History of Audiomania. Part 1
The history of Audiomania is a story about how a company from a small "point" selling household appliances turned into one of the largest all-channel retailers in Russia. We will try to simply and truthfully write about how a small store became a big company, how our hobbies became part of our profession, what difficulties and pitfalls (under the conditions of Russian reality) accompanied us along this path - and what advice we can give to beginners on the Internet retailers based on their own experience. Our story is not a plot from the series “10 Steps to Success” and not the reasoning of prominent “retail theorists”, it is a story about real business and about what conclusions can be drawn from what was once happening to us.
The history of Audiomania began in 1997, when several entrepreneurs organized a retail outlet on Gorbushka. Then it was not a shopping center, but a large parking space, where sellers with goods arrived in trucks early in the morning and usually sold it quickly enough. A little later, it was decided to open a permanent "point" on the "Riga Radio Market" - there appeared the first store of the company, then still without a name. The radio market itself consisted of many containers, which now served for another purpose. In the lease agreement it was as follows: “telephone container”. The assortment of the store then already included a wide variety of audio and video equipment. Gradually, the main direction of the company shifted towards high-quality audio equipment.
The name was born a little later. One day, during a joint pastime with suppliers, a conversation arose about the name for the company. “You can’t do it without a name,” the partners said to the founder of the company, Artem Faermark. But the name was not born. Colleagues added: “Well, do you work for audio maniacs?”, To which Artem replied: “Well, I don’t call the company Audiomania!” But everyone liked it ...
By 2003, the company already had an office and a warehouse. A second store was also opened - at the electronic fair on Prague, and the business began to acquire a more focused specialization - not just selling audio equipment, but providing solutions for people who primarily love and appreciate good music. So, we carefully selected the assortment, removing from it what, in our opinion, does not correspond to the tasks. In addition, we agreed with several manufacturers and established our own deliveries from abroad, which could not but attract the attention of other Russian retailers - so Audiomania also became a little distributor.
However, the distribution division developed more slowly than the retail one - significant amounts were required to purchase large quantities of equipment. Therefore, when Marvel Distribution (one of the largest wide-profile distributors in the Russian market) approached Audiomania in 2007 with a proposal to conclude a partnership agreement to merge the distribution division of Audiomania with Marvel, the management of Audiomania agreed, and the company was able to free up funds from distribution and fully focus on retail sales. Some employees from the distribution department of Audiomania went to Marvel.
Such changes have only benefited Audiomania - in addition to offline sales, we were able to seriously think about the development of multi-channel retail. Of course, until 2007, Audiomania had a website, however, to call it a full-fledged online store was, to put it mildly, difficult. On the one hand, there was practically no competition in the field of Internet commerce with high-quality home audio and video equipment - there were only a few large companies that entered the Network earlier, on the other hand, there were reasonable doubts that we would be able to attract a sufficient number of interested consumers who will buy equipment of a similar class via the Internet.
Around the same time, we paid close attention to the market of electronic components - radio components and accessories for the manufacture and modernization of acoustic systems. This direction turned out to be a "gold mine", because, unlike many foreign countries, the do-it-yourself theme remains popular in Russia. This is partly due to the acquisition by Audiomania in 2008 of the Samodelka.ru St. Petersburg store, which sold various audio components and had good relations with manufacturers and suppliers - subsequently, this purchase helped create a full-fledged offline store in St. Petersburg, as retail space and staff Homemade "went to Audiomania.
Audiomania store in St. Petersburg, grown from St. Petersburg Samodelka.ru
So, by 2008, we brought our offline business online, and the St. Petersburg online store Samodelka made our offline division in St. Petersburg. Such “castling” required some preparation from us.
First of all, I had to significantly modify the site. If until 2007 it was rather just an online catalog of company products, then subsequently users could access not only viewing, but also ordering goods on the website, consulting a specialist, choosing from various delivery formats and calculating its cost (for this, of course, it was not necessary only work on the site, but also modify part of the relevant business processes of the company). And for starters, we had to give ourselves answers to a number of questions (we knew the answers to some of them right away, and some decisions had to be optimized in the process of working on the online store).
1. Firstly, who will buy on the site and how will the purchase process be carried out?
Empirically, we determined that there are three types of customers in our online store:
- Customers who probably know what they need, in what configuration and from which brand. This is especially true for "do-it-yourselfers", those who are fond of creating their own speaker systems. As a rule, they possess certain engineering knowledge and do not need to be consulted when buying a particular radio component or accessory - they buy immediately and without any hesitation.
