In his article ao.com: setting an example in social media strategy, Chris Price states that AO.com (formerly Appliances Online) “knows more than most about the power of social media.” The UK based company was founded in 2000 in by CEO John Roberts. According to the their website, the story goes like this: “Following a drink with a friend, CEO John Roberts bets him a pound that he could change the way white goods [aka household appliances] are purchased via the internet. The AO business is born as DRL Limited.”
Fast forward to 2016: AO.com expands into the Netherlands with the launch of AO.nl, is named Best UK Retailer of the Year 2016 by Verdict Retail, is awarded the Customer Experience Initiative of the Year at the Retail Week Awards 2016, and is ranked #1 in the Retail Week/Glassdoor Top 15 Retails to work for in 2016. And these are just the latest in a string of awards the company has received.
As Andrew Kirkcaldy, who is currently the Group Brand Director at AO.com, admits to Price, “We have to think a little out of the box because white goods aren’t the sexiest of things to create content around.” And at AO.com, thinking out of the box comes to life through an impressive social media strategy that touches virtually all areas of the business.
Customer Engagement and Product Marketing
In 2009, AO.com launched its Facebook page, which went on to become the heart of their social media strategy. The page currently has more than 1.8 million likes from followers who frequently engage with fun content, including a steady stream of contests for free appliances, and snippets from the AO Life blog (recipes, DIY projects, decorating trends, etc.).
In addition to being very active on Facebook, AO.com embraces Twitter and YouTube (where playlists range from product overviews and reviews to crafts for kids). All these channels are fully integrated, sharing content and leveraging likes, shares, hashtags, retweets and mentions to extend their social media reach and gain new followers/potential customers.
Social media is woven into the fabric of employee engagement at AO.com. Videos of corporate initiatives involving employees, like the AO Christmas Cracker Giveaway, are promoted on the company’s social media channels. Employees are also involved in creating social media content – participating in videos that are filmed in-house and contributing ideas for the AO Life blog.
© Yossi Erdman, LinkedIn SlideShare. Retrieved from Ao.com Engaging Social media content to 1.6 million fans on April 4, 2017
The AO.com call centre monitors the Facebook page for customer queries and feedback, and makes a point of responding very quickly. This, in turn, has led to significant improvements in customer service. In Caroline Baldwin’s article How AO.com makes white goods socially exciting, Yossi Erdman describes how Facebook was key to improving the company’s delivery service. (Erdman was Head of Brand and Social Media at AO.com until his recent return to Israel, and played a lead role in developing their social media strategy.)
Customers who had a bad experience with drivers tended to vent their frustrations on Facebook. These complaints were addressed by the call centre, but the drivers themselves (who were not Facebook users) did not see them. So the company created a feedback book containing all the comments, and sent it to drivers’ homes every two weeks.
“Firstly, the wife or partner gets the book and if they see negative feedback, [the driver is] in the dog house and it’s a little embarrassing,” joked Erdman. “But the driver has good visibility [into] what is going on and feedback is a good incentive… the drivers now ask customers to write on Facebook about them… it’s encouraging a really good service.”
The podcast below is an interview with Yossi Erdman that was conducted by Jorgen Sundberg, CEO of Link Humans. They discuss how enterprise social media evolved over time at AO.com, helping the company to become a multiple award winning online retailer in the UK.
Lessons for Others
At AO.com, their social media strategy evolved from posting videos of the appliances they sold on YouTube, to actively engaging customers on Facebook with fun contests and lifestyle content. By integrating their Facebook contests with Twitter, and coordinating content across all their social media channels, AO.com further extends its social reach, gaining followers and growing its customer base.
AO.com also uses Facebook to improve customer service on an ongoing basis, by monitoring comments and responding to queries and customer feedback in a timely manner. Along the way, they identified a specific service issue, i.e. delivery drivers who were sometimes less than courteous. By sharing Facebook feedback (both positive and negative) with those drivers, they were able to rectify the problem AND create a more engaged workforce who were motivated to earn positive comments on Facebook for all to see.
How can your social media strategy evolve to have a positive impact in more areas of your organization? Perhaps you are focused on channels and content geared towards engaging your customers and/or marketing your products. Is there an opportunity to incorporate tactics to drive employee engagement? Or enable customers to influence product development or service offerings? Weaving social media into more aspects of your day to day operations can help to build awareness of your brand and grow your customer base, increase customer satisfaction, drive product/service innovation, improve employee engagement and productivity, and more.
Industry: Online Retail (appliances)
Name of Organization Contact: Lyndsey Evans (media contact)
Authored by: Anna Borenstein
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
Brynley-Jones. L. (2015 ). 3 great examples of integrated social media strategies. Retrieved from http://oursocialtimes.com/3-great-examples-of-integrated-social-media-strategies/
Price, C. (2014). ao.com: setting an example in social media strategy. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/technology/4g-mobile/news/11150963/social-media-strategy-example-white-goods-market.html
Sundberg. J. (2016). How AO Uses Social Media to Sell Appliances Online, with Yossi Erdman. Retrieved from http://linkhumans.com/podcast/yossi-erdman-ao
Wiggenraad, P. (2016). Ao.com improves availability through new supply chain technology. Retrieved from https://www.retail-week.com/sectors/electricals/aocom-improves-availability-through-new-supply-chain-technology/7004357.article
Baldwin, C. (2016). How AO.com makes white goods socially exciting. Retrieved from http://www.essentialretail.com/ecommerce/article/573ec73ee4d7b-how-aocom-makes-white-goods-socially-exciting