oo.com.au: A License to Sell
Move over Mr. Bond, oo.com.au’s mission is to provide great prices and a stellar experience, but just like any top agent will tell you, avoiding attention isn’t always easy.
oo.com.au is an Australian pureplay online retailer that offers over 30,000 products via its webstore. From its beginnings in a Bondi flat, the business is now counted as one of Australia’s top 10 online retailers, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Big W and CatchOfTheDay.
The path that oo.com.au has taken to reach such success does feature a few twists and turns, however its aim has always been consistent: offer a great range at the best price, without skimping on customer service. If only pronunciation of this business’s name was so straightforward.
“It’s definitely, oh-oh-dot-com-dot-ay-you,” says Rolf Krecklenberg, Managing Director at oo.com.au. “When it first launched, the business was called OverstockOutlet.com.au, which became abbreviated to oo.com.au. When we started shifting the positioning of the brand from a clearance retailer to an online department store, we didn’t want to lose out on all the valuable traffic we were seeing come to that address, so we reframed OO as ‘Only Online’.”
OO’s Very Own Power Up Tale
For some online businesses, it can be very hard to identify an exact date that the virtual doors opened for trade. oo.com.au is a perfect example of this phenomenon. However there is one thing to be sure of; those doors have been open in some form or other for a relatively long time.
“The business started with just two guys in a flat in Bondi and they started selling clearance items on eBay in 2004,” explains Krecklenberg. “After that, oo.com.au was launched properly in September 2005 in order to take advantage of the Christmas trading period of that year.”
Of course, way back in 2005, the internet was much more of a frontier for aspiring online retailers than it is now. The founders of oo.com.au had their work cut out for them in order to find the correct digital solutions to take their idea to market.
“In 2005 there simply weren’t that many affordable, off-the-shelf applications and solutions around,” says Krecklenberg, “so it was a case of finding a simple shopping cart, combining it with a simple business management solution and then cobbling those together with a simple warehouse management solution. Those three generic programs, while they were all very basic, still required a whole lot of development in order to integrate them and present the business offering.”
Since that time, oo.com.au’s business has continuously evolved to meet the needs of its growing customer base. Its in-house development team has been hard pressed to consistently test, upgrade and develop the various systems required to keep this e-commerce store up to scratch.
“We’ve had whole platform changes throughout the journey. We moved to a Cold Fusion platform while continuing to source ‘best-of-breed’ off-the-shelf solutions to bundle with it. So while we’re currently running off a proprietary model, we also continue to get more and more industry-standard product, which allows us the best opportunity for decent R&D – ensuring that our systems are cutting edge,” Krecklenberg says.
No Challenge Too Great
“The best thing about being in this space is that revenue and customer behaviour continue to pave the road ahead,” explains Krecklenberg. “When you have great revenues, you have the ability to keep changing.”
It is this attitude that keeps oo.com.au’s development staff always in testing mode, pushing to find the best products and applications and modes of delivery. Every time one piece of the puzzle becomes obsolete, gets upgrade or changes, everything else is reconsidered also.
“Warehouse facilities and finding space is also a challenge. When a business is growing, management has to continually think about where all the stock is going to come from, where it can be stored and how that stock is going to be shipped out to the customer in a timely fashion. Consumer expectations are very high these days, and when you’re growing at a rate of 100 percent each year or higher, you have to be smart in figuring these problems out.”
As a pioneer of the pureplay online retail frontier, oo.com.au faced the common issue of convincing brands to partner with it. While this particular issue is becoming less of a problem in many categories today, in 2005 every manufacturer, supplier and wholesaler treated online businesses like the plague, for fear of tarnishing their brand or losing valuable bricks-and-mortar clients.
“What happened was that when the GFC hit in 2008-2009, people really saw that event as a bringer of change. oo.com.au’s model was also changing from a clearance-only model, and it was at this point that those really well-known brands began to look at us a little differently,” Krecklenberg says.
“The suppliers, manufacturers and wholesalers started to realise that if they didn’t embrace the online channel then they would start to miss out on a lot of business.”
Marketing as the Heart and Soul of Online Retail
oo.com.au has been evolving so rapidly since its founders began trading on eBay that it’s not immediately obvious how any particular element of the business could possibly maintain a sense of coherency throughout that timeframe. However, Krecklenberg points out that any online retail enterprise worth its salt has to be built upon a solid foundation of marketing vision – a mixture of business ethos, a sense of culture and always placing customer service as priority one.
“We want to provide a great resource for our customers so that they can find a great range at great prices. We want them to be able to experience our service not just through to the booking and ordering process, but right through to the confirmation, through the delivery and even further into after-sales service.”
One of the first things oo.com.au did in order to differentiate itself was to provide a phone number for customers to contact at a time when most online retailers would only handle customer service via email.
“There’s a lot of talk at the moment surrounding multichannel/omnichannel and the various interpretations of that. For us, we’ve always strived to have every channel open, so we’re not being proscriptive as to how the customer first interacts with us,” says Krecklenberg.
However to achieve and maintain a ubiquitous ethos and culture across the company also means hiring right, Krecklenberg says.
“We’ve always been focused on hiring enthusiastic people who love what they do, love the retail environment and – more than anything – they like the change, like the fact that the space they’re in is at the centre of a major revolution in retail and are very excited to be a part of it.”