- Those who come to the site after reading an article / looking at a review in the thematic media. These people, as a rule, “want like in the picture,” and also often even before visiting the site they made their choice (which, unlike home-made people, is not always dictated by rational knowledge about the characteristics of the product). Such people can sometimes also purchase goods in the online store, without resorting to consultants for help. Or they just need confirmation of the right choice.
- And finally, buyers of large and “serious” audio systems. In the event that the consumer has plans to re-equip the entire premises and / or purchase several components of the audio / video system at once, he, as a rule, not only carefully reviews and reviews in the media, but also conducts lengthy conversations with our consultants, and in general, a purchase may come to Moscow or St. Petersburg from another city - the cost of a flight is relatively small compared to the purchase price, and “feeling” the goods and checking them in action before a large-scale purchase is an important task i.
At first, the online store, of course, was focused mainly on Moscow and the Moscow region, but with the advent of the St. Petersburg branch (and as our customers studied) it turned out that they (depending on the category again) are ready not only to purchase our goods online, but and even come for them to our showrooms from other cities. Of course, the payment for the goods was initially made in cash to the courier. However, as soon as we announced the possibility of paying for goods by electronic money (Webmoney, Yandex.Money, etc.), a qualitative leap occurred in the growth of audience from the regions. Now in the online store you can pay for goods in 10 different ways - and this is one of the factors that attract the attention of the audience. Even if the buyer chooses traditional payment methods, he still appreciates the freedom of choice provided, especially,
2. Secondly, how to avoid losing a customer if the required product is not in stock?
We even wrote a separate article about this , as we encountered various reasons for the lack of goods in stock, and, in accordance with this, we developed various strategies that would allow us not to lose customers because of this.
3. Thirdly, what life situations can accompany the purchase of goods, and how (based on this) to make their purchase as comfortable as possible?
Starting to work on an online store, we thought about how to make the purchase of our products as comfortable as possible. The thought is banal, but very many (sometimes non-trivial), but quite logical solutions, we managed to find precisely thanks to this approach.
A purchase from us is often accompanied by consultations with experts. If the buyer is not an engineer and is not obsessed with the idea of purchasing a strictly defined product, he usually consults specialists on the site and does the right thing. The fact is that not just “guys from the call center” communicate with customers, but people who are knowledgeable in audio technology and (which is also important) who have extensive experience working with it. Such people can assess the needs of the client, tell him what is best done and what to pay attention to - in general, thoroughly talk about the topic. Therefore, for us, the duration of a telephone conversation with a client, say, at 1 hour, is a completely normal phenomenon.
And, of course, since it is impossible to know everything, we have several consultants, each of whom specializes in a certain area - someone knows everything about high-end audio systems, someone can tell in detail about portable devices and add-ons to them. We do not have a distinction between “consultants working with an online store” and “consultants working in an offline store” - these are the same people, and they are not divided by sales channels, but by areas of knowledge.
By the way, since these same people work in ordinary stores of the company, the buyer can approach and communicate face-to-face with them without fear and reproach - it’s not necessary to demonstrate his exceptional knowledge of audio technology (in the Hi-Fi sector, it was not considered the norm that sales consultants look at the "uninitiated", frankly, down.)
By the way, with regard to consultations, we do not focus on a specific communication channel - if the user is inconvenient to make calls (there have been such cases), communication is transferred to chat or e-mail - for some buyers this issue becomes crucial.
The next point that we were concerned about was the situation in which the buyer was not ready to purchase the goods immediately. We believe that this is quite normal - both in the case of relatively small acquisitions, and in relation to expensive systems (“expensive”, after all, is generally a relative concept). So if the consultant obsessively suggests “place an order right now,” the buyer may begin to hesitate, or even want to buy something. We constantly keep in touch with such customers via SMS or mailing lists - at the same time, there is no need for consultants to do everything on their own, since the CRM system takes the decision on the scheduled sending of a message. It also happens that a large order is divided into parts and paid, respectively, in parts. It happens, for example, when the buyer makes repairs and together with the foreman / architect / installer creates a solution even before the stage of finishing the premises. At the moment, we have 1,800 open orders in our work - both we and the buyers consider this situation to be completely normal.
