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Understand your customer!

Ever since Harvey Norman executive chair Gerry Harvey said, “Online’s a waste of money – no one is ever going to make anything out of it”, plenty of people have been itching to prove him wrong.

Case in point: Big Brown Box started out as a way for Thorn Australia, best known as the parent company of Radio Rentals, to target more affluent customers.

“We saw an opportunity, as the traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers had very little interest [in] online [endeavors], to target a different type of customer than we were used to dealing with through the rental business,” says general manager Peter Krideras.

The company went live in November 2008, but before that, it took a full year of research, planning, building, and fine-tuning the website.

Designed around research

Before launching the site, Thorn conducted extensive research into what consumers wanted from an online store and what they expected the essential requirements and minimum standards to be before they would buy online.
“The whole process of designing the site was pretty much centered around the research findings,” says Krideras.

“The first one, obviously, price is paramount; you need to be competitive.

“The second thing that came through clearly was free delivery. Free delivery is pretty much unprecedented online in Australia. Security was very, very important and a customer service team was also very important.

Genuine content is king

The web gives customers an opportunity to research their appliance and electronic purchases before buying, another advantage it has over the brick-and-mortar retail experience, according to Krideras.

“Chances are if you’re in a traditional retail environment, you may be persuaded to purchase a product that may not be the one that suits your needs, but is of more benefit to the salesperson or business [to sell],” he says.

“With our retail store, it is more about educating yourself online, identifying the product that suits your needs, and purchasing it online in the comfort, convenience, and security of your own home.”

Recognizing that the best recommendation is from a happy buyer, Big Brown Box built in the ability for customers to post their own reviews of products. And if website viewers can’t get unbiased information on your site, they’ll just as quickly look somewhere else, so it pays to include reviews.

“We’ve got our own product information on there, but the most successful reviews are the ones from the customers,” says marketing manager Yeshim Sumaktas. “If a customer hasn’t posted a review 20 days after they’ve bought a product, we send them an automated email asking them to submit a review.”

And if they say the product is rubbish?

“We’ll review the review before it gets posted,” she says. “But unless there is anything defamatory or inappropriate in there, we will publish it.”

Krider believes even negative reviews are helpful because they give the site credibility.

“When I’m buying online, I tend to look at what people who have experienced a product have to say, as opposed to what the blurb says,” he says. “I find that more interesting and credible.”

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