After many years as a business accountant, Polly Green decided to try her hand in practicing what she preached. Now she owns and runs online toy shop, Green Ant Toys.
They say, ‘a change is as good as a holiday’, which is what CPA Business Accountant Polly Green must have been thinking when she decided to throw in her day job to become an online retailer.
Having only launched Green Ant Toys in September last year, Green has quickly developed her product range to include 900 different lines of high-quality toys that aim to be as stimulating and unique as possible.
As a relatively new start up, Green told Power Retail that she is still fine-tuning her marketing investments, but that she expects the coming Christmas period to be a very busy time for her fledgling pureplay venture.
Green Ant Toys
Specialty Product: High-quality kids toys
Fulfilment Provider: Australia Post
How and when did your concept for Green Ant Toys come about?
The concept for Green Ant Toys came about at the end of 2011. I had been working as a CPA Business Accountant for a long time, and was itching to do more than give advice. We had been looking to buy an existing business, but couldn’t find one that suited us. There were a few businesses that looked interesting, but it was not possible to obtain sufficient information to make reasonable valuation decisions, so we decided to create a start up business. Quality toys have interested me for a long time, so we looked into creating a toy business.
What niche in the market were you hoping to address/what’s the point of differentiation in your service offering?
The majority of large bricks and mortar retailers sell similar products – big brands and lots of licenced products. The majority of cheaper toy retailers sell cheap, but very low quality toys. There are a number of high-quality local boutique toy shops, but they are not easy for the majority of people to access and tend to be expensive. Online Toy E-Tailers are plentiful, but not many do it well. Lots of them sell similar products to the bricks and mortar retailers, and have poorly designed web sites that are hard to navigate. Some online toy shops have a reputation for slow and poor quality customer service – advertising products that they do not carry in stock, giving rise to delays in despatch and delivery.
We saw a gap in the market for an online toy shop that offers different, high quality, engaging products at reasonable prices – combined with a well-designed web site and amazing customer service, including despatch within one business day. By selling online, we can access the entire Australian market and potentially beyond.
To keep prices low – and differentiate our products – we purchased a warehouse and directly import a portion of our range, supplementing our imports with carefully chosen high-quality products sourced from other Australian distributors. Our choice of imported products is based on the toys being engaging, high-quality, safety-tested, good value and not common or otherwise readily available in the Australian market.
What challenges did you have to overcome to launch your offering online? What challenges have been presented since?
To launch our offering online, we firstly had to source suppliers and products; from there we selected our product range. Next we needed to create a company image, including a name and logo that expressed our business. To get our offering online, we had to locate a web design company to work with, and determine the look, feel and functionality of our website. We found The Webshowroom and worked with them to design and create our website, which we are very happy with. Loading all the information and products was the next challenge, I certainly under-estimated the time required for that process.
After going live, the main challenge has been to gain and retain customers. We have engaged in a variety of online and offline marketing activities, as well as developed social media networking, in order to build our customer base.
What are some of the technologies/services that have been integral to managing and supporting your e-commerce business?
- MYOB takes the hard work out of accounting. Our main accounting areas are sales and inventory. We stock over 900 different product lines, so simple and effective inventory management is essential. Simple and efficient sales invoicing is a necessity and MYOB provides a great solution. We use AccountRight Live so that our accounting file is securely available whether working at the warehouse, home or from overseas. MYOB has helped me track the accounting so that I can focus on other parts of the business, particularly on marketing when we first started-up. I leave the accounting to the end of the day so I can switch off!
- The Webshowroom designed, host and maintain our website, which is our fully-transactional shopfront.
- Australia Post eParcel handles our delivery. The advantage of Australia Post is that we can require a signature on delivery but if the customer is not home, they can easily collect their order from their local post office – or have the parcel transferred to one that is easy to collect from. Australia Post now also offer specific delivery days, date, and times to make delivery even easier. As the majority of our customers are residential deliveries, these services make delivery easier.
- We use SecurePay to process our online payments securely, as well as accepting Paypal, which customers trust.
How has Green Ant Toys performed so far?
Green Ant Toys has gone from not existing in September 2012 to having supplied more than 1,000 customers in nine months (as at June 2013). As toy retailing is busiest at Christmas, we are looking forward to seeing our sales take off as the year progresses.
What challenges do you foresee ahead of the local online retail industry and how do you plan to overcome these?
Challenges for the local online retail industry include trust building and standing out in a crowded marketplace.
Trust building is necessary, as a number of online retailers have not given exceptional customer service in the past, which makes customers wary of buying online. Green Ant Toys builds trust by offering excellent customer service and engaging with customers through social media as well as through community events (we attended the Sydney Toy Expo as well as a number of market stall activities to meet our customers).
Gaining exposure in a crowded online marketplace is another challenge we are facing, especially with Google and Facebook placing more emphasis on paid exposure. To overcome this challenge, Green Ant Toys plans to commence using and taking advantage of enhanced online marketing with Google AdWords as well as directory listings and search engine optimisation to ensure Green Ant Toys gets organic search exposure, engaging with social media networks, and combining with other businesses and business networks online to gain exposure.
Do you have any new developments in the pipeline you’d care to share?
Our new line of kids construction toys, Bloco Construction Toys arrives at the end of July. These are soft EVA Foam Construction Toys with bright and engaging designs that connect together so that young children can build the unique and fun animals. Green Ant Toys is currently the only Australian distributor of Bloco Construction Toys.
After having a successful stand the Toy Expo over the June long weekend, Green Ant Toys is looking forward to meeting a lot of customers at the hugely popular Brisbane Water Oyster Festival in November 2013.