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AO tests new co-browsing online technology

Consumer electronics e-tailer AO has announced the first implementation of technology sourced from its recent Innovation Lab.

Using the capabilities of Surfly – one of the successful businesses to make their way through the accelerator programme – AO will now have a new way of supporting its customer’s online experience, via co-browsing.

Amsterdam-based Surfly’s technology enables consumers to share their browser in real-time, which – for example – might allow a customer service agent at AO to more clearly talk a shopper through a sales process or video demonstration.

AO said that such a system will simplify customers' online journeys, and it promised the software will securely protect personal information and financial details.

David Lawson, managing director at AO.com, commented: “Surfly will make it much easier and faster for customers to navigate around our website to find the right products for them.”

AO teamed up with innovation group, L Marks, to run this year’s Innovation Lab. Some 200 applications were received, and 15 tech start-ups were shortlisted and invited to pitch their ideas about how to make online shopping easier and faster for consumers.

The retailer has confirmed it will be starting partnerships with another three international businesses from Europe and America, based on the presentations made on pitch day.

Nichola Piël, who founded Surfly in 2012, remarked: “The pitch day at AO was an incredible experience and we’re thrilled to have been selected to partner with AO.”

AO released its interim results for the six months to 30 September today (19 November), which showed group operating losses of £10.6 million. This matched the loss reported for the same period last year, although CEO John Roberts said there were “encouraging green shoots of profitable growth across our UK business”.

Total group revenue for the period was up by 16.3% to £470.1 million, although when excluding revenues from the recently created AO Mobile unit sales were up by 3.2% on a like-for-like basis.

UK revenue was up by 20.3% to £402.7 million, while European revenue declined by 3.4% to €75.7 million (£64.7 million) as the business re-aligned its operating model in line with its UK policy.

With losses growing in Europe, AO has made the decision to focus its resources on the German market and it said it will be closing its operations in the Netherlands during the second half of the financial year. The closure is expected to cost around £3 million, off the back of this part of the business making an adjusted EBITDA loss of £2.8 million in the first half.

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