Online Is It

Mwave

The company has taken 15th spot in the ‘BRW Fast 100’ organised by BDO (an accounting and advisory network in Australia and globally) and featured in three of the last four years in the ‘Fast 50,’ a “who’s who of Australia’s 50 smartest IT resellers” listed by CRN Australia, a leading magazine in IT industry.

Mwave.com.au is an online computer and electronics store which aims to provide a one-stop shopping convenience that combines the features and benefits of both your local IT shop and the traditional brick-and-mortar retailer through a smart full-scaled operation. It is now one of the largest such operations in the country, having sky-rocketed from its start-up in 2006 at a startling average 60 per cent per year growth. According to its founder and owner Victor Lee, the platform developed for Mwave’s operation online has been developed very carefully and with a view to its expandability to cope with neighbouring territories such as New Zealand and the various ASEAN markets.

“It’s possible we could be in there within weeks,” he told us shortly after a hectic Australia Day weekend (when bad weather kept more people than usual indoors and looking for something to do online). “The platform is ready.” His team is looking at fine-tuning, checking out what is most suitable for individual markets, what would be ‘just right,’ and selecting the most appropriate categories and industrial segments to offer to consumers.

Mwave has no physical storefront outlets but it does deal with consumers at its Sydney headquarters where it is possible to visit a showroom and speak with a customer service representative in person. For everyone not within reach of Sydney’s Lidcombe district, there is an online chat service for customers to find out more about their desired product before they buy. The product range is vast and Victor says the operation has a mix of distribution methods – a large stock in Lidcombe of the more popular lines, backed up by good communications with brand owners and distributors who can dispatch lower-demand items direct from their own stocks. Online shoppers can see at a glance if a product is ‘in stock at Mwave’ (meaning the company can perform instant dispatch), or ‘in stock at our supplier’ (which could take up to three business days to dispatch).

IT is a business sector that lends itself rather well to online retailing, says Victor, not least because of the nature of the product and the sort of information that people need to inform themselves and search online before making their purchase decision. The online experience can also provide better information on availability and true market price and that can generate consumer demand for “instant shopping” – once the decision is made, there is no frustrating wait to get to the shopping centre and look around for the product on shelves. Generally, the product selection from purely online retailers should be advanced over any brick-and-mortar based business, although they may have some unique arrangements on certain popular products.

Although the bulk of Mwave’s business is with the consumer, the company also enjoys a flourishing business-to-business relationship with SMB, Corporate, Education / Health and Government. On top of that, the company offers a custom-build facility for PCs in a number of categories – home, office, media centre, gaming, etc. Having the PC Build Team testing the computer “drastically reduces the risk of defects and compatibility issues, while lowering return rates and DOA products. Also our Custom Build PC / Computer System is extremely convenient for users who need a custom system configuration to help them pick all the parts.”

Margins and cost of inventory are key drivers in the profit equation of online retailers and Victor says Mwave is no exception, although its very carefully built system can help the company to determine what it should have in its warehouse and keep stock turning at optimum speed. “The system gives us a good indication and helps us to manage stock and ordering.” In effect, the company is making intelligent use of IT to sell IT. Its software platform was developed entirely in-house and Mwave itself controls all aspects of its own operation. “We can add or modify at any time,” says Victor. The basic infrastructure was designed to be able to support the operation for quite a few years even at the company’s speed of expansion, “but to be more flexible so as to be able to add different functions as we want,” he explains.

“We believe we are in a very good position now in this industry. We see more of our competitors trying to copy what we are doing. We are rather a benchmark in e-commerce and the IT industry. We also understand that the key to success for a retail business is customer satisfaction.”

Mwave is a digital model without the traditional face-to-face relationship with customers, so the company has paid considerable attention to how to utilise advanced database management and digital technology to demonstrate the strength of its know-how and provide the transparency and convenience factor of online shopping whilst delivering the satisfaction that today’s ever more sophisticated shopper seeks. Victor says that has to be backed up by an efficient logistics operation – after all, it is not much use giving superior online service if the customer doesn’t get to play with his or her purchase pretty soon after ordering. Fast pack and dispatch is no small matter – many other online operations, says Victor, fail to follow up on good ordering procedures and waste time in shipping that is noticed and not appreciated by the customer who may not value the online experience so highly as a result. “Department stores, for example, have experience and buying power but they may still need to gain the knowledge of the online process or logistics.”

With its growth pattern, it is hardly surprising that most manufacturers (importers and brand owners) are happy to talk to Mwave and keep the team abreast of upcoming developments on the product front that will enable the company to offer new developments immediately when they are released. Victor admits, however, that relations with certain brands are not yet perfect as there are a few household names that appear to be trying to protect their traditional distribution channels by electing not to utilise online channels. This kind of current protection would only encourage or force people to sell offshore stock in Australia, although Mwave.com.au only sells products that are 100 per cent from Australia stock.

From the perspective of the brand owners, Australia is a relatively small market. Because of this the relationship between the brands and the national retailing chains has been somewhat cosy and that relationship could be impacted by the arrival of new ideas such as online shopping. “To me, that is understandable but it also conservative thinking,” says Victor. The retailing landscape in the US and UK, for example, has been radically altered by developments but Victor says, “I am not sure if this will happen in Australia due to its [market] size and because consumer behaviour, though getting better, is still not as advanced or with as good an understanding as in other developed countries. As that gets better, more accepting of shopping online, the online communities will be well supported by the brands and the difference in scenarios between the markets will change greatly.”

Victor acknowledges that Mwave is currently not strong (relatively) in every single product category. But he disagrees that the company would not be able to offer any advantage in that cutthroat price-driven sector, pointing out that Mwave offers the sort of top level customer service and advice, as well as technical support, which many other online retail options do not. Many online stores have attractive websites, he adds, but not all have a fully functional and efficient back end. “If it doesn’t, it will not go too far.”

Mwave, on the other hand, is more likely to keep on moving – not only into new territories but sooner or later, says Victor, into other business sectors as well. Online, he assures, truly is a major part of future retailing.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

October 19, 2018, 6:24 AM AEDT