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AO.com could expand into in-home services, says CEO

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Online electrical retailer AO.com is looking at bringing the likes of repair services into customer’s homes, according to its CEO.

 

Discussing the continuing appeal of stores, John Roberts said he didn’t believe that the whole market would move online, adding that there weren’t many store-based retailer doing online well or vice versa.

 

The chief exec, who founded AO.com as a pure player in the late 1990s, said he wouldn’t rule out opening stores in the future.

 

However, he said it was worth looking at what people actually use stores for. For example, somebody who bought a laptop online might value the store as somewhere to get their products repaired.

 

“What if I could guarantee someone in your home to fix it within an hour? I think you would do that rather than go into the store.”

 

He said the company has been looking into the logistical requirements of this, including training its drivers to be able to carry out such repairs.

 

“Building more touchpoints across service is more important than building a physical presence.”

 

Roberts highlighted that while technology is available to do things, often there is a shortage of people with the skills to operate this technology.

 

“We spend a lot of time testing and learning. You have to be quite brave and accept you don’t have a clue what you’re doing.”

 

Part of the company’s omnichannel journey has meant adapting to different marketing channels. Roberts said the company is axing all TV advertising in favour of using social media due to its better ROI.

 

“As we do more analysis, our ROI so much better from telling stories. But they have to be steeped in truth. If your service is poor, social media isn’t a great place, because the truth does come out.”

 

He adds that this has meant eschewing traditional marketing wisdom. Social media imposes all sorts of constraints, including the fact sound may be muted when customers start.

 

Roberts says “it’s not about selling stuff on social media, people buy stuff as a by product of you engaging.”

 

Above all, it takes less than a second for a customer to decide whether they are going to watch a video on social media. This means that the company’s old technique of simply redeploying television adverts to Instagram was doomed.

 

“[You should] get people who understand it to do it.”

 

Discussing recent plans to hire more staff, Roberts said he has “never seen the demand for IT people go down.”

 

The executive made the comments at Retail Week Live in London.

 

AO.com is a member of the IREU index, which tracks the top-performing European retailers. If you would like to receive the fortnightly IREU newsletter, click here to edit your mailing list preferences.

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