A self-confessed “geek”, Malaysian-born Wai Hong Fong has taken his love for gadgets and technology and built a niche market focused, online retail business.
Fong started the OzHut online stores in 2008 – along with his uncle and business partner Tiew King Ting – fresh from completing his BA degree in media and communications.
The home-based, two-man operation started with an initial $30,000 outlay. This quickly grew to a business that now employs 17 full-time staff and had $2.6 million revenue last financial year.
Initially specialising in optical products such as binoculars and telescopes, they quickly spied opportunities in other market segments, including motorbike gear, bubble wrap and breathalyzers and now have 12 different online stores.
“We became known as the niche online retailer from an early stage due to our approach in building our multiple niche stores,” 26-year-old Fong tells StartupSmart.
“I guess you could say our niche was going niche in our marketing strategy.
“We became the dominant player in the telescopes/optics market within 18 months and have since been known as the telescope guys.”
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An intense focus on engagement with each of their niche markets has led to OzHut being the go-to site for consumers looking for specific products.
Fong says this was achieved by paying special attention to online marketing strategies such as search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click advertising, Facebook Fan Pages and email marketing.
The uniquely segmented nature of online interest groups meant OzHut did not try to replicate the old media, broadcast methods of customer engagement that some retailers have tried to employ online.
“We recognised very early on that a key online strategy for us was not to approach ecommerce as a large department store selling a wide range of goods across several product categories.
“Instead, our strategy focuses on leveraging the advantages of the internet to profile customers into groups defined by the specific product they want to purchase or are interested in.”
Of course, providing customers with well-priced products and what Fong calls “wow!” service requires a strong team of employees. And, as with any start-up, finding the right mix of people has not always been simple.
“We’ve stumbled upon some good ones, and some not so good people who have helped us along the way to grow to what we are today.
“The biggest challenge early on was finding good talent and keeping them on board for the long haul.”
Fong says what he loves about his journey with OzHut is that it is a constantly evolving enterprise that never fails to surprise.
“I’ve seen myself grow and mature and stretch as an individual and I get the joy of seeing others around me do the same.”