It’s one of the UK’s biggest online electrical retailers with four million registered customers, and now Ebuyer.com is considering opening stores on the High Street. Dominic Sacco asks MD Stuart Carlisle and Head of PPC & Search Andy Halliday what it’s doing to become the go-to destination for electronics…
What has made Ebuyer a success? What sets you apart?
Stuart Carlisle: Ebuyer was founded by a group of IT developers and PC retail experts who spotted a gap in the market for computer components to be more readily available to consumers at a lower price.
Our loyal customer base originated from this group of users. They tend to be early adopters of technology, meaning our customers are highly sought-after by the big brands and manufacturers. Companies come to us with new products and great deals, as they know the established customer base will be interested.
You’re known for your competitive pricing. How do you manage to keep prices down and how important is it to you?
SC: Giving customers a good deal is very important to us, which is why our team of buyers works closely with brands and vendors in order to keep prices competitive.
Our purpose-built distribution facility uses the latest technology to deliver thousands of products to consumers every day. This means we can have orders out to customers quickly and accurately, whilst keeping operational costs to a minimum.
Have you considered opening retail stores on the High Street?
SC: Yes, we have considered it. Once we find the most effective model for us, we will act upon it.
Retail has changed significantly over the last five years and so we are always investigating the ways to best meet our customers’ needs – whether this is through online, High Street or multichannel retail.
Do you think there will always be a space for High Street retailers in the face of online competition?
SC: Online retail will continue to grow. Simple economics dictate that online retailers can usually offer products at better prices – so that is where most of the consumers will go. The High Street will by no means die out; it will just have to adapt. People still want to buy products in store, it’s just clear the current model is not sustainable.
How important is that for the UK economy – considering that some large online retailers are known for their lower tax off-shore businesses?
SC: We have always been a UK-based company and are proud to work with our loyal customer base in the UK. We feel there is a certain level of trust associated with companies based in the UK. Customers have a better understanding of our business, values and what we are about.
Which product categories on Ebuyer.com are the most popular?
SC: We have always had a dedicated customer base in components and electronics – it’s how we made our name.
Despite market growth in tablets and laptops, we still see strong sales of desktop PCs, graphics cards and monitors. Over the Christmas period we saw a general rise in laptops, as well as a strong showing in components sales, gadgets and gifts. Tablets and smartphones were also a big growth sector again.
What percentage of your turnover comes from PC components compared to consumer electronics?
SC: About 60 per cent of Ebuyer’s current turnover comes from consumer electronics and 40 per cent from components.
How did the Hynix factory fire in China last year affect you? Will SSD and DRAM prices stabilise?
Andy Halliday: DRAM, HDD and SSD are always going to be price volatile because changes in those technologies are so rapid.
The fire naturally affected everyone involved as it slowed down production of vital parts – therefore pushing up prices. SSD and DRAM have fallen to a figure close to what it was in 2011, so they have stabilised – just slower than other components. The only way to combat it is to work closely with manufacturers, like we do, so we can negotiate the best deals if prices suddenly fluctuate.
You have almost 100,000 Facebook page likes. Is social media integral to you as an etailer?
AH: The ways in which people use social media are changing and this means businesses need to adapt. We see social as important not only in how we monitor and respond to customer comments, but also how we engage with them through relevant content, giving them opportunities to feedback changes and offer their opinions.
Do you have any marketing plans in the works?
SC: Our growth plans for the next five years are ambitious. We have recently brought in a new marketing team and are implanting their plans with our key partners for 2014.
What’s your strategy over the next year or so?
SC: We want to be the go-to point for electronics. We’re investing heavily in our internal infrastructure and planning improvements.
We know that the customer experience is becoming an increasingly important element. We have a loyal customer base, and will not neglect our heritage.
FACT FILE: Ebuyer.com
Warehouse size: 280,000 sq ft
Contact: 0871 528 5180 (Business), 0871 521 33 00 (Home)