Mr Pool Man, a family-run business based on the Central Coast with 95% of its sales now online, no longer competes on price with its competitors.

Instead, it has invested significant amounts of money into its online store, with a heavy push on user experience and bringing customers in through top-of-funnel marketing: blog posts, social media, and Google advertising.

As Mr Pool Man director of operations, Tom Hintze tells RetailBiz, “It’s not about one asset, it’s a combination of the broader customer journey and experience.”

By focusing on customer experience instead of price gouging, the business also insulated itself against the rising costs of freight throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hintze notes, “We stepped out of a price war with our competitors. We did the price beat guarantee for a while but the margins were too small, we were struggling.

“As inbound shipping shops double, if you’re driven by lowest prices, and have a 100% increase in your shipping costs, there’s no margin left in your product. That whole aspect of business is now unprofitable. We’ve been able to insulate ourselves from that.”

A large part of the customer satisfaction is offering multiple points of contact. Customers can reach out on social media, a chat function on its website, email, or call, and reach qualified technicians on the other end, which Hintze calls, “a big boost”.

From local to global

The company was founded some 20 years ago by Tom’s father, Hardy, and was originally called ‘Waterwise Pool Services’. The one-man band was run as a mobile business, with Hardy operating as a sole trader.

Tom joined in 2009, and the company name was changed to Mr Pool Man. They opened a retail pool shop, but suffered during the slow season of winter.

From taking a photo of one item and putting it on Ebay, selling it almost instantly, the two realised that online sales might be the future of the company.

By 2014 they opened their first e-commerce website, and Tom’s sister, Natalie, joined the company to handle marketing.

As the company grew, so did the volumes it was moving. When the Hintze’s supplier couldn’t get the volumes they needed, they checked a leftover tag from an order to track down the manufacturer in China and built a relationship directly with them.

The family-business connected with OFX, a currency-exchange business, to operate as a gateway of funds to its suppliers. Hintze says planning ahead for production lead times, and knowing when the exchange rates are optimal for the currencies they’re trading in, as being key to business success.

Working directly with the manufacturer led to Mr Pool Man launching its own branded products, ‘Water TechniX’ which it sells locally and plans to take global to balance out the Australian winter with the Californian/Southern French summer.

While the margins for big-name products in the pool game are smaller, the margins for its own are much healthier. Mr Pool Man brings in customers with the brands they know, and then can drive them to its own brand.

“That’s enabling us to drive heavy growth for our business,” Hintze says.