Articles by Fred Perrotta

Fred Perrotta is the Co-Founder of Tortuga Backpacks. He's an avid traveler and has visited, lived in, and worked in over a dozen countries. When not on the road, he can be found exploring the restaurants and concert venues of San Francisco.

You can follow Fred on Twitter or Google+.

Welcome to The Lab, your inside look at Tortuga’s product development. Every two weeks, we’ll give you a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re working on and provide updates on new products. If you want to stay updated, sign up here.

The outdoor industry is always innovating and pushing technical boundaries. The luggage industry… is not.

At Tortuga, we want to change that. You demand more than the average traveler from your luggage. We need to meet those high expectations today and stay ahead of your future travel needs. That’s why we spend more time at Outdoor Retailer than at the Travel Goods Show.

Part of how we stay ahead of the curve is by using the newest technical materials and hardware that can help you travel better. When we see something new that can benefit you, we should get it into our pipeline for testing and sampling ASAP. As a small company, we take get new materials into a product and into the market faster than big brands.

We should not, however, use something new just because it’s new. Our goal is improvement, not novelty.

The biggest technical lever we have for improving a backpack is its materials. We have seen the future of fabrics and believe that these new materials can make for better luggage.

But First, a Quick History Lesson

Until World War II, all natural fabrics like leather and cotton were standard. During the war, material shortages and technical needs led to the development of most of the synthetic, man-made fibers we are familiar with today.

Nylon, for example, was developed as a replacement for silk. Ballistic nylons were developed as an early, failed effort to make bulletproof vests. Please do not attempt to use your V2 backpack as a bulletproof vest.

WWII was a long time ago. So what’s new in fabrics and materials? Click to continue…

Here at Tortuga, the V3 project was all about getting more specific. Going more niche.

The Outbreaker backpack isn’t just a new product, it’s the next iteration of Tortuga as a company. For the launch, we redesigned our product line and website. Both are just the beginning.

The new site is meant to be a platform for our V3 strategy. We consider V3 to be a company change, not just a product change. The Outbreaker backpack appears to be an updated version of the Tortuga Backpack (aka V2) but is just the first step of a larger strategy.

The V2 Strategy

Our V2 line included two luggage-sized backpacks: the Tortuga and the Air, along with accessories including a daypack, rain covers, and packing cubes.

Together, the V2 line was a solid collection of products that worked well together.

While re-reading The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, I’ve been thinking about the laws in the context of our previous and current strategies.

The Law of the Category: If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.

Our goal with the company and the first product was to create the “travel backpack” category. Mission accomplished.

What’s changing?
Click to continue…

When I got the email, I took a deep breath then opened the attachment. I braced myself to read the Outbreaker’s bill of materials, the document listing each component of the bag and, most importantly, the final price that we would pay our supplier to make it. I quickly scrolled to the bottom to get to the number.

Pop quiz, Hotshot:
How much more do you think the upgraded Outbreaker costs to make than the Tortuga V2? Take a guess before you scroll down.
The Outbreaker Backpack costs 220% as much to manufacture as the Tortuga did. Our costs have more than doubled. The Outbreaker Daypack also costs twice as much to make. The Outbreaker Packing Cubes cost 50% more to make.

Yet, we haven’t been forced to increase the prices that you pay by the same multiples. How is that possible?

Because we’re a v-commerce company.

In today’s post, I’ll discuss what that is and what it means for you, the discerning customer.

E-Commerce to V-Commerce

If you’re reading this, you probably do a lot of shopping online. Maybe you’re an Amazon Prime member. Maybe you have a favorite brand that you can only get online. Maybe you just hate malls.

Online shopping seems ubiquitous, but only 8.4% of retail sales were made online in Q3 2016.

Amazon may seem like a shopping behemoth, but we’ll still look back on today as the early days of e-commerce. While e-commerce is in its infancy, the market has grown enough for it to evolve and to specialize. Hence, the recent growth of _v_-commerce brands in the last five to ten years.

That one letter change makes a big difference. The jargon is new, but you likely already know a few v-commerce companies other than Tortuga. Have you heard of Bonobos, Warby Parker, Everlane, or Casper? They’re all v-commerce companies too.

V-commerce companies make and sell their own products. The store is the brand. Think The Gap, not Macy’s, but online.

That all sounds great but what’s in it for you? Click to continue…