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Talking Point: Inside R.A.B. Hobbies’ Big Online Pivot

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By Published On: August 5, 20200 Comments

The recent Stage Four restrictions have wreaked havoc for thousands of retailers across Victoria. We spoke with Renato Benci, the Founder and Managing Director of R.A.B Hobbies, to discuss the big pivot he made to online and the future of retail in Victoria.

Can you please take us through the history of your online retail business? What was your inspiration for getting into the space, and how has the business evolved?

R.A.B Hobbies has been in operation for approximately 31 years, and online for the last 15+ years, slowly evolving to what it is today. Originally, the idea of online sales was a very foreign and complicated, but an exciting challenge, as at that stage the hobby was seeing a rise in online sales evolving in the US market, and to be viable we needed to be as proactive as possible. All challenges accepted.

How would you describe your retail business model? What key features differentiate your offering?

The model I operate on still encompasses the old values of customer service as one of knowledge and drop-in repair business as well. This does not take away the online portion, which makes up for 50 percent of sales. The online portion is self-propelling with all details of the products online, include showing live quantities (this is crucial) constantly updating at a keystroke. Included with the online presence, we have multiple platforms of contact available. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and now via invite, Zoom for visual customer contact for the more testing queries when they present themselves.

How has Stage Four changed the way you are currently doing business right now?

Right now, I am preparing for a completely online business experience. Complete setup and via the apps mentioned as well as SMS (a PC app is already in place), phone and e-mail. With this, we offer Click & Collect if requested, without going outside of the Government mandated guidelines. Freight out for any order will still be available with most orders leaving the same day. The next six weeks will be trying and we will adapt as required.

via RAB Hobbies

Retail has dramatically changed in these uncertain times. As the industry adapts and changes, what have you learned along the way?

Patience is a blessing, as we can only provide the best service to our customers when all other factors involved fall into place. Our suppliers are in the same position with supply from their overseas manufacturers. Good communication is the best tool. We have learned this a long time ago from our own mistakes and will always make sure that this is never overlooked.

Many retailers are pivoting to online as stores close for the next six weeks. Do you expect more retailers to stick to e-commerce after the restrictions have lifted?

Yes, that is a given as without an online presence, the traditional walk-in bricks and mortar stores will not survive. This has been proven over and over. This is not to say that traditional retail does not have a place, as in my instance, but the online portion does elevate the status of the business. Much can be said for a well designed and intuitive web page for even the most limited business models.

In recent months, Australian retailers have become more popular as borders close and supply chains become strained. Have you noticed any changes in your customer behaviour since the lockdown began?

We have seen a definite increase in online and in-person contact sales, but with a definite strain in supply. For every six possible sales, we have only been able to fulfil four. Australian customers have been looking locally more than international for products and services, as the supply chains become more strained. We do not expect this to change back to international-only supply for customers, but the growth nationally will be dictated by the ability of local suppliers being able to fulfil the demand from stores within Australia.

Are there any exciting development coming our way from your brand?

Yes, as the days, weeks and months pass. I’ll be growing the brands I hold the rights to for the Australian market, and some new projects. These and more ideas are in the business pipeline for implementation in the coming months.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yes. As a general request. Support local as much as possible. We are the first point of contact, not just for sales of products but also knowledge. This last part is priceless.

Introducing Talking Point, an exciting new series from Power Retail. Each month, we will cover a specific topic relevant to e-commerce. This month, we are showcasing and celebrating #Australian retailers. Watch out for this logo every month as we dive into new topics and investigate what it means to be an online retailer in Australia.

Power Retail is dedicated to providing critical and live e-commerce retailer benchmarking data and shopper insights for the online retail industry. Click here to find out more about Power Retail E-Commerce Intelligence or here to sign-up for the free weekly Pulse Newsletter for more essential online retail content.

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