5 lessons b2b can learn from a successful b2c online retailer
We’re constantly looking for inspiration, especially from outside the b2b world and recently we found it listening to Yossi Erdman, head of brand and social media at online appliances retainer ao.com.
In February this year, ao.com floated on the Stock Exchange to the tune of £1 billion. The company has a 24% UK market share (and growing), and has just launched in Germany, which undoubtedly would not have been possible without the power of social media and in particular their 1.5 million Facebook fans (and counting).
The success of the ao.com brand is due in no small measure to social devotion, not only from the thousands of customers who post and share content every day, but also from Yossi, the marketing and customer service teams who have wholeheartedly embraced the endless possibilities social media offers growing brands.
Successful consumer brands have a knack of inspiring us; making us feel as though they really understand what we want in terms of product and service. They’ve embraced digital with open arms and play to both our emotional as well as our rational decision-making selves.
So what do we think the business brand marketers can take away from ao.com in terms of brand building? Here’s five (of the many) themes that inspired us at Clock Creative:-
1. Community brings content
From rapping about washing machines, posting videos of how much you love your new fridge, to the thousands of white goods selfies, ao.com has it all.
Whilst we’re not suggesting that all business brands should adopt a similar approach, what we are advocating is the value of real, human, down to earth interaction and connection. If you want to be distinctive in your sector, then you need a personality and you need to be prepared to converse and engage with your customers on a human and proactive basis, rather than a corporate and transactional one.
2. Cats (and ducks!) are important
Not just cats but ducks it seems are a great draw for ao.com, which is understandable given the proliferation of cute animals in social media!
Again you may not love them but your customers do. And if you can’t weave cats (or ducks) into your marcomms activity, then you should be thinking about a more inspiring and engaging way to get your messages out there in a less ‘product pushy’ way. People appreciate pictures and video content more than they do written content, especially if they’re just looking for a brief intro to your business.
3. Transparency is key
Today, customers (whether they’re business or lifestyle buyers) are looking for authenticity from the brands they deal with, and ao.com has this in spades.
Why? Because their ‘warts and all’ approach to customer interaction and service means they embrace the good and the not so good and have response mechanisms and procedures in place to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ quickly and in equal measures. Their marketing and customer service teams are trained and empowered to respond and their use of the Trust Pilot scheme is a visible component of their brand identity, which adds weight to their authenticity.
4. Remove the fear of failure
ao.com is clear cut case of a business built on a ‘suck it and see’ philosophy that comes from the top down and filters down and across the business. As Yossi said, ‘We’re going to experiment until it works!’ and this is something chief executive John Roberts and the senior team encourage and reinforce on a daily basis. Of course their challenge now as a plc will be to keep up this culture of happiness and experimentation but the momentum is it seems infectious.
5.An inside out culture fuels growth
ao.com is now officially the 4th happiest place to work in the UK, due in no small part, to the fact that brand personality is fostered and encouraged equally on the inside as it is outside.
Staff are encouraged and empowered to generate ideas and implement them. Every two weeks delivery drivers receive a Facebook comments booklet highlighting service levels good and bad and this has encouraged them to actively seek comments from the customers they deliver to and to post them. Everyone in the company, including the CEO uses the Facebook page to understand levels of brand perception and satisfaction. As a result everyone feels they have a stake in the success of the company.
So, as a business brand seeking growth what the ao.com story demonstrates, is that authenticity is everything and that you’ll achieve this by taking risks (even if they are calculated ones!), empowering your people and inspiring your customers with verve and personality.