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Who needs bricks and mortar?

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JULIA ROGERS - Ron Berret, founder and CEO of LinenTablecloth, showcases a ruffly white table setting in front of his fabrics.In 2013, Oregon businesses, nonprofits and website publishers earned $780 million using online advertising tools from Google.

LinenTablecloth, a Tigard company, represented Oregon’s small eCommerce businesses in Google’s fifth annual Economic Impact Report.

Founded online in 2005, LinenTablecloth was the brainchild of Ron Berret, a former caterer who recognized the demand for quality and variety in tablecloths for restaurants and events like weddings.

“The advantages of online only: It’s much cheaper to run your business,” says Berret. “The advantage in 2005 is that you could very easily get to the same customers who were going to all the big businesses.”

By 2006, Berret saw 228 percent growth and leased a warehouse. Today, LinenTablecloth makes about $25 million a year, provides tablecloths for Amazon and plans on opening a brick-and-mortar store next year.

“All the smart brick-and-mortars are moving toward what they’re calling omnichannel marketing,” says Berret. “Five years ago, the internet search was done on a desktop — now it’s smartphones —so the consumer can walk into Best Buy and also have Best Buy’s website and all of Best Buy’s competitors right there on their phone.”

It’s a process called scan-and-scram, according to Berret. Online research is a major factor to consumerism, so it needs to be a major strategy for modern businesses.

The Economic Impact Report by Google was started to quantify amounts generated from online businesses. According to the 2013 report, 97 percent of internet users search for local products and services.

The report surveyed businesses with fewer than 250 employees, pulling numbers from businesses using Google’s Adwords, Ad Grants and Adsense. It covers all 50 states and includes Washington, D.C.

In Oregon, 35,000 businesses and nonprofits used these advertising tools in last year. Nationally, Google’s search and ad tools provided $111 billion in economic activity in 2013.

Google dominates over 70 percent of search traffic. Berret estimates that if he quit partnering with Google ad campaigns, he’d see a 30 percent drop in his sales. Besides featuring LinenTablecloth in the report, Google invited them to speak at a seminar downtown early in the year.

“It shows we’re a trustworthy company,” says Tyler Macbeth, the media director at LinenTablecloth. “I feel like our website is becoming more and more modern-looking, safe-looking and user friendly. Google giving us their recognition saying this a great small business (means) people should be able to trust us.”

LinenTablecloth spends more than $150,000 per month advertising with Google. Today, LinenTablecloth has reached about a 540 percent increase in return on Google.

“Our goal is always when someone types in ‘linentablecloth’ to Google, for our company to show up more than Amazon, more than Bed Bath and Beyond — those bigger companies — which is really hard because they’re such big names and we’re such a small business.” says Macbeth. “But part of Google’s algorithm now is brand awareness, which is basically how big you are. “

LinenTablecloth uses Facebook, blogs, YouTube and Pinterest to maximize its online reach. Their Pinterest has about 2,000 followers and their Facebook has about 75,000 followers.

Because of LinenTablecloth’s high SEO ranking, they are now on the first page of a Google search for their keywords, but the competition is fierce.

In 2005, the cost for the keyword “linentablecloth” was 20 cents. Normally today, it would cost about $3, but because competitors are bidding on it, the price has doubled to $6.

“Because we got the first page ranking, the amount of natural search is going up dramatically,” says Berret. Right now, about 10 to 12 percent of their site’s traffic is coming naturally.

Caitlin Mitchell, LinenTablecloth’s search engine marketing specialist, started surveying customers online.

“We’ve noticed a lot of (customers) are wedding planners and DIY brides,” says Mitchell, estimating their clientele is a mix of half weddings and half restaurants.

To reach the bride customer niche,

LinenTablecloth plans on showcasing their products in a mock-wedding photo shoot with a ceremony and reception in early September.

“You know how Pinterest is full of those new, young-kid wedding styles?” says

Macbeth. “We’re going to try to copy all

those styles in different ways using all of our products.”