Interview & Podcast: Sharing Key to eSpare’s Growth

Discussion
Apr 08, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Listen to an in-depth interview with Matthew Henton, Marketing Director, eSpares.
See the RetailWire Podcast below.

By George Anderson

There’s hope for the mechanically challenged among us who until now have been
resigned to paying repair shops to fix our broken appliances. ESpares, a website
that sells spare parts for home and garden products to consumers around the
globe, and its handier customers have teamed up to show us how to fix pretty
much anything.

Matthew Henton, marketing director at eSpares, told RetailWire, “The
vast majority of what we sell kinda clicks or snaps into place or the most
advanced equipment you need is a screwdriver. So people are finding it easy
to fix it themselves.”

The U.K.-based company has seen its business grow steadily since it launched
in 2004.

“There certainly seems to have been in the last couple of years a real
appetite for fixing it yourself among consumers. The economic conditions obviously
play a part in that,” said Mr. Henton. “People looking at tightening
household budgets, looking at holding onto an appliance for an extra few years
whereas they might have replaced it and fitting spare parts themselves. And,
yeah, people just looking at callout fees from service firms and thinking ‘well,
could I do that myself if I got the right part?'”

Among the keys to eSpares’ success have been product reviews from customers.

“We went into this with a little bit of apprehension as to whether we
would actually just have utter silence from our customers and nobody would
be interested in reviewing. But what we got was quite a shock to us really
… We got people just sharing their experiences and their tips. And their
advice for other people on the best ways to fit these spare parts. So what
tools you’ll need, how long it’ll take you, things you need to be careful of
and make sure you hold onto the screw at the back otherwise it’ll fall down
into the machine. And we just sort of started to develop this enormous wealth
of knowledge coming back from our customers that we could have never of imagined
creating ourselves,” said
Mr. Henton.

Calling the response from customers “transformational,” Mr.
Henton said eSpares realized, “We need to harness this as much as we can
because if we are going to grow the business we need to give more customers
more confidence to take on fix-it tasks themselves.”

A logical next step was social media.

“Twitter is something we’ve found incredibly useful,” Mr. Henton
told RetailWire. “It’s
allowed us to talk to people who aren’t yet customers and let them know they
can buy spare parts, so we are able to look out for people who are just tweeting
saying, “The washing machine has broken.” We’ve been quite proactive
going out and finding people who we think might potentially be customers. But
equally we’ve seen people who are customers sharing their experiences on Twitter
and that seems to be a real buzz around what we are doing there.”

Video is another point of emphasis.

“We want to be there and show people in most cases, these repair tasks
are much simpler than you think. So big focus on video; we are adding more
product areas,” said Mr. Henton. “If
we can encourage our users to create the video content themselves and we’ll
host that within the site then that expands the capacity with which we can
increase the number of videos that we have.”

Discussion Questions: Are there lessons in customer engagement that
other retailers can take from the eSpares’ experience? What does the eSpares
example say about how consumer education can influence retail performance?
[Editor’s Note] ESpares’ success has not gone unnoticed. The company
is a finalist in the “Etailer of the Year” category in the 2010 Oracle
World Retail Awards. The winner will be announced on April 22 in Berlin, Germany.
Other finalists include Argos.com, Hsn.com, Marksandspencer.com, Ocado.com and
Walmart.com.

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4 Comments on "Interview & Podcast: Sharing Key to eSpare’s Growth"


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Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 29 days ago

This business is built on customer engagement. If you can execute well in that area, then customers will eventually flock to your brand. eSpare sounds like a great idea. I know I’m always looking up ways to fix stuff myself at home. But I wonder why they never show up in Google searches. Honestly, this is the first time I have heard of this site and I do a lot of checking for do it yourself projects and how-tos.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 29 days ago

Another really good idea! Consumer engagement can quickly become a huge community of support. When need and opportunity are aligned, good business happens. As Doron described, many of us spend hours searching for replacement pieces and parts, as manufacturers have backed away from the business. Finding these things online can be an exercise in frustration. eSpare sounds like a tremendous step in the right direction. If well done, it could lead to many other opportunities.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
11 years 29 days ago

Great concept! I’m not aware of anything like it in the U.S. They’ve basically taken a hardware store idea and, mainly through utilizing various types of social media, made it a hardware community that is in many ways user-driven. Their website also has a nice clean feel to it and is easy to use.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 29 days ago

Got a new Cuisinart blender (the most powerful one – hoo hoo hoo!) and promptly busted the blade. Stripped the threads and tore that sucker right off the hub. Wouldn’t cut through a hard-frozen pint of vanilla bean Hagen-Dazs en route to a chocolate malt. Checked in with eSpares, but they carry no parts for any Cuisinart. Or Kitchenaid. Or Oster, Hamilton Beach, or Waring, For blenders, they carry parts for Bosch, Braun, Kenwood, Philips, Siemens, and Tefal. You know, all the top brands in blenders. Had to order my replacement blade directly from the manufacturer.

I’m a DIY guy and solidly supportive of the eSpares business plan. They’re obviously a European business and the prices I saw were in Pounds Sterling. I’ll check back with them periodically as I need parts for other stuff I break, and I’m hoping they expand their inventory to include top U.S. brands. Their engagement of this customer left a lot to be desired.

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