shipping on the Australian site.”
One thing Cazzato does find interesting is Australia’s level of interest in the company’s heritage products.
“We are in the early stages right now, but what we have found is a greater interest in our heritage products; in particular, messenger bags and core bike products.
“Timbuk2 is steeped in cycling culture, and in San Francisco, we’ve been catering to that consumer for nearly three decades. In Melbourne, we’ve found a strong initial response around our core products and our brand history – a story that is just now being told down under.”
The one thing Cazzato does regret about the brand’s Australian expansion is how long it took them to do it.
“If we could go back, we would have opened Australia way sooner,” she jokes. “It really is the perfect market for our brand.
“Melbourne is such a cool city that really embodies who we are as a brand. The city is spirited, adventurous, and always up for anything. We have a lot of Australians on our team, so we really are excited to open a store here. I’m most excited about tapping into a customer base that has always been fans of the brand, and actually be able to connect to them,” Cazzato says.
The Future of Timbuk2
Timbuk2 has evolved substantially since it first launched in the late ‘80s, but Melbourne is hardly the business’s last stop on its bucket list.
“As we continue to expand globally, we are looking to really make moves in the travel space. We’ve already had some great travel-focused lines debut with our latest collaboration with Phoebe Dahl for our Jet Set Pack and our newest, Never Check Collection, so we are planning to roll our even more options for the frequent flier.”
For anyone looking to replicate Timbuk2’s cross-border success, Cazzato says a “cookie cutter approach” won’t do anyone any favours.
“The best thing you can do is to educate yourself as much as possible in order to truly connect with the customer… Do your homework and research the market, invest in an e-commerce platform that makes the consumer experience a breeze, and lastly, seek out local partners who can help launch the new market in an authentic way.”