Buy It Direct: Five reasons to be cheerful about 2017

1. Black Friday bonanza

Black Friday 2017 was a record-breaking day for the UK e-tailer. “Looking at traffic to the Appliances Direct website and comparing Black Friday to a normal day, we saw a 600% increase in visits and on Cyber Monday a 400% increase,” says Kelly. “Laptops Direct also exceeded our expectations with visits on Black Friday up over 800% compared to a normal day and on Cyber Monday up over 300%.”

“The Boxing Day and January sales are still massive peaks for us. If it has changed purchasing habits, this is not something that has jumped out in our sales data but if more customers migrate from the High Street to online and are willing to hunt for bargains then that will only help us,” he adds.

2. Prepping for peak

The company says that it leaves nothing to chance, bringing together the heads of all departments, modelling out customer and sales volumes and putting actions in place to deal with the capacity it will experience.

“So far, every Black Friday has run relatively smoothly for us,” Kelly states. “We’ve always managed to fulfil our customer orders in a timely manner, our logistics operation has coped with the extra pressure on the key peak days, our IT infrastructure has never faltered with the huge increases in traffic and our contact centre has dealt with the increase in call volumes.”

“As an agile e-tailer we’re more used to dealing with situations like this whereas the larger retail brands wouldn’t be able to respond as well to this kind of anomaly. With Black Friday now starting to spread over a two-week period, this certainly helps our logistics operation versus a few years ago where it was just Friday to Monday.”

3. Thumbs up from Which? 

In 2017, the company moved up to position six in the Which? Best Online Store survey of 10,000 shoppers. “We see this as one of our greatest achievements, to get that level of recognition from our customers and to have it published in Which? means a lot to everyone here.”

Kelly continues: “We have continued to add to our already extensive range of products, expanded our payment options and worked really hard on our delivery proposition, improving everything from the options available to cut off times. In addition, improving every element of the customer experience from better communication to making it easier for customers to contact us about any queries they might have – before or after purchase. It’s great to see that all our hard work has paid off.”

4. Weathering an electricals storm

The electricals sector suffered its first negative year-on-year growth (-5.6%) for the month of September since IMRG started tracking it in 2003. It also marked the sixth consecutive month of negative growth, with IMRG flagging up the impact of inflation felt more notably than some other sectors due to the relatively high cost of products.

“We haven’t experienced the drop in sales reported but it would be remiss of us to not consider it. We’ve weathered the previous recession in 2008 and although we sell high-price products, ultimately a lot of the items are necessities (if a washer breaks you still need a new one),” says Kelly.

The uncertainty of Brexit is likely to impact consumer confidence, but the e-tailer argues that when people feel the pinch they hunt more for bargains and are more likely to come across its websites and try something new, rather than settling for what’s on offer from the larger players.

“We certainly don’t think that our growth is going to stop in the next three years and we’re still full steam ahead with all our plans to improve our business and proposition. We’re looking forward to the challenges that might arise and we know that we’ll be in a great position to tackle any difficulties the market may face.”

5. Ramping up technology spend

Buy It Direct has this year invested heavily in warehousing and its IT infrastructure. It completed a migration of all its websites onto a new in-house platform and also moved to a new 120,000 sq ft warehouse, which created 100 new roles in logistics, digital and customer services.

Mobile, meanwhile, is a vital part of the customer journey and an area which will see increasing investment next year. “We’re still seeing mobile growing more than desktop and tablet with tablet slowing down a lot more now that mobile devices are getting bigger,” says Kelly. “We have functional mobile websites but there’s a lot more we can do with them and improving the mobile experience for our customers is at the top of our list for next year. We’ll be living and breathing the customer journey more and looking for new features we can use to enhance their experience. We want to make sure they have the best journey possible regardless of how they want to view our websites.”