Pool Magazine - Podcasts for the Pool Industry

Pool Retail Spotlight: PoolGoods.com

May 13, 2024 Pool Magazine Season 3 Episode 10
Pool Retail Spotlight: PoolGoods.com
Pool Magazine - Podcasts for the Pool Industry
More Info
Pool Magazine - Podcasts for the Pool Industry
Pool Retail Spotlight: PoolGoods.com
May 13, 2024 Season 3 Episode 10
Pool Magazine

The online retail world is a highly competitive landscape. In addition to big box retail, the market is saturated by internet giants such as Amazon trying to dominate the pool products category. In an environment where offering the lowest prices has become the name of the game, PoolGoods.com has become a disruptor and is distinguishing itself from the competition by doing something that big box stores can't, providing better customer service and support. Listen to our conversation with Jake Riggs of Pool Goods on the Pool Magazine podcast.

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Show Notes Transcript

The online retail world is a highly competitive landscape. In addition to big box retail, the market is saturated by internet giants such as Amazon trying to dominate the pool products category. In an environment where offering the lowest prices has become the name of the game, PoolGoods.com has become a disruptor and is distinguishing itself from the competition by doing something that big box stores can't, providing better customer service and support. Listen to our conversation with Jake Riggs of Pool Goods on the Pool Magazine podcast.

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Aiper is trusted by millions as one of the world's top cordless robotic cleaner brands

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.

