Here’s How Tortuga Sells Physical Products Remotely

Brought to you by WBR Insights

Remote working has become a pretty big deal in recent years with many people — this author included — able to carry out their business just as effectively from home as they could from an office location.

In the US, 4.3 million people spend at least half of their professional lives working from home — a figure which has increased by 140% over the last five years. Over the past decade, telecommuting has grown by 115% and it’s predicted that 73% of all departments will have remote workers. Furthermore, 16% of companies now exclusively hire remote workers — starting a trend of 100% remote working brands.

One such company is ecommerce backpack brand Tortuga, which has been something of a trailblazer when it comes to retail brands that operate on a 100% remote business model.


As purveyors of some of the finest backpacks available, Tortuga more than understands the value of not being tied to a single location. While a 100% remote business model might not seem like the best fit for a retail brand, Tortuga makes it work to its advantage with a solid strategy based around hiring the best people, creating better systems and processes with a worldwide team, and troubleshooting tasks remotely which would normally require an in-house team.

“From a skills perspective, we hire self-starters — you have to be a self-starter in order to succeed outside of a structured office,” said Tortuga Marketing Director, Taylor Coil. “We also hire for day-one impact, not future potential. That means something different in every role, but it boils down to the same thing: to excel at Tortuga, you have to be able to do the job at a high level of competency from the start. Hand-holding and remote work don’t mesh well. Self-starters who impact from day one tend to blossom and grow at Tortuga. In fact, our attrition rate is 0%.”

Obviously, the ideal candidates are those who have experienced remote work before and, due to the trends described above, this talent pool is growing larger every day. Tortuga also looks for extracurricular activities such as voluntary work and organizing groups or clubs — anything which demonstrates that a candidate has the motivation and organizational skills necessary to work remotely.

Training can also be an issue for remote businesses as you lose that ability to have someone look over your shoulder and make sure you’re coping alright in those early days. This makes it even more crucial to find the right people, as Tortuga needs to be confident that the employees it has will be able to handle the workload with a minimum of training required.

Selling Physical — Remotely

Of course, one of the biggest challenges facing a 100% remote ecommerce brand is that it must deal with a physical product. The brand needs to make sure items are in stock and get them to the customer in just as quick and streamlined a manner as if it was operating under a traditional business model.

“Yeah, it’s hard. There’s a reason most of the remote companies are software businesses, turns out,” said Tortuga Cofounder and CEO, Fred Perrotta. “Even something as simple as like, you know, we have all these fabric swatches from different vendors, and, you know, it’s nice to be able to reference those, but sometimes I have one book, sometimes Patrick, our designer, you know, maybe we have the same one, maybe he has it, but I don’t. And it can be hard just to like, be looking at the same thing at the same time, you know?”

Tortuga ships its products from China, so there are additional delays involved. Tortuga must always be working several months in advance to ensure all relevant checks and reviews are carried out properly before any new products or alterations to existing ones are approved. However, while the process does come with its share of frustrations, Tortuga makes it work and has seen great success using its current model.

“We have to ship them from Asia,” continued Perrotta. “So, you know, there’s a lot of timeline there, but we also need to build in some extra time so that, you know, we can kind of schedule some in-person time to review the stuff, offer some notes, go back and forth with the factory, and then actually make it.”

Final Thoughts

The remote working trend is only going to grow going forwards — especially considering the challenges we now face with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — and it’s brands such as Tortuga which have done us great favors by demonstrating how it can be done — even in the retail business.

For more insights, join us at eTail Boston 2020, being held in August at The Sheraton, Boston.

Please download the agenda today for more information.

Return to Blog