CrowdInk had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Manish Azad, the founder of Fitness Freaks (www.fitnessfreaks.com.au), an online retail business that provides customers with fitness and health equipment. He has some fantastic insights into the world of e-commerce, especially when based in Australia, and what has worked in getting noticed in the marketing world on a small business’ budget.
CrowdInk: Take us through the history of your online retail business. What was your inspiration for getting into the space, and how has the business evolved?
Manish Azad: I strongly believe that internet is the way of the future and technology has immense potential to change our lives in many ways and at a much faster pace than any technology of the past. It’s a way for an individual to connect to the whole world without worrying about any physical boundaries. For a business, it creates opportunity to get in touch with their customers all around the world. Essentially it empowers businesses small or large to showcase their creations to the whole world.
Combining my passion for internet and fitness, we launched our online retail business www.fitnessfreaks.com.au and it has been a great ride. Initially, I researched online business for over a 3 year period, and then finally took the deep dive. I started by researching the products which are in demand and then going to China to source the best of the suppliers. Currently, we are growing every month at a great pace and beating our previous monthly sales.
CI: How would you describe your e-commerce business model? What key features differentiate your offering?
MA: My business model is very simple and purely online. This enables us to provide the products at great prices to the consumer at top quality. This also enabled me to enjoy the lifestyle that everyone dreams of. The way I have structured the business is unique as almost all the operations that are carried out through outsourcing. Orders come in online which are sent daily to the fulfilment provider and the customer gets the product.
So I can be sitting in any part of the world on any beach and I could efficiently oversee and manage my business with a laptop and phone. It’s almost a one man show as I do not have any employees or have to leave my home. I mean, the power of this business model is phenomenal and allows entrepreneurs like me to have more free time to spend with family, recreational stuff, or look for more business growth opportunities.
CI: What were the key challenges you faced in setting up your online retail business and how did you overcome these?
MA: Like any other business, there are always challenges. I saw these challenges as a stepping stone to get to a higher level and knew one day it would reap great benefits. My biggest challenge in the initial stage was to hustle my way through turning the business into reality. I set up the business was while I was working a full-time job. It was a real struggle to consistently find constructive time to move the project forward with family commitments and my daily 2 ½ travel to and from work. I pushed through by staying focussed and doing productive result-oriented tasks every day
Other challenges were finding the right product, the right suppliers and setting up the online platforms for sale and building trust in the consumers.
CI: What technologies and solutions do you use to power your e-commerce business?
MA: We use online platforms below like our website www.fitnessfreaks.com.au, e-bay, gumtree, Quicksales to bring in sales.
The warehousing and distribution is outsourced and so is customer service.
CI: Can you break down your marketing mix for me? What works well for and what is yet to be tried?
The retail sales online have been good. We believe in providing more value to the customers which is more than the price that they are willing to pay.
To build confidence in our customers mind, we are in the process of finalizing and implementing our Unique Selling Proposition which promises Our Double Guarantee – the best quality product or we will replace the product and also refund the money.
We generate revenue through Google adwords, ebay advertising, and facebook advertising etc.
Currently we are working out plans to target wholesale clients which will help us build a name for our brand of products in the wider market which will grow our business exponentially. Advertising in the various health magazines is also on the cards.
CI: How is mobile commerce influencing your e-commerce practices?
MA: Mobile commerce is definitely a way of the future with more and more mobile devices in people’s hands.
We have our website which is responsive on the mobile platforms, thus enabling our consumer to have the same feel and experience that they would have on a desktop.
A key thing to note is that while many consumers may look at your product on the mobile, the final purchase is often made on the desktop. This will surely change in the future with better technology.
CI: Which are the current e-commerce trends of most interest to you now?
MA: The biggest trends or advancement online retailers need to make is finding the fastest, most cost-effective way of putting the products in the hands of the customers once they have paid the money. The big giants of the industry have already initiated things like “Click n Collect” and bigger groups like Amazon trying delivery via “Drones”. Small players also need to find some ways to deliver faster by being more creative.
The future trends will also see the advent of a 3D shopping experience which will give the consumers an actual feel of a brick and mortar shop.
CI: What do you believe are the biggest challenges for Australian e-commerce businesses, and what could be done to address these? What are the biggest opportunities?
MA: Speaking for small e-commerce businesses, the challenge is getting cost-effective exposure. With all the big businesses getting all the eyes on their business due to their high marketing budgets, small retailers really have struggle to make a name for themselves as they rank very low on the search results of most search engines and have lower marketing budgets.
The opportunity for small businesses is to find creative ways of getting exposure and provide unique products, while offering a great customized experience to the shoppers which big retailers might struggle with. It’s still a growing market for online shoppers and more and more people are looking for special items at discounted rates.
CI: Do you have any developments on the horizon i.e. new product launches, new markets, improved functionality plans?
MA: We are sourcing new and exciting products all the time and our latest product the Fitness Vibration plates arrived in the warehouse in December. Starting in January, we sourced our products locally and add nutrition supplements to our range. This certainly is an exciting time and 2016 will see the business achieving even higher grounds.
CI: What are some of the things you know now that you wish you had known while you were setting up your e-commerce business, and what do you love most about the online retail space?
MA: The thing we could have done differently was to source and sell local products first and build a loyal online community so that we could market more effectively.
In terms of love for the online retail space, I think there is nothing more rewarding than having happy customers who trusted us with their dollars and in return we gave them a pleasurable shopping experience which they consistently recommend to the their friends and family.