Pool cleaning has a new hero, Iper and the award-winning Iper Scuba S1 Pro. They're on a mission to eliminate pool maintenance and transform your swimming pool into a backyard paradise. Designed for the toughest cleaning jobs, the Iper Scuba S1 Pro is your complete premium cleaning package. A dual-layer filtration system works in tandem with quad-brushless motors to dedicate more power to scrubbing and suction and can pick up and store debris as small as three microns. So the question isn't whether the Scuba S1 Pro is for you. But really, what will you do with all the extra time saved by not having to clean your pool? For more information, visit Iper.com. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Pool Magazine Podcast. Today I'm chatting with Jake Riggs with PoolGoods.com. They're an up-and-coming online retailer in the pool and spa industry. And it's a pleasure to have you with us today on the show, Jake. Thanks for having us. It's a privilege to be here. You know, before we dive right into our conversation, what's that platform and your role specifically within the company? Yeah, absolutely. My name is Jake Riggs. We have three physical retail locations here in the South Carolina, Carolina, North Carolina area. Really, what kind of began this journey for us was a 35-year-old-long journey by dad and uncle started this journey selling walk-in spas. So, caldera, hot springs, free flow endless, which then turned into a pool business, which then turned into a service business. So, we're the full gamut. We see all good and bad things of the industry, which led us to this venture that started this pool goods outfit. We have, like I said, three locations over 100 employees. We offer vinyl, fiberglass, gun-eye swimming pools. We offer the whole wine card of walk-ins, and we service basically everything whether we build it or not. And what we've noticed is our customers wanted another way to buy from us, whether that be actual tangible products or just our service. And that's what launched pool goods.com. We launched it because it's an avenue that the customers want to be met at. It's an avenue that we're willing to meet them at, but like any journey, it all starts with an idea and then people say I had a napkin to pin moment. In a way, this is that, but another way I was just like, okay, now we're accessible 24-7 regardless if our retail or building operation isn't open. So, that's kind of what got us into that. And it hasn't stopped and it's just growing, growing, growing. So, we've definitely been fortunate enough to service our customers that way. So, it sounds like you got quite an operation, but what has the transition been like for you, specifically from being a pool and spa company to being on the other side of the counter now as an online retailer? Yeah, great question. For me personally, it was a natural fit. I actually came from the tech industry, the distribution company. So, in a lot of ways, I learned kind of how the channel works, so to speak. So, I took what I learned there on the business to business side of the business and the business to consumer side of the business and brought it here. I'm actually a triplet and so my brother, he came right out of college and started in like project management side of the business. And then my cousin, the first cousin, he's in sales. So, for then, it was not so much a natural fit being kind of just the construction and user facing side of the business. And then I came to them with like, hey, I just did a line or change today. I was talking to our customer that we built their pool for 22 years ago and I looked at their chemical closet and it was chemicals that they didn't buy from us. And so I asked them why and they said, well, just convenience. It's tough for me to drive 30 minutes down the road and buy it from me. So I said, okay, well, they're my customer. I got them in the industry. So, let's continue to service them. So, we kind of looked at what this would be and how to stand this up. And it's been fully honest. It's been a year and a half, two years of just trying and failing, trying and failing, but we hit a point now where we got a really good team. We have a really good product and the product is service. Obviously, price, product, all that's one thing, but we really take pride in our industry knowledge and our accessibility to our customers. And that's what this pool gets platform is for us. The online retail space is highly competitive. There's tons of different options out there. These days for consumers to choose from. I know from my standpoint as a pool owner that you hit it right on the head, it's difficult to get out to the pool store when I need to. So, I mean, since the early 2000s, there's been like this full court press to bring convenience and greater savings. But what do you feel is the most advantageous aspect for consumers to shop for products online as opposed to going into their traditional brick and mortar pool store? You know, that's a great point that you write up. I actually have a hot tub as well. And I just look at myself as a consumer in this industry. You know, well, I drive 25 minutes to go to my local floor spa store to get my water tested and buy chemicals, you know, and there's a need for that. There always will be a need for that. We take extreme pride in our service stores. Water testing is very big, obviously for this industry and we're fortunate to do it. But then I also realized like on the consumer side is how do I meet these customers at an affordable price at prices they want to buy at a product they want to buy. And then still kind of get in front of them to say, hey, buy from me. For us, it's natural. I mean, you got your big players in the industry, like, you know, Leslie's in the swim doing these like those guys have been there. They've been doing it forever. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. We're just trying to be us. We're just trying to be, you know, local home grown family owned and operated business for 35 years, just doing it the right way by people. And so for us, you know, it's very humbling and I get very excited about this process and this new journey for our company because we have all the agreements. We know all the vendors. We know all the players. We have the customers, the customers love us. We get in a great experience. So it's just been a really natural transition. But what hasn't been a natural transition is how do you understand the online world? Like, how do you understand Google or the search engines? How do you understand the advertising? How do you understand like paper? There's just a bunch of verbiage that, you know, being a pool person, you don't understand what it's about. But if you believe in so much of what you're doing and you believe it's for the good of everyone in the industry, like you'll figure those things out and or find people that'll figure it out. And that's just been us over the past year and a half. When we started this, we said we started this late. There's big players of people that are doing like what domain can we get? What can we bring this as? And then we ended up going, we found a domain that was for sale and bought it. And it was poolgids.com. At the end of the day, you know, service wins, especially doing it at high level. And then price is just kind of a broad product. And a lot of people buy off price. But what we're offering is all the above and we're having fun doing it. Well, I mean, you brought up some of those challenges in your world in comparison to the brick and mortar guys where it's mostly about just getting foot traffic and finding the right location. But in the online space, there's a whole bevy of different things that you need to be concerned with. And that's getting people's eyeballs on your website. What are some of the things that you guys have done in order to get more people onto the website? We spent a whole lot of money. That's really the answer. It's a lot of, you know, we're naive to what it costs to get into this business. Massively naive, we thought, you know, we have a great product, but then to sell that product stuff because you got to pay to play. And you got to pay to play on how you buy your