Equus England is an online niche-based retailer of equestrian products. The website was registered on 10th December 2012 and they commenced trading in January 2013. The company is consumer-centric stating on their website they are, ‘by riders, for riders' (Equus, 2012). They have outsourced online marketing to ensure maximum efficacy from their email and marketing campaigns. This outsourcing of online marketing ensures Equus can ‘focus on strengthening [their] core competencies that add value to the business, its customer and shareholders.' (Kid and Yazdanifard, 2015).
Six months before their launch, Equus, set up a Facebook and Twitter page, which managed to acquire almost 18,000 followers, which was a helpful platform to commence trading (Shopify, No Date). Since then, Equus has amassed over 60,500 likes and followers on Facebook alone. According to the CEO, ‘Our social media channels allow us to keep in touch with our customers in ways we never imagined before we launched!' (Horton, No Date). This is clearly evidenced on their Facebook page as they reply to consumer's posts of their products and service. ‘Organizations have to take advantage of the two-way communication to respond and communicate with consumers' (Oyza and Edwin, 2015). From researching their Facebook page, they have added their office phone number, e-mail address, website link as well as a link to their Instagram. This ensures that people who are not familiar with the brand can see that it is a legitimate brand. It also has direct links to the ‘team members' personal Facebook profiles which also increases the authenticity of the page. ‘One of the best ways to prove to consumers that your brand has real humans behind it is to reveal the humans that work behind the brand.' (Barker, 2018). The only thing which devalues the Facebook page is that it is not verified which would be easily corrected.
Using Facebook and Twitter allows Equus to receive insights into how consumers are interacting with their content, which is essential to refine the content they are posting. Insights are used ‘to measure the effectiveness of promotional campaigns, gather insights about customer needs and preferences' (Ruhi, 2014). Social media is also an important platform to promote their products free of charge with the option to pay for content to reach more people through paid ads and target consumers based on their interests and the pages they like or follow. Facebook is also useful to get people who are interested in the page to follow product links to the website which allows Equus to take advantage of ReTargeting. This involves the consumer accepting cookies from the site and allow Equus to track their activity on the internet to get a better view of what their consumers are searching for and target their advertising accordingly. It has been found that dynamic ReTargeting increases the return-on-investment (ROI) up to 62.33 times the investment (Johansson and Wengberg, 2017).
They use search engine optimisation (SEO) in an effort to gain organic growth. They do this by selecting keywords to search for which is relevant to their website. SEO is believed to be, ‘an essential part of the process of delivering the right content to the right people. SEO helps the audience to find online businesses' (Ištvanić, Milić and Kripić, 2017). However, it is mentioned that, ‘You have to be careful with how you structure your campaigns to make sure you're investing in the right keywords. We've spent a lot of time trying to get that right.' (Horton, No Date). Equus have utilised SEO by optimising their website using the appropriate Keywords, Meta descriptions, title tags and headers. Smartphones are becoming more advanced compared with older mobile devices which, could only understand a simplified version of Wireless Mark-up Language (Schubert, 2016). Although they clearly appreciate the role that SEO plays, they are not using it effectively enough as when searching for ‘equestrian clothing retailer' they appear seventh on the Google results. This could be improved by refining their keywords in accordance with Google's crawling algorithm. Many features such as better use of ALT tags would help to improve their SEO as they have only used them on one picture of the nine that are on the home page.
An opportunity for Equus moving forward would be to invest in a native mobile app. ‘More than 70 percent of the world population will own a smartphone by 2020. And they'll spend more than 80 percent of their on-phone time using task-specific apps.' (Shankar and Narang, 2017). Currently, Equus does not offer a native mobile app in either the app store or google play store. However, this is not uncommon for the equestrian retailing market. After extensive searching on the Apple iOS App Store and the Google Play store, none of the market leaders have a specific mobile app available. This may be considered to be an opportunity for Equus to be at the forefront of this technology and create a USP. A major advantage of having a native mobile app is that it has led to an increase in impulse purchases which is something Equus may be able to take advantage of. ‘Because mobile products are social, it is more likely to produce impulsive buying. The mobile e-commerce is more prone to impulse buying.' (Zhichao and Zhouwei, 2017).
Online communities offer businesses a good form of communication with their consumers and other like-minded people. For Equus, there are a lot of online equestrian communities not just on social media but also on various specific websites such as Horse & Hound Forums. These provide Equus with a vast amount of primary information as to the common problems consumers face and the frequently asked questions. Forums focus on discussions among members regarding questions, opinions, news, and photos (Tuten and Solomon, 2018). When there is input from Equus on social media communities, it is quickly buried beneath other popular posts and so is not always very effective. On the other hand, a branded online community would be an initial investment and small maintenance cost. It can be easily monitored and more specific to acquire the information that the management team at Equus are seeking. They do this by increasing consumer feedback as well as consumer driven innovation and insights (Davidson, 2018). Although Equus do publish a blog, there is almost no consumer interaction and appears as a source of information, not a community.
• Strong social media presence
• Next day delivery Weaknesses
• ALT tags for SEO
• Online only
• Native mobile retail app
• Online communities Threats
• Online security
A key strength for Equus is their use of social media, where they successfully advertise and sell their products. Equally, they offer next day delivery which in the equestrian world is rare as it is normally a minimum of 3-5 working days. However, as with many purchases, they are a necessity and therefore the product may be required the next day. Equus differentiate themselves on this point as not many other equestrian retailers offer it. Considering their strengths, an opportunity for Equus, is a native mobile app, as no other equestrian retailer has one. This will allow their consumers to order the products easily while they are working with their horses. They could further differentiate themselves by including a forum for consumers to interact.
A weakness is the ALT tags for SEO as being seventh on the google results could mean potential consumers don't see their website first and may be less likely to purchase there. New laws surrounding GDPR are a potential threat to Equus. They may significantly impact their CRM due to it now being simpler for consumers to unsubscribe to e-mails. This reduces the chances of one-off purchasers becoming long-term clients as they may not remember the brand. Equus must also be aware that due to being an online-only retailer, consumers may be indecisive about product sizing. They do not offer returns on riding hats or body protectors. However, it is unlikely that many consumers have enough brand loyalty to go to a different store to try these products for size then order them later.
Equus may benefit from differentiating by placing more emphasis on their community providing service. Providing this service would improve their direct link with consumers which will, in turn, improve brand loyalty and make them aware of ‘any change in customer needs [which] has a direct impact on product innovation pipelines.' (Gebauer, Gustafsson and Witell, 2011).
Recommendations of Business Models
• Content provider to provide up-to-date news on equestrian sport and a YouTube channel for tutorials. As can be seen from Figure 1 and Figure 2, YouTube has the second largest number of active accounts on social media and so this would increase their reach and authenticity as a brand.
• Vertical Portal model to offer forum space as this would allow Equus to further diversify their portfolio into services. It would also allow them to monetize that service in the form of subscriptions for access.
• Finally, the last recommendation would be the potential of a transaction broker. This would be in the form of early release tickets to equestrian events. This would be a further opportunity to offer a service for their consumers and improve their relations with event organisers within their industry.
In conclusion, Equus is an e-tailer, which means that ‘customers only have to connect to the Internet or use their smartphone to place an order' (Laudon K and Traver C, 2014, pg. 73). For Equus, this business model has low barriers to entry. However, competition is strong. If they consider the recommendations and the other opportunities discussed, they will be able to differentiate themselves and stay ahead of the market.
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