What happens when you take Simon Barton, the creator of Gameplanet, add a dash of Dylan Bland, the co-creator of Zillion and throw books, DVDs and toys into the mix? You end up with a monkey of a website.
I've always been a big fan of Simon and Dylan's take on online auctions with Zillion. Instead of throwing together a TradeMe clone (as every other site was trying, and failing to), they sat down and worked on improving the auction process, streamlining many of the otherwise mundane tasks sellers were having to do to complete sales. It was interesting to see the incumbent TradeMe implement features that Zillion already had; Zillion had changed from being the followers, to the followed.
Their success online has continued with MightyApe, an online store that sells just about anything your heart desires - books, DVDs, CDs, and other geek electronics.
The site is easy to use, beautifully designed, and from the buzz on Twitter, their delivery processes work like a well-oiled machine. It was only a matter of time before they branched out into other countries, and last Friday they touched down in Australia.
I got in touch with Che Kamariera, the Marketing Gorilla at Mighty Ape and after bribing him with a few bananas, he answered my questions below.
When did you decide to go into Australia, and how will the site differ there?
We've been planning to launch in Australia since the beginning of the year. We offer our customers in NZ a world-class service and we want our Australian customers to have that same experience. The site is very much the same except with Australian branding. The main differences will be the Australian pricing obviously and the product categories currently differ a little - we do not currently offer toys, computers, or electronics in Australia at this stage.
What does Mighty Ape bring to the marketplace, over and above the incumbents?
This may sound cliche but we listen to our customers. Many of our customers like to communicate with us (or about us) on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. We have embraced social networking because of this. We conversate with our customers online and listen to what they are saying about us and our competitors. It provides us with valuable information, and also makes them feel appreciated. We had a one day sale recently called the Mighty Ape Marathon which evolved from a suggestion from one of our Twitter followers.
We also really pride ourselves on our customer service. We deliver on our promises, ie. if we say we are going to do something for our customers, we do it. Like I said these may sound cliche, but they are marketing basics that we feel are often overlooked.
Does the Australian market differ from NZ, and how will you overcome these challenges?
Kiwis have a lot in common with Australians, but we also have our own unique quirks too. Australian tastes will differ in some ways and I imagine we'll notice a bit of that in our DVD and music categories. For example Australia is very rock music oriented, genres such as hip hop and R&B that perform well in NZ aren't as prominent in Australia. And imagine trying to explain Billy T. James's humour to an Australian. Overcoming these challenges is a matter of anticipating and recognising the unique quirks and cultural differences between the two markets. Listening to feedback from our customers will help in this area. In fact we've already had someone comment on Twitter about Kiwi content on the new Australian store. We also have a staff member based in Australia who will help us to ensure that we are catering to Australian consumer tastes.
Does MA have a presence in Australia, or will everything be shipped from NZ?
We have a small office in Australia with one staff member who will look after returns and after-hour calls. All the orders from Mighty Ape Australia will be shipped from NZ. Australian customers will pay a flat-rate of $4.90 (AUD) for shipping anywhere in the country and our shipping times will be comparable to our Australian based competitors. Believe it or not, it is often faster to ship from NZ to Australia than to ship within Australia. We will open a distribution centre in Australia when we can be sure that we can provide faster shipping to our Australian customers than we currently do.
Any plans for launching in other countries?
At present there are no immediate plans to launch stores outside of New Zealand and Australia. If and when the time is right we would love to expand the business further.
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