Alzashop.com’s vice-chairman, Tomáš Havryluk, and head of international marketing, Jiri Maly, discuss taking on retail’s biggest beast. Paul Skeldon listens in
The lure of pan-national cross-channel retail has not been lost of many retailers. The success of brands such as Amazon and Argos – as well as IREU500 Elite retailers such as House of Fraser, BonPrix and Apple – has shown that the idea of retailers selling multiple product categories across borders is quite a winning mix. Now there is a new player that is likely to give even these behemoths a run for their money: Alza.
Established in 1994, the retailer is one of the most recognised brands in the Czech Republic. Alza boasts a range of more than 1,600 brands across more than 50,000 consumer products, including PCs and laptops, smartphones and tablets, games consoles, appliances, healthy and beauty products, to name but a few. The company has won numerous awards for the quality of service that it offers to millions of online shopping customers across Europe. Alza was also the first retailer to open an Apple Store in central Europe back in 2014, and it’s taken many of the lessons learned from that experience and brought them to bear on its own stores in the Czech Republic.
The Apple Store – built within one of its own stores in Prague – marked a new way of doing things for the retailer, led to two years of expansion across Europe, and landed the company second place in the 2015 EMEA Channel Academy Awards, for the Retailer of the Year prize in the Central and Eastern Europe region.
The company’s expansion plan started with the construction of a host of new distribution centres across Europe to fulfil orders from the expansion of its online and mobile offering to shoppers across the continent.
Alza now delivers to 25 EEA countries and offers four country specific iOS apps and one country specific Android app. Most prominent is the Czech app, but the UK app store offers apps covering the UK, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Alzashop and Alza media.
Alzashop offers in-app country selection, which automatically detects the appropriate country and currency. It offers multiple pictures, product reviews, ratings and additional product recommendation. A ‘Price watch’ feature allows customer to receive an email alert if the price of the product changes.
“Alzashop.com is one of the most successful online stores not only in the Czech Republic, but on a European scale,” says Tomáš Havryluk, vice-chairman, Alzashop.com. “According to a study by GfK, from the perspective of internet trading, Alzashop.com is among the most advanced in the European market. Almost 40% of technical product sales in the Czech Republic are realised over the internet, and website traffic on Alzashop.com exceeds 300,000 users every day.”
Now the company is looking to make a much deeper expansion into the UK and Germany, with stores as well as an increased online and mobile presence, as it looks overseas to replicate the success it has seen in its home market.
The value of UK expansion
Jiri Maly, Alza’s head of international marketing explains: “The UK is a very important part of our international operations. We have invested significantly in providing an alternative source for consumers who are looking for the right products at the right price, backed up by quality of service from an established name that they can trust.”
Maly also notes that the UK is a particularly attractive marketplace thanks to the high growth ratio of consumer spending and a record 91% of millennials owning a smartphone. The company recently launched its UK site, www.alza.co.uk, and is hoping that its “competitive pricing model, delivery and after-sales customer servicing” will chime with UK shoppers.
“We like to try and make things as simple as possible for our customers, especially if they need to make a warranty claim,” says Maly. “So we offer a free home collection service or the option to return via post to our collection points. As a further indication of our commitment to providing a quality service, we have just announced a tie up with Skynet Worldwide Express to offer a guaranteed delivery time of between one and three days across the whole of the UK.”
The move into the UK market is an interesting one, coming as it does immediately after the Brexit vote. While the plan was in place before the result of this referendum, Havryluk and Maly both agree that now is still the right time for Alza to move into the UK.
“More competition in online shopping for the established players means better choice for the consumer,” says Maly. “And especially after the doom and gloom surrounding post-Brexit concerns, it should be encouraging to see that a significant European company wants to develop and trade across the UK.”
This interview first appeared in the latest IREU Top500 Mobile & Crosschannel Performance Dimension Report. To explore the report further, click here.