In the same way, we believe that the buyer has the right to listen to the technique “in action”, even if he has not yet paid for it (or even made a purchasing decision). At one time, we were one of the first to equip our stores with showrooms where you can come and listen to equipment - before that, such rooms were equipped mainly with large distributors only.
The search for areas where we could improve the user experience continued. The trade-in mania service, unique in our market, was born, when customers can turn in used acoustics and, paying the difference, buy a new one — the burden for us to organize such a service turned out to be quite affordable, and buyers got another reason trust us (and become regular customers with the ability to upgrade purchased equipment). True, we had to attract the marketing budgets of manufacturers, otherwise nothing would have happened. Several leading manufacturers of acoustic systems were pleased to participate in such an unusual project.
Another point that we decided to work on is the process of delivering equipment to the regions. Usually this is a “painful” moment for the buyer, since in online stores it is usually completely unclear whether it is possible to deliver to the region and how much it costs. In the best case, there is a list of companies engaged in delivery with an offer to go to their sites to clarify the cost. In order to partially remove this headache from the buyer, we came up with a “delivery calculator” - the user still sees on the product’s card how much it will cost to deliver goods to his region depending on the carrier company (of which there are several more at his service), and how the total purchase price will change. Moreover, having considered all the options, we decided to take the risk - and made delivery to large cities free of charge when ordering from 8,000 rubles.
"Delivery Calculator" Audio Mania with the possibility of free delivery
4. Fourth, how will our offline store be connected with all this?
We immediately decided that our trading system would be multi-channel - or rather omnichannel. Now we call it “all-channel”. That is, the buyer, no matter what channel of communication with the store he chooses, will always be one buyer for us - information about him in the database is not duplicated. This allows us, firstly, to collect more information about him and make more targeted proposals. And, on the other hand, this to a large extent affects our attitude to business - the fact that we do not divide employees into “sales consultants in salons” and “online consultants” allows us to think first of all about to pick up people with deep knowledge in a certain field, and not “generalists” who know a little of everything, and even in a double copy - for offline and online. Similarly, the fact that the buyer comes to the site and leaves it,
Thanks to this approach, our fears about online trading did not materialize, and since then the online store Audiomania managed to enter the list of “Top 100 Russian online stores” according to the Kommersant publishing house and become a regular winner of the “Online Retail Rewards” awards "And" Hi-Fi. The best site. "
The work of transferring a business from offline to online can be a difficult task, however, if you approach it with thoughts about the customer, he (the customer) will not remain indifferent to your efforts (the same is true for online stores that do not have offline sales points) . Here are some tips that (as our experience has shown) are useful in attracting and retaining loyal customers:
- The more alternatives your customer has on your site, the better. This is true for delivery options, and for payment methods, and for additional promotions and special programs. Even if most buyers are satisfied with the standard options, the very idea that you are not shackled by the lack of alternatives will make them feel much freer on your site.
- The same applies to formats of communication with a consultant - prepare your employees for the fact that if it is convenient for the buyer, for example, to write by e-mail, then so be it.
- Try to ensure that consultants really understand not only how to place or pay for an order, but also in the product itself. It is not necessary to be a superprofile, but these people should understand what they are talking about - strive to select people who are genuinely interested in what you are selling for this job.
- Do not rush your customers. Let them know that consulting with a specialist does not oblige them to purchase immediately - it gives you the opportunity to offer them a product that is more suitable for the client.
- Check out the options for free shipping to the regions. This does not mean that you need to immediately make all delivery free of charge — it is possible, in your model you will find a combination of conditions that will allow you not to take money from buyers for delivery to certain regions starting from a certain order amount. In Russia, free delivery to the regions is not as widespread as, for example, in the USA - so in the eyes of customers this will not be a “taken for granted" step, but a huge competitive advantage.
- More often put yourself in the shoes of the client and think about how to make his life better. These will not necessarily be large-scale changes. It is quite possible that you will start with small and simple steps that, even if only slightly, will distinguish you from your competitors - a little more interesting / beautifully designed / targeted mailing, a little more payment options, one or two additional shipping companies for delivery to the regions - This is not a “silver bullet”, which in one fell swoop will bring you all the customers, but the ultimate and attainable goals, the implementation of each of which will make you a little closer to the buyer.