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Wai Hong Fong talks online success and defying international competition

Wai Hong Fong established OzHut in 2008, growing the eCommerce start-up into a thriving online business that’s expanded to sell products in 12 categories in just three years. Now, the entrepreneur shares his tips for building a successful eCommerce business.

OzHut kicked off selling telescopes three years ago, and has grown to offer products in 12 different verticals since then. The business expanded into the kitchenware category just prior to Christmas and is targeting 70 percent sales growth this year, which Fong is quietly confident about achieving.

Despite predictions of a disappointing Christmas season for local retailers, Fong said OzHut’s sales for the period were “right on target and traffic exceeded our expectations.”

“Q3 2011 was actually a really difficult season for us and many other retailers I know, but November and December came in just in time to make up for it all. What’s interesting to also note is that January 2012 is kicking off above our expectations which is a nice surprise,” Fong told Dynamic Business.

When it comes to building a successful online business, Fong said SMBs must consider three things. Firstly, good customer service is crucial.

“Most of the successful eCommerce businesses I see today are built upon the solid foundations of serving customers. In fact, while the price factor seems to be the popular throw around phrase, it’s really convenience, choice and customer service that make eCommerce so appealing.”

Fong said the majority of local retail lacks in service, passion and community engagement.

“When you walk into a bricks and mortar store today like Myer or David Jones, this is far from their focus. There are unmanned counters, it’s difficult to find help, they carry a small range, and high prices all contribute to the retardation of retail growth in Australia. We believe we have a good mix of service, passion and community engagement allowing us to be a major disruptor in the market.”

Choosing right technology and tools is also vital, as the wrong eCommerce platform can set a business back by months.

“The important things to look out for here are scalability, flexibility and how well it suits your needs. Find a solution that suits your needs, not one that has all the whizbangs that you will never use but are charging you for them.”

And finally, businesses must invest in some “savvy” eCommerce people.

“Whether you’re training someone fresh or hiring someone experienced, it’s important to differentiate skilled eCommerce gurus from young IT guys who are ‘good with computers’,” Fong said.

“Understanding eCommerce is a passion/mindset that is cultivated over a period of engaging with the industry and not just a skill set learnt at university.”

Wai Hong Fong established OzHut in 2008, growing the eCommerce start-up into a thriving online business that’s expanded to sell products in 12 categories in just three years. Now, this entrepreneur shares his tips for building a successful eCommerce business with Dynamic Business.

Online isn’t going anywhere

Fong also had some words of wisdom for those SMBs that remain unconvinced about the impact of the online space in Australia.

“Online is not just another fad or phase that we’ll go through and get over with. It’s becoming part and parcel of everyday life if not already and will continue to intrude every facet of living. We’re seeing entire generations grow up with so much of their identity built into their Facebook profiles and Twitter handles,” he said.

“Without understanding the unique impact that online has on our businesses, it would be hard to imagine a strong future for them.”

And as for those business owners who don’t feel capable of competing in the online space, Fong said it’s time for a mind shift.

“Businesses are built on the foundations of overcoming challenges, difficult ones included, in a bid to add value to the very customers we serve. Besides, ‘too hard’ shouldn’t belong in the business owner’s vocabulary.”

What’s next?

Fong said he’s feeling very optimistic about the future of his business, and plans to expand into even more product categories in the near future.

“We want to expand into a few different areas which complement our existing range and also give added value to our customers. While the details I can reveal are still scarce, we’re looking into expanding into possibly the fashion and home categories. Think ‘bling,'” he said.