“In the next five years, I see Fishyhub becoming the most popular regional consumer brand in the aquarium space,” Shi Qing Poh, the co-founder and CEO of Fishyhub told Inside Retail.
According to internal research done by the company, the aquarium market in Singapore is slated to be worth around SGD$40 billion by 2025.
“The aquarium space in Singapore and Southeast Asia is generally fragmented with many players focusing on different niches such as species of fishes or aquarium products. There are very few one-stop shops which provide everything that the aquarist needs,” said Poh.
Poh explained that the market is currently occupied by a handful of large players including farms which are focusing mainly on B2B with numerous smaller retail players targeting neighbourhood customers.
Products like livestock are highly perishable, fast moving, seasonal and held in limited quantities due to a top-down and unpredictable supply chain.
“One insight is that over 90 per cent of enthusiasts experience challenges when starting, building and maintaining their aquariums. At least 50 per cent of these enthusiasts quit the hobby due to unexpected failures.”
According to Poh, this suggests that while the aquarium hobby might be accessible to a wide demographic spectrum and most age groups, most hobbyists are unsuccessful and drop out halfway.
Fishyhub has backing from a few angel investors and a US-based venture capital firm. While the fundraising experience has been choppy so far, Poh is aware of the current prevailing economic climate and is focusing on talking to bigger players in the same industry for future tie-ups.
A market ripe for disruption
Poh believes that the aquarium shopping experience is still quite antiquated, similar to wet markets and grocery stores. Shoppers in this space are still in the discovery phase and are prone to buying products on a whim.
“Additionally, the relationship between merchants and customers is quite transactional even though it is clear that lots of guidance and education might be needed for customers to make an informed decision on something as personal as a live pet,” he noted.
Poh realised that the main weakness in this space was the lack of user awareness, education and engagement. There is a wealth of user-based information that can be utilised to make the customer’s experience better and the overall purchasing journey more successful.
“For example, if we know the size of the customer’s tank at home, or what fishes he or she currently keeps, a better recommendation of new fishes or plants or equipment could be made.”
Since launching Fishyhub, the business has diversified into other product categories. This covers fresh and marine livestock, plants, tanks, aquarium accessories, fish food, medication, hardscape, soft scape and aquarium services.
A one-stop marketplace
Digital disruption in the form of not just convenience but consumer education and engagement is required, noted Poh. This is also the key to the survivability and growth of the industry too.
“Instead of just getting more aquarium keepers in the market, we should be helping these aquarium keepers become successful in their hobbies, which in turn increases customer lifetime value as they might upgrade their tanks and buy more,” he stated.
The Fishyhub marketplace model is focused on aggregating existing products from a fragmented market and adding a layer of user education and engagement which the industry currently lacks.
“We hope that with this focus, we can increase long term user value for our merchant partners and boost the industry by helping aquarium keepers be more successful and eventually grow their hobbies, and tank sizes.”
Enthusiasts who enter the Fishyhub world can also engage in a social platform that has live auctions, live commerce and community events where they can connect.
Fishyhub also features a gamified personal dashboard where users can build their digital profile, take part in missions, challenges, rewards and earn trophies on leaderboards.
Based on internal research, Fishyhub has discovered that a combination of consumer readiness, higher disposable income, urbanisation and decor trends are driving consumers into this space.
This is where the company aims to bring a new perspective to the marketplace with its targeted solutions that cover logistics, social commerce, personalisation and gamification of the aquarium industry.
Poh has noted that one novel trend is a shift from bare tanks to planted tanks, as more people enjoy having aquatic gardens and keeping a ‘slice of green nature’ in their homes, along with fish inside.
“This trend might be fuelled by the pandemic lockdowns as more families are stuck and very bored at home. However, we do observe that more people continue to appreciate the value of having nature in their homes even after the easing of pandemic measures.”
The company has latched on to this behavioural shift to focus on engagement and educational value that targets the home decor segment. For example, its educational content includes tips on maintaining a planted tank and suitable plants for aquariums.
Poh has also noted that several fish farms are closing down due to land lease expirations and are moving to warehouses and other smaller locations. As this makes it harder for customers to have a good shopping experience, bringing sales partners to the online space makes perfect sense.
The company’s marketplace model means that more partners with different players both in the offline and online space are bound to crop up.
“This is key to our future strategy of providing our users a holistic journey which includes an omni-channel sales experience by partnering with offline players,” Poh explained.