Ecommerce retailer Container Door earned an award for ‘Hottest ecommerce concept’ at the Gem Retail Hotlist. Here’s more on how they’re innovating.
Container Door has welcomed a new way of doing business, or as the owner and founder Ben Nathan says, has ‘gutted and filleted’ the traditional retail model.
With Container Door, items are listed on the website for purchase and once enough people buy them, the minimum quantity requirements for buying from a manufacturer are met, and the container is filled, ready to ship.
“By connecting customers directly with deals that we have sourced from the actual
manufacturer we have cut out layers of needless expense that is usually passed on to them,” explains Nathan. “It’s a real win-win, because we are not left with overheads like retail stores, stock holdings
and mark-downs, and customers benefit from the resulting super-slim margins.”
Despite customers having to pay in advance and then wait for their purchase to be manufactured and shipped, he finds that almost everyone is prepared to wait if the savings are big enough.
“We test all our deal offers in a real-world situation – customers either want to pre-pay for it, or they don’t – and we are often surprised by what fires customers’ imaginations and what doesn’t.”
New categories of products often come from customer requests, such as the American-style low-and-slow BBQs, and the large aluminium pergolas with adjustable louvres. Again, the process is customer-driven, with customers asked where they feel they’re currently paying too much and Container Door then seeking the viable purchasing options.
Maintaining a visible presence online is essential, and contributing to Container Door’s success is its marketing videos starring Nathan himself.
“People seem to respond to my enthusiasm and – I hope – my honesty,” says Nathan. “I won’t bullshit people and I won’t offer up something I wouldn’t buy myself.”
Even with the ecommerce model, and the entertaining videos, there’s still no doubt customers sometimes want to see and touch products and try before they buy, he says. The Container Door showroom offers this opportunity to customers, which can be especially helpful when they’re buying a big ticket item like furniture that’s going to live in their lounge for the next 10 years.
Low prices means people are often prepared to take a punt on their purchase, and expectations are relatively low, Nathan says. For example, customers ponder the velvet couch for $699 – how good will it even be? Oh well, at least it’s cheap – and then when it turns up and it’s amazing quality, they’re blown away, he says.
“That part of our business has given us a high degree of loyalty and repeat purchasing. Once
people have their first great experience with us they’re super-enthusiastic.”
The delay customers experience in getting their order delivered has also worked in Container Door’s favour, says Nathan.
“Customers get a buzz when they first buy, and then almost get a surprise when it turns up three months later. Lots of customers tell us it’s like they’ve received an awesome gift.”
When customers share their purchases with friends it initiates a whole second wave of customers buying the same item, building momentum. For this reason, Container Door repeats a lot of its deals to take advantage of the word of mouth effect.
While exceeding customers’ expectations as a growth model has been amazing, those
results take time concedes Nathan. To short-cut that, the showroom has recently opened, and the reaction has been fantastic.
“People can’t believe how good the quality is, and are stoked to realise that we don’t sell cheap crap.”
There’s the need to constantly evolve even if your business model is unique, and Nathan says the next step is bringing in some equity funding to help propel the business growth.
“We’re looking at a lot of very interesting opportunities both in New Zealand and overseas… and that’s all I can say for now!”
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 764 October/November 2019.