Changing the rules in an overcrowded retail market

It’s tough to compete in the retail industry not just because consumers are watching every dollar they spend, but it’s also a heavily crowded market, particularly in Australia.

For any start-ups or newly established retail businesses, it might seem like you are faced with an uphill struggle against the industry’s heavy-hitters. But the reality is if you can’t win the game you’re playing or you feel disadvantaged just change the rules – and keep changing them.

If you take the fashion industry, for example, and look at the true leaders, you can’t go past the world’s largest online shoe store, Zappos. Generally speaking, delivery and return costs are what could put online retailers out of business. Zappos broke the rules and ingeniously turned delivery and return costs into its unique selling point and customers followed.

Zappos managed to encourage and make people feel confident to shop online by removing the risks. Free returns separated it from the pack and many other online retailers are following suit.

Here in Australia, Styletread, which based its business on the Zappos customer service model, has become the nation’s largest online shoe retailer.

Styletread, importantly, offers free returns. Like any new retailer or business, it’s difficult to secure the leading brands to represent and sell, so Styletread used this to its advantage and demonstrated how cool the unknown and boutique brands were to consumers. They were able to make the “undiscovered” brand just as popular as the leading brands.

The Australian whitegoods and appliances market is increasingly overcrowded. At the Winning Group, we have based our businesses on a customer service model. Unlike our competitors, our Winning Appliances showroom staff don’t work on commissions, which means that customers can be assured that they will receive unbiased and trusted advise. Thus trust factor is something you cannot replicate, it is earned.

We broke the rules, opting to not follow the commission model, as we simply didn’t believe that its part of offering the best shopping experience possible.

We also offer our suppliers a unique experience where we intend to add value to their brands. We showcase their brands through social media, copy, educational videos and buying guides on Appliances Online, which gives customers confidence about buying a large value item online. Within the Winning Appliances showrooms we also offer each brand the best displays possible. We go to great lengths to show off each brand within our nine showrooms.

How to change the rules and stand out in an overcrowded market:

1. Analyse your competitors and similar industries
2. What didn’t your competitors do well? Fix it?
3. What did they do well? Do it better or change it!
4. Develop your unique offering
5. Test the business model
6. Continue to innovate – you’ve only got so long on the top

John Winning is CEO of Winning Group: Appliances Online,, Winning Appliances, and Handy Crew.


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