Bricks and mortar retailers innovating with online video customer service

By Patrick Avenell

One of the biggest hurdles traditional retailers need to overcome when designing an online portal for their bricks and mortar stores is maintaining the same level of customer service on a website as they do in a store.

All the big appliance and CE retailers now have online sites, with several, such as Bing Lee, featuring electronic sales assistants to chat via text with consumers. Big Brown Box has taken this one step further, integrating videos from the major manufacturers onto its website.

Originally owned by Thorn Group (owners of the Radio Rentals and Rentlo brands), Big Brown Box was purchased by Appliances Online last year, delivering an AV portal to complement Appliances Online’s firm whitegoods footing.

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John Winning, the young CEO of these companies, has again shown his verve to continue evolving, sending a film crew over to the 2012 International CES in Las Vegas to record the show for embedding on the website. He said this innovation could be an Australian first and that it’s great for helping customers choose the right product.

“It helps replicate the shopping experience you would receive in-store, into an online format,” he said. “However, where the sales assistant in the store might be working on commission, our videos don't sell to the consumer, but inform them of their choices, which will vary depending on their needs.”

David Beck, the general manager of Big Brown Box, said the website already had videos featuring Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and TCL.

"Our staff members in the customer support centre are never commission based, so we just want to ensure our customers have as much information at their disposal to make an informed choice about the product that suits them best,” Beck said.

"The new video features often give more information than is usually available in retail stores, and is presented to customers by experts from each of the leading brands."

Although not starring the leading brands, Bing Lee has also invested in online product demonstrations, with its YouTube channel recently recording its one millionth view. The Bing Lee Electrics channel features reviews, buying guides and unboxings.

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