Yossi Erdman, head of brand & social media, AO.com
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
The biggest opportunity for our business is to change the expectations people have when shopping for electricals. Rather than experiencing painful customer service, they should expect and receive quite the opposite. This includes great web content, free delivery and a seamless customer journey. Our business strives to make people understand that they shouldn’t put up with bad service in any shape or form. No queues, no drama. Everything should be smooth, effortless and leave them with a smile that lasts until they return.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Our biggest challenge is showing people that store shopping isn’t essential when buying large electricals. When buying a washing machine for example, what are you really going to see in the shop? That the door is sturdy? That it has six sides?
Is it really worth taking all of your kids out, packing them in a car, queuing in a retail park on a busy Saturday, only to talk to a customer service representative who has no idea about any of the machines features? It’s an unnecessary struggle people go through every day, and it’s difficult to convince people that buying such products online is infinitely easier.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
The change from Appliances Online to AO.com should have come much sooner. The AO.com brand is far more identifiable and memorable for our customers. That said, we were still successful as Appliances Online, so it’s interesting to observe how a brand that is purely functional in its appearance can still work well. With the AO.com brand in place sooner, we could have gone into TV advertising much more quickly. TV advertising has worked wonders for our brand awareness.
4. What is the future of the physical store?
As long as physical stores don’t improve their overall service and the knowledge of their staff, I don’t think they have much of a chance in our category. Today on our website you have so much knowledge, videos and expert advice that you never can get in a store. Our challenge is to show our personality along with this.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?
On the whole I think it will look pretty much the same. The digital revolution means music and entertainment stores will most likely no longer exist. There will also be less electrical stores unless they do something to drastically improve the level of customer service they provide.
6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
Yes definitely. People call the mobile the second screen, but it’s actually the first screen. The mobile experience is becoming much better and one of our main challenges is to keep on top of this. As a company who encourages the use of social media, most of the interaction we have with our customers (emails/Facebook/Twitter) is via mobile already. Our site is now fully optimised for mobile and a significant percentage of our traffic comes from mobile devices. In the very near future, people will start to make bigger purchases on their mobile and we are already seeing an increase.
7. What other retail business do you admire?
I like Ocado. They give really good service and have great products. Using their website is always a great experience and they communicate very well. Their emails are spot on, and their proposition is clear. You always know what you are going to get, and you can be 100% sure it’s going to be the highest quality.
8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?
I think I’d like to work in the media, either producing adverts or doing voiceovers for them. In a perfect (or not, depending on who you are) world I’d be a TV gameshow host. I think I’m a lot funnier than I am and can reel off cringey dad jokes faster than anyone else. You should try me if you’re casting, I’m pretty cheap.
9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
I think I’d probably give myself 9. I wouldn’t have this interview if I had 8, right? We’ve done some pretty cool things on AO.com in the last year: We’ve reached 1.5 million fans with a very engaging community, we have launched new TV ads and are starting to gain some brand awareness with our new brand (AO.com), after years of operating as an unknown company (Appliances Online). We also move fast and do a lot of new things which we are proud of, so I think we are doing okay.
We have many more things to achieve in the next year, so hopefully I can rate myself higher the next time we talk.
10. Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?
I don’t know him personally but whoever manages Paddy Power’s social media really makes me laugh. I also like the people who are behind Asda. They are leveraging the brand campaigns very well on digital and they know how to have fun with their customers while focusing on their offers and proposition.
I’d like both of them to be on this list, that way I’ll be able to know them better and talk to them. Maybe brainstorm some ideas.