Can online retailing work for a franchise? John O’Brien, Poolwerx

By Sarah Stowe | 29 Oct 2015 View comments

Poolwerx founder and ceo, John O'Brien, believes bricks and mortar stores are the biggest asset the franchise business has in its approach to online trading.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many franchisors are struggling with how best to handle the rapid rise of online retailing. The accepted e-commerce business model just does not fit neatly with franchise retailing. There are too many barriers: consistency, delivery and profit margin, to name a few.

Matters are complicated further when it comes to ensuring franchisees get a fair slice of the online pie, and competing with other online retailers without undercutting prices in your own physical stores.


Too hard to manage?


Issues like these cause online retailing to end up in the too-hard basket for many franchisors, at their own peril: new research predicts Australians will be spending more than $21.7 billion online by 2015.

It was with all this in mind that we sat down in mid 2010 and began devising a concept for our e-store. It was a hugely beneficial process where we, the executive team at PoolWerx, learnt a hell of a lot about our business and the realities and myths of trading online.




One of the prevailing myths about e-retail is that price is the only factor. In reality, convenience and reliability are just as important when it come to web-based purchasing.

We also quickly came to understand the vital role of our suppliers in the e-store development process. We engaged our key supply partners from the outset to help us create smart and sustainable trading policies for the web.

Then there were our franchise partners.

We didn’t realise at first, but our bricks and mortar stores actually turned out to be the biggest asset we had in our approach to online.

When a purchase is made through our e-store, that order is relayed to the closest PoolWerx retail hub and it is that franchise partner who delivers and installs the products. This not only helps to mitigate freight expenses, it makes money for the franchise partners and provides a great opportunity for them to meet new clients in their area.


Your digital brand


Finally, the beauty of online is an ability to adapt. If something isn’t perfect with your online platform you can react and tweak the system as you go. But ensure you iron out any bugs quickly because your e-store is one of the strongest representations of your brand in the digital space.

Most of all, know that online can work with franchising if you’re willing to invest the proper time and effort. Given the current shift in customer spending habits, you probably can’t afford not to at least examine the feasibility of taking your business online and you might be surprised by the results.