John Winning is one of Australia’s youngest CEOs. He is the founder and CEO of Appliances Online, a multi-million dollar online retailer he started in 2005. This business is a market leader and was one of the first e-commerce sites to sell large items – such as a fridge – to Australians.
Today, Appliances Online distributes via its own networks nationally and has grown to employ more than 100 staff (growing at a rate of 300% in 2011 over 2010).
Appliances Online is Australia’s largest online retailer of appliances, delivering to 98% of the population and stocking more brands than any other online appliance retailer. Between 2005 and 2011 more than 170,000 unique customers have purchased from the company.
John has successfully embraced e-commerce, web marketing, analytics and distribution, and believes the mentality of ‘impressing every customer’ is integral when running a successful business in an online – or offline – environment.
We spoke with John Winning and learnt that his family’s business Winning Appliances was founded in 1906 and made a name by providing exceptional customer service for the lifetime of products sold by it. John was keen to emphasise that this is is the key difference which “separates us from competitors and generates lots of referral business”.
He continued, telling the origin story of Appliances Online: “I began working in the warehouse and saw an unmet need by people who wanted a replacement for a brand they knew and liked already. In 2005 when I was 21 years old, my father gave me a $50,000 loan and 3 months to prove the idea of Appliances Online”. john made CEO of Winning Appliances at the end of 2011.
“Before that day few Australians bought high value items online. Our customer support centre is open 16 hours a day from 7am-11pm, with free delivery to metro australia. We aim to respond to a customer query in 11 seconds”.
Social media is very important for Appliances Online. John said that it is a great way to engage with customers in real time to show that feedback is taken very seriously. Negative feedback issues are addressed quickly and seen as a way to improve the business longer term.
John went on to explain how Appliances Online competes in the competitive online realm.
“With a new competitor opening every week, our point of difference is customer service and end to end control from order to logistics and delivery. Appliances Online is priced competitively yet our pricing is based on our customer service values and that we have products in stock, ready to be delivered the next day. Many other companies with cut throat pricing models can’t compete with this combination of advantages we have.”
End to end control over the sales process and fulfillment is achieved by us keeping millions of dollars of stock at any one time across our Australian distribution centres in order to provide customers with next day delivery. We employ our own truck drivers as part of our everything in house approach so we don’t have to rely on 3rd parties who have different business and customer service values to us.
In the future John sees his company having a foot in online and offline retail. He said that while “we hear about the demise of offline retailers Winning Appliances stores are doing well, employing more people and opening in more locations. It’s a successful business model because we think of the customer first”.