20/08/2008 - 22:00

Retail orders grow but service delivers

20/08/2008 - 22:00

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At just two and half years out of school, it would be easy to think Paul Slee, as part of an increasingly wired generation, is the right age to be running an online business.

Retail orders grow but service delivers

At just two and half years out of school, it would be easy to think Paul Slee, as part of an increasingly wired generation, is the right age to be running an online business.

But the young entrepreneur admits he was no computer buff when, with the help of his family, he considered business ideas that might keep him occupied once he finished his secondary education.

In fact, Mr Slee said the internet featured mainly as an ordering system for what is essentially just another retail outlet for groceries, Ezyshop.

Of course, it is also a form of advertising, with early promotion through Google Adwords and, more recently, via email to those who have provided details but not become customers.

"We do emails every week," Mr Slee said. "We have thousands of people signed up. The trick is to get them ordering."

He said people needed to develop a high level of trust before committing to buying, firstly online and then using a home-delivery system. But once they tried it, they were hooked.

The demographic that has emerged as Mr Slee's most common customer is not what he expected. Instead of young city workers, Ezyshoppers tend to be families with several kids, with the purchaser glad of the time and hassle saved by avoiding parking and queues.

They also buy in bulk, tending to plan ahead and shop big - around eight times the typical grocery basket.

This was good for business, Mr Slee said, and allowed him to offer bulk discounts and other incentives to encourage loyalty.

But it's a demographic very wary of internet transactions, and bad publicity, such as the recent online ticketing scam at the Beijing Olympics, tends to put them off.

The Ezyshop managing director would like to see some form of government authorisation that can reassure the user of a site's legitimacy, doesn't spam and manages banking information appropriately.

He'd like some form of stamp on the home page "that means you can trust these people".

Like many entrepreneurial internet start-ups, Ezyshop started life in a garage, with Mr Slee packing and delivering each order, funded by his farm-based parents.

While he is coy about the number of customers Ezyshop has, Mr Slee no longer does it all alone or from a garage, with nine employees working from a Canning Vale warehouse doing the job of picking and delivering the orders that are lodged overnight.

There appears to be only one direct competitor, Grocery Zone, which has been going longer than Ezyshop.

Mr Slee isn't fazed by competition, be it online or traditional.

"It's all about service, you just have to offer the customer good service," he said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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