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E-Commerce Entrepreneurs Spotlight : Henry Hoe, Founder & CEO, SeniorCare

E-Commerce Entrepreneur's Spotlight - Henry Hoe, SeniorCare

Henry is an entrepreneur running not just multiple e-commerce stores – but he also has his personal brand, decisivemarketer.com. One of his e-commerce stores running under the brand SeniorCare broke 7 figures in sales couple of years back and he’s here to tell us how he did it from the start and also some really good advice for fellow entrepreneurs.

What lead to starting SeniorCare?
I saw a demand for Eldercare products which wasn’t being fulfilled online and I decided to only approach the Singapore market – combining both these factors would make the store very niche. I didn’t have any data on the specifics of the market, but I worked with this charity that helped elders and being there helped me realize the opportunity

What were the things that you learnt after having started – things that you didn’t expect before the fact?
For me, I felt it’s really important to hire people early on – talented ones of course, and managing them. Starting out you’d expect to run the store by yourself for some time, but depending on your growth, you as the business owner should spend your time on more pressing things. Once I learned this – I was able to scale quickly to more stores and we’re a team of 18 people today across 3 stores and all of them running profitably.

How did SeniorCare do in terms of sales last year?
We did about $1.7M in sales and we’re planning to get to $2.5M this year.

How much did you do in Year 1 & how did you manage to grow from there?
We did about $500,000 the first year. Since we didn’t have a lot of money to put into acquisition, we listed our products on Marketplaces here since they get a ton of traffic and we did well there organically. We got our own website in the second half of that year and focused only on SEO. From there we also put some efforts into Email marketing and that greatly helped with conversions. We did spend on Ads quite early on, but it didn’t impact our sales as we would like. Part of the reason being our products aren’t as attractive and interesting/fun – the elderly community makes up for the majority of our audience and these are essential products not trending ones hence Cost Per Acquisition(CPA’s) are much higher if we run ads and it ends up being loss-making in the short term and only way to profit off of these leads is if they return and buy from us again. We do run retargeting campaigns on Facebook and Google as well, but conversions from Google seem very lousy, I guess people in first world countries tend to not click on GDN(Google Display Network) Ads as there are tons of these websites that are on GDN now most of them are irrelevant/not as credible even though clicks come in quite cheap. These clicks don’t really convert for us as I’ve observed GDN is not suitable for advertising essential products like ours. We don’t have peak seasons as well, sales being stable most of the year except for periods like January which is Chinese New Year where supply tends to slow down because of the holidays and even sales numbers are underwhelming. We do see small spikes during holidays, but they don’t account for much comparatively. So you could say the majority of our growth has been organic and can be attributed to our Search traffic.

Since you started spending on Ads last year, how much do you spend monthly on Marketing?
We spend around $2000 on Ads monthly. Apart from that,  around a $1000 on SEO, which still isn’t a lot for a business our size, but the returns on SEO are much better than that on ads, it just takes more time to be realized. We’re very heavy on email marketing – I realized for us it was easier to make an existing customer buy again vs. acquiring new customers and the best way to do it is through emails. Tools don’t really make you money, they sure do make things easier. So I’d rather hire more people into my team than to have a bunch of tools. The only tool that I spend on is Ahrefs, as SEO is very laborious and Ahrefs is pretty good value for its price.

I feel the biggest marketing asset for an e-commerce store is the email list – it’s something that you need to keep working on and it pays off really well in the long term. Companies like Casper and Dollar Shave Club are prime examples.

How should someone start off doing emails really well?
Even if you don’t have a lot of subscribers to start with, begin working on transactional emails like abandoned cart, re-engagement/win-back emails, Thank you emails, Review emails – as more reviews will boost the credibility of your products and invariably the conversions. I’d work on these flows first, and then work the front end to attract more people to the website and sign up. Have a very strong system in place capturing customer data, as traffic isn’t going to be cheap early on. This data will enable you to target them across different platforms and make them buy from you. Direct Sales conversions from Ads are very, very expensive and will end up losing money for you, so it only makes sense to take one step at a time and try an convert a customer to purchase over time. Once that happens, you try and make them return and it’s easier the second time around. This approach will bring down your Acquisition cost by a lot.

How are you planning to grow from here?
Right now, we’re growing at a very slow, stable pace. When we started off, we grew to this scale pretty quickly, but for SeniorCare itself, we’re close to saturating the addressable market here in Singapore. I’m planning to bring more stores into my portfolio – I’ve bought this American brand that primarily sells on Amazon and did well over there, so that’s one of the things we’re planning to work on scaling globally. I’ll be investing in more such businesses as the growth in current stores starts stabilizing.

Knowing what you know about the Business today – If you were to start SeniorCare all over again, how would you do it?
I’d say I’d start hiring people much earlier. I’d want to build the team to the same scale I have in the 3rd year the very first year itself – that would have definitely helped me cross the 7-figure threshold much quicker and as a result, I’d have ended up growing more quickly with more businesses to work on.

Any Advice for fellow Entrepreneurs
There are few things a Business owner needs to understand – You need to make sure that your time is being spent properly, on income generating activities. If something’s not helping you make more money – it’s not worth your time. Primary things I’d care about is Marketing and Business Development. If you’re doing really well in terms of Marketing, the job of your Sales team becomes that much easier – to the extent where it’s just to collect money from your customers, so make sure you’re really investing your time in things like Marketing. The second thing being don’t be afraid to hire people to work for you early on. Being in charge of payroll becomes a bigger responsibility for you as a business owner and motivates you to grow faster and that’s always good. It also is a really good thing to be able to provide for your team as they are now dependant on you not just to survive, but to grow as well. So it’s the good kind of pressure which makes you push yourself much faster and make better decisions. Key takeaways here should be Invest your time very wisely, focus on things like Marketing and don’t be afraid to hire people to start working for you – doing this early on is only good for you.

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