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From simple groceries to household devices and appliances, more and more people are switching “on” to online retail. Thanks to our partners at Appliances Online, we look at both how e-commerce has grown, and how Appliances Online are meeting their credo of “Best Shopping Experience In The World.”
The last decade has seen an explosion in online retail markets thanks to the broader accessibility of the Internet and changing attitudes toward the power and validity of the digital retail space. All trends are indicating a near-shopless future and I, like many, am not unhappy about that.
I have that, “on-again, off-again” relationship with shops. “It’s complicated”.
There are vastly different attitudes toward online shopping during this transitional period, depending on who you talk to. One, more elderly, colleague of mine used the word “anathema” when we were discussing the idea of ordering a fridge or washing machine through the Internet. I can empathise with his position, but I thought it was a great way to purchase these items.
The broader population are becoming more “on-again” with general, day-to-day tasks and routines being done online and by automated services. Thanks to the Internet, and to companies willing to take the punt on online retail, an avoidant curmudgeon like me can order food, entertainment, tickets to events, electronics, household goods, Christmas presents, clothing, manage my schedule, pay my bills – I can basically automate my life – without the need for direct sunlight or disruptive social interaction.
It’s a bit novel, isn’t it?
At the forefront of this: a company founded in 2005 called Appliances Online, who in their 11 years have grown to become Australia’s largest online-only appliance store. The big Australian players in other markets – think Coles, Woolworths, JB Hi-Fi, etc – all made the transition to online retail years ago; what separates Appliances Online from their competitors is that they operate exclusively online.
It’s Appliances Online’s belief that the competitive position they’re in requires them to provide the “Best Shopping Experience In The World.”
For those who grew up during or post-Internet boom, shopping online is a fact of life. The shopping experience is becoming more and more geared toward quick, easy, minimal fuss and interaction, “one-click-and-ship” convenience.
When Coles Online launched before the turn of the millennium, it actually reported losses in the 1999/2000 financial year and it wasn’t until almost a decade later in 2008 when they relaunched their site and expanded delivery beyond Sydney and Melbourne that they started to catch up to other online grocery stores which they were in competition with.
So. Where did it all start?
The birth of e-commerce goes back as far as 1979 when Michael Aldrich received a 26” TV to his office, which had a modem and auto-dialler among its components, and was teletext-capable. To think, Aldrich’s focus became finding solutions to businesses’ and consumers’ problems like time-scarcity, whereas I made use of teletext to “offset” the damage to my hearing from years of prolonged exposure to Metallica.
Throughout the 80’s, his company advanced online shopping technology for big companies before computers we’d now say are “primitive” became household items and the Internet (or PC games in my case) took over our lives.
Moving into the 90’s and the revolution of the Internet (and PC games), Pizza Hut (according to their Twitter) claim the first ever online purchase was a Pizza Hut pizza in 1994. (That does figure, does it not?) Elsewhere, one source cites Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales as the world’s first secure online purchase. Slight difference – and one is more indicative of good taste than the other.
It was a disruptive period, technology advancements leaving most people confused as to what on Earth was going on. The Internet was still a while off for my family at the time. It was also in this period I remember figuring out my dad’s expenses on repairs to used goods (“bargains”) were greater than the price of the same items being purchased brand new.
Dad isn’t a fan of the Internet either.
He’s also one of the last few people I know who owns a VHS player. That’s owns – not uses.
The first thing I wanted to buy online was a copy of The Terminator on VHS – I could have loaned it to Dad, if he ever had time to watch it between repairing third-hand lawnmowers and washing machines, but I think I was still too young at the time. I ended up getting the Sega Master System 2 Terminator video game among an eBay bundle when I was finally old enough.
It was a disruptive period, technology advancements leaving most people confused as to what on Earth was going on… Today, millennials welcome retailers using artificial intelligence to promote more relevant products during their shopping.
For those who grew up during or post-Internet boom, shopping online is a fact of life. I’m talking people who don’t wear watches (“it’s a single-function device”, to quote Ken Robinson) and who think vinyl is the music-playback format that actually proceeded from CDs and MP3s; people for whom “keeping in touch” means “Liking” something on Facebook, not actually seeing someone in person.
Where we are today is a place where over 70% of millennials believe artificial intelligence would be able and useful to predict their retail wants, with 70% of US millennials and 62% of UK millennials saying they would welcome brands and retailers using AI technology to promote more relevant products during their shopping. The shopping experience is becoming more and more geared toward quick, easy, minimal fuss and interaction, “one-click-and-ship” convenience. In the US, Walmart has set up Walmart Pay technology which lets users buy products through the Walmart app instead of with cash and card.
I’ve never actually stepped inside one but I’m imagining something like that is probably necessary for a place like Walmart, when you consider their size. A friend of mine had a panic attack in an IKEA once due to the overwhelming Labyrinthian enormity of the place…any store that large is probably not the most ideal place to have to maintain composure.
Self-service checkouts at Aussie supermarkets, self-check-in at airports, Internet-banking, digital nomadism. This is where the world is heading. Appliances Online, with their mission to make their customer service experience the greatest imaginable, are aware exactly of this and know entirely what is going on with the future of online appliance retail. By cutting overheads costs by having no bricks-and-mortar physical stores, Appliances Online are able to invest more into their customer service, which is what their competitive advantage against their aforementioned offline competitors is.
People may be a little “on-again, off-again” when it comes to retail purchases, but with an online-only appliances store succeeding in delivering “The Best Shopping Experience In The World”, we’re all inevitably going to become more “on” than “off”.