John Winning, founder of Appliances Online and CEO of the Winning Group has opened up about his company’s online retail offering, and the struggles he has faced trying to get a business off the ground in the face of pessimism from the so-called “old guard” of retail.
The face of Winning Appliances was speaking at the Online Retailer Conference and eCommerce Expo yesterday as part of a panel including board members of the fledgling National Online Retailers Association (NORA).
Established this year, NORA bills itself as “Australia’s newest industry association” and “an association committed to providing a voice for the ‘new’ retail in Australia”. NORA has had a presence at the Online Retailer Conference this week, hoping to sign up new members to its tiered membership model by targeting sole traders, students, SMEs and larger businesses as well as those who are “invested in the future of retail in this country” but are not necessarily retailers themselves.
As a founding board member of NORA, Winning spoke yesterday about the changing state of online retail, saying there was no reason why the “old guard” of Australian retail couldn’t jump onboard with new ways of selling to consumers.
“The old guard would have been my Dad eight years ago,” said Winning. “He said to me, ‘I really don’t think this is going to work, what’s it going to cost? I don’t want to de-motivate you, but let’s give it a go.’
“Now the old guard is probably most of my competitors who were quite slow in getting online. And I think that now they are all online, we’ve been happy to be quite public about our success.
“From our point of view, and the best way I alleviate it with my Dad and with other competitors, is I point out some successful retailers. John Lewis writing over a billion in sales online — that’s something that’s close to our industry that they could relate to. If you want a local experience [look at] OzSale. They ship plenty of products around the country. We write in excess of $150 million online. Point to some of these success stories and just say ‘the proof is in the pudding’.”
Speaking about the importance of NORA, Winning said it was an organisation that could help both pure-play online and clicks and mortar retailers with the challenges that many businesses in the online space face.
“From my personal perspective, it’s those eight years worth of challenges that I’ve gone through that I haven’t had any industry association to help me with. At what point do I get rid of my agency and bring online marketing in-house? At what point do I bring my technology in-house? Am I better off using off-shore technology versus on-shore?”
It’s not just retailers that have been hesitant to jump onboard the omnichannel trend. Winning also mentioned the “constant battles” he faced trying to convince suppliers that Appliances Online would be a success. He said this was a problem many omnichannel retailers may face.
“‘I’ve got these great suppliers in my traditional business, but they won’t let me sell my products online’. I’ve been through that and I can help give advice to people. ‘These are the things that put me up against a brick wall, and these are the things that broke down that brick wall and finally got me a meeting with them and got them to listen. The things that got me to prove to them that online is a legitimate channel and I’m not going to misrepresent their brand’.
“There’s a whole bunch of other advice that we can give. Everything including customer experience, hiring, industrial relations issues, occupational health and safety if you’re running warehouses — all of those challenges.”