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FEATURE MAY/JUNE 2014
 
Karl Kahofer speaks with IMP and the WirtschaftsBlatt
 

WEB2GO: ONLINE SALES

MODELS ON THE RISE!

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Karl Kahofer is CEO at Britax Childcare Group Ltd., U.K, the global leader in child safety products. In 2000, the Britax’s success was still based on "traditional" sales and marketing models, in particular: brick-and-mortar trade combined with print and television marketing campaigns. For over 12 years now, however, the company has increasingly placed its focus on "Web2Go".
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Success justifies the decision

Kahofer is certainly convinced of the direction they have taken. The success justifies it. At this point, Britax generates more than half of its revenues through online sales. But in terms of access to customers and markets, Kahofer feels that Britax is not the only one who benefits from web-based marketing and sales models. He is convinced that future growth will depend heavily on whether companies are able to take advantage of opportunities in mobile commerce. To do so will require a complete attitude change regarding existing corporate structures and increased focus on building the brand among consumers.

IMP (Innovative Management Partner) and the WirtschaftsBlatt, a newspaper, took the opportunity to speak with Karl Kahofer on the most important topics in this sector.

WirtschaftsBlatt: Mr. Kahofer, why has the topic "online sales model" only become relevant in the last few years for so many companies? E-Commerce isn’t a new thing. The Internet has been around for a couple of decades now. What was the catalyst for this massive transformation in sales?

Kahofer: That's right. E-Commerce has been around for a while, but not MOBILE commerce. This is a sub-area of traditional E-Commerce that is primarily based on the functionality of smart phones and tablets. At the very latest, once the whole world is using smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices, companies will increasingly focus their efforts on the basics of mobile commerce in order to effectively inform customers of new offers and benefits. New technologies made the Internet mobile and customers are already able to get relevant consumer information themselves, anytime and from anywhere. Add to that the development and establishment of highly professional “all-in-one” platforms like Amazon, where customers have the chance to get INFORMATION, COMMUNICATE and PURCHASE on one site.

Smart phones and tablets changing customer behavior

IMP: So these days, anyone looking to make smart purchasing decisions informs themselves on the Internet, does comparisons, gets some tips from community members and then either buys directly online or goes to a store. What consequences does this "emancipation" of the customer have for business? Was the "traditional" sales force simply not able to keep up with that type of development?

Kahofer: Yes, because brick-and-mortar businesses didn’t provide their salespeople with adequate information and consultation tools. You worked with underpaid, undertrained and frequently-changing personnel who simply didn’t know enough about the products, not to mention manage to offer the best prices given the knowledge they had. That is still the case these days sometimes. In the end, the attitudes in brick-and-mortar business may have even accelerated the development of E-Commerce.

IMP: How did that happen? Were the brick-and-mortar businesses too convinced they were the ONLY path to the customer? Internet sites weakened the powerful position that brick-and-mortar trade once had.

Kahofer: They were definitely convinced of it, and the power structure up to that point also "muddled" the view of certain developments that have now become reality in E-Commerce. In many negotiations as manufacturers, we felt the position of power that brick-and-mortar businesses held and we were increasingly pushed into the role of petitioner in order to even be listed. Then the first Internet platforms began popping up and with them came the first power shifts.

WirtschaftsBlatt: How did Britax manage to keep up with customers in terms of taking advantage of the opportunities that mobile commerce presented?

Kahofer: We had to rethink the ENTIRE organization. We were also pretty much a traditional brick-and-mortar business with sales managers, outside salespeople, store clerks, etc. But suddenly we needed content managers and employees who could "manage" the Amazon site. Everything has to be current, you see. We had to change our entire logistics setup, in particular with regard to packaging. We also had to quickly rethink our trade marketing concept because these days the listings happen EVERY DAY at the same time. At this point we have two Britax employees who actually work at the Amazon offices. Their job is to track Britax products and evaluate their status.

IMP: In addition to the many opportunities that arise from all of the "Amazons" of the world, what did you have to be particularly careful of? What dangers exist for the company in your opinion?

Staying one step ahead of the big players: end user marketing

Kahofer: If you don’t manage your own brand and don’t invest much money in harnessing consumers, you run the risk of being dependent on the big players. All of the advantages can quickly develop into dependency. You have to be very careful here and try to find new paths. To a small degree that is already happening with us with some of those products that people order from our PROPRIETARY web site. That is still a small part of the business because we haven't really yet begun to market that segment. But we know we CAN do it! At least to a very small degree. To do it better we would have to invest more resources, primarily into employees and warehouses. So this is the preliminary stage of going in a direction in which everything is definitely going. And not just for us!

WirtschaftsBlatt: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.
 

 
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IMP talks with Karl Kahofer, CEO of Britax Childcare Group Ltd., UK. At the "Vienna Strategy Days" on May 6, 2014, he will be one of eight featured speakers addressing the subject of growth concepts for the future.

 

 Foto: Karl Kahofer, Britax talks with IMP and WirtschaftsBlatt about Online Sales Models

KARL KAHOFER ON
ONLINE SALES MODELS

For over 12 years now Britax Childcare Group’s policy has been increasingly focused on “Web2Go”.
 

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