• Why we don’t stop for Christmas…

    23 December, 2011 Company Online Retail

    This Christmas I’m working… 10 Appliances Online and Big Brown Box employees, along with their partners or friends,  are spending Christmas Day manning the customer support centre. We also have some suppliers dropping in for the occasion.

    Part of our commitment to customer service is that we are available 365 days a year, so we’re open from 7am to 11pm even on Christmas Day… There’s no rest for the wicked.

    Sam, who’s in charge of all things fun in the office has put together a cooking roster and I’m looking forward to cooking a ‘mini turkey’* in our state-of-the-art kitchen in the office. We might even get our office keg working for the occasion.

    It’s been a huge year for Appliances Online – and here are some of the highlights:

    • Growing our staff from 20 to almost 100 employees at Appliances Online,
    • Winning the ORIA award for Best Customer service and Best Site Design,
    • Re-launching Big Brown Box as an online destination for people in the market for TVs and AV equipment,
    • Becoming CEO of Winning Appliances and being the 4th generation Winning to be in charge of the family business,
    • Opening a warehouse in Perth to better service our friends in the West,
    • Jumping on the Team Korea boat which was sailing in the America’s Cup World Series in San Diego with my good friend Troy Tindill.

    Merry Christmas everyone, look forward to catching up in the New Year.
    * The mini turkey is actually a chicken. I don’t know how to cook turkey and am not willing to try my luck when cooking for 10.

  • Infographic: Fathoming Amazon

    22 November, 2011 Online

    It’s hard not to take notice of one of the leaders in online retail – Amazon. They’ve been selling online since 1994 and have done immeasurable things for the industry: most of all, setting the standard for e-commerce design and cross-selling tactics.

    Amazon Infographic

  • No beer today: what Coles Online should learn from their pricing error

    15 November, 2011 Online Retail

    Beer-lovers across the country, including some sneaky Appliances Online employees, thought they picked up the bargain of the summer last night: cases of Coopers and James Squire beer for $15 and $16 each, respectively, from Coles Online.

    OzBargain, Twitter and many other forums kicked off with discussion about the deal and the two products were out of stock within a few hours.

    Today, however, Coles has refused to honour the sales, instead offering a $15 voucher, and the real social kickback is just warming up.

    Angry customers are now posting images, limericks and taunts on the Coles Facebook page every few minutes and some beer-less commenters are threatening to complain to the ACCC. #occupycoles has outranked #occupysydney volume on Twitter and replies to @ColesOnline have spiked by 400% today, while the Coles ‘No Beer’ Online page has 500 Likes and counting.

    e-Commerce and social media are both booming in Australia and, admittedly, the rules are still very faint – particularly for some of the larger players who are still rooted in the old world traditional marketing thinking. Most companies aren’t quite sure how to handle incidents like this, or haven’t put in place the right infrastructure and processes to avoid them in the first place. All the same, marketing, PR and business in general, are about being reactive and innovative: finding ways to make things work with what’s at hand, with what’s topical. Always thinking about the customer. That shouldn’t change online.

    Coles Online had an opportunity to turn 4,000 customers (many of which were probably new to their online channel) into advocates for a relatively minimal loss/cost – probably not much more than the company will spend on TV advertising this afternoon.

    I’d suspect that 90% of the avid beer consumers would have told their mates about how they snagged $16 cases of James Squire from Coles Online. Instead they’re now creating Facebook pages and Twitter tags to attack the company.

    They’ll potentially spend far more on PR in the coming months than they’ve just lost as they try to promote themselves as the top choice for Christmas Shopping. They might have had, instead, dozens of news articles, forums and social mentions heralding them for looking after their mistakes, and their customers. Not to mention, they’d have been funding 4,000 barbeques across the country this weekend. I certainly know which type of press I’d prefer.

    Coles Online Beer

    Edit: I earlier referred to “about 4,000” people purchasing the beer offer, based on a discussion on Facebook. I’ve now removed this as the figure can’t been verified.

  • 5 tips for online retail success

    10 November, 2011 Marketing Online Retail

    Last week I spoke at the Interactive Minds conference in Brisbane. In preparing this speech, I thought about what I would have loved to know when I was starting out six years ago.

    1. Embrace technology to improve your business

    Use available technology to monitor customer feedback in real time and give customers what they want. For example, AppliancesOnline developed a bespoke 360 degree camera imaging system because our customers told us they wanted to view every possible angle of the product.

    2. Think about the customer experience

    The most important aspect of running an online business is to impress every customer, no matter the mode of communication, be it via FacebookTwitter, Email, on the phone, or at delivery. Just because you’re an online company doesn’t mean you don’t have to deal with customers – we aim to look after, and communicate with our customers long after the sale has been made.

    3. Design the site for your customers, not you

    Appliances Online’s focus is on maximising customer utility and conversion but not letting form impede function. There is no appetite to re-invent the wheel of successful e-commerce website design, however, there is a need to provide consumers with the online shopping experience they expect.

    4. Empower your staff

    Staff are the biggest asset of any business – we encourage all employees to own their role and change it wherever possible to benefit the company. We trust our staff to use their initiative and have created a fun work environment where every door is open.

    5. Stay agile and innovative

    No matter the size of the company, being able to adapt quickly to the changing online retail landscape is a necessity. Our business has increased the number of employees by 300% in the past 12 months, and we have had to work hard to help ensure we remain agile and innovative.