products. You got to put your money on your mouth is and you got to do the same thing with Google's and marketing agencies. But you bring up a great point. You know, you got to spend a lot of capital to open up a retail store. You better make sure it's a good location for foot traffic. It's kind of the same principle with e-commerce. But it's nothing fair about e-commerce. There's really no rhyme or reason of what happens. Obviously, you got the big players in the room and I didn't even mention Amazon. I mean, everywhere you go, Amazon, Amazon or Walmart, you're competing against those guys. So where Amazon and bigger players kind of miss that connect is just the service piece of what's your line? Why are you getting into this? What's the need? And for us, it's natural because, you know, I'm doing line changes. You know, I'm running equipment. I'm doing equipment sets. You know, we, like I said, we have over 100 employees. I'm listening to them about stories about their family, their kids. It's just a super approachable atmosphere. And a lot of our customers alike that like they'll send us, you know, Christmas cards, we'll send them Christmas cards. So it's for us, it's just been a natural fit as our business has progressed and how we've grown our brick and mortar stores. And thankfully, we've had the resources from a capital standpoint to hire a really good market agency, to spend a lot of money in SEO, to spend a lot of money in the infrastructure, a fulfillment, we have over 14 fulfillment locations in the country to spend, you know, money. And it's not, we're not making anything. This is just an honest living. It's just the way to service our customers and keep our customers with us. SEO is that search engine optimization, right? Correct. Yes. And then you get into that and it's, what is it? You know, and it's like this Bigfoot thing. Like, what is SEO? What are backlinks? You're like, well, no one can explain it to me. It's turns the honest trust people that are much smarter than me. But it's like anything, you know, Google wants to add value for their consumers. They want to keep you on their engine. And that's what their verbiage is to keep you, you know, relevant for their customers. So there's a lot of metrics that we look at where we can, you know, be relevant with SEO and get on those pages, you know, in a lot of its, you know, price service, if you're meeting a need for Google's customers, all that. And so we have to tell that story about us, why us. And so that's, we're continuing to do it. But at the end of the day, it's all about time. You know, time is really the best factor in anything. So we're just going to continue to keep doing the right things. I see some things that you're doing on your product catalog. They're different than other places that are doing pretty much the same thing, like Amazon and Walmart, like you said. But on some of the products that you have there, one I'm looking at right now, in particular, a bio guard shock that you have here, you have some instructions actually on how to apply the shock to your pool, how to dose your pool properly. And that's something that I don't see Amazon doing on the products that they have in their catalog. Yeah. And that's a great, great thing. That's something we're doing. We have like right now over 8,000 items, so it's hard to sit down and go through all of them. But we went through, you know, what are the most frequent asked questions that we're seeing from a service, build and retail standpoint? Let's see if we can address that with them having to email us, call us or come in. So everything again is a blueprint for autonomy for our customers. And the price is amazing. I mean, it's lowest map price. I mean, you can't buy it legally anywhere cheaper. And a lot of that's with our vendors. We're selling it at bare minimum. Martins are really thin. And the idea is again, to keep the customer with us, you know, why buy from you. And those are just small ways, you know, we're doing the subscribe. And sometimes it's just subscribing, saving others. We're really just trying to allow you to purchase and feel comfortable that you're being taken care of. And those are just some of the ways that we're doing it. It sounds like from what I hear from you, that Google plays a big, big factor in how you're positioned online. What do you feel is like the force multiplier that helps you be, you know, at the top of your game so far as your online exposure is concerned? The force multiplier for us is our massive extensive customer list. We have over 25,000 customers that we have done something for at some point. So we're just relying on our platform, you know, we're relying on doing things right for 35 years. And I had a good experience with you. I want to come back or hey, I did it. Let's talk about it. We're a super, you know, honest, integrity-based company where we can have those conversations. Because at the end of the day, you know, we all have families to provide for it. And we're not trying to, you know, rip anybody off or get over on anybody. It's just, it's an honest operation. And that's our force multiplier. But then we took that and we catapulted into, you know, maybe looking at a company such as yours that does it the right way. And team with them and get our story out there. I feel like so many people can identify with this. Again, like, you know, we build commercially, we build residentially. We all have every type of pool you can imagine. We've seen it all. We've renovated anything. Like, it's just a good ecosystem. It's a good network. I'm a phone call away from basically any higher level in any company in the industry. And just having a conversation with like, how can we do better? And they're like, Jake, well, how could we do better? Because at the end of the day, we're doing life with these customers. And, you know, we want the pool industry to continue to grow. Because there's a lot of great memories that are made at a pool and at a hot tub or at a water park, you know, we even build those. So it's what I do, I really believe in what we're doing. And this is just, again, another way to continue to meet our customers. But only, I mean, I think your big advantage is that platforms like Amazon, Walmart, Target, they're trying to be all things to all people. So they sell, of course, pool products, but it's a very small percentage of the products that they sell in total. Now, where you potentially have the ability to trump what those guys are doing is that you believe and breathe in the pool industry and that this is a very integral part of your business. It just gives you more credibility and validity in that space. Yeah, exactly. I mean, you bring up a great point. It's not personal when you're buying from Amazon. You're buying solely because of the name. You're buying because of the prime logo. You're buying because of the price. There's a lot of reasons why you buy from Amazon or your bigger players in this industry. But what you get lost in that is this industry is a little bit more complex than people think. Water chemistry is something that needs to be studied and understood. If you're buying shock because Amazon has a great ad and a great price on it, and if you don't know water chemistry, you're going to have all from results and you might ruin your pump, you might ruin your liner, you might ruin your plaster. This is a different type of industry that the big box stores, the big e-commerce can't address, and we address it so naturally, so easily. It's what we do every day. We're testing water, we're offering solutions, we're physically doing the work. That's why we're sticky, so to speak, with these customers. But what's interesting and what I've found, I've just sat back and just watched all of this. A lot of, we sell to a lot of other pool companies. There are a lot of service companies because there's a lot of people that are getting an industry mind not to have a role model or mind not have somebody that's experienced to teach them. Again, this industry, it's good for everyone. I think it's a noble industry. I feel like you can make an honest living doing it. And it only helps all of us collectively if there's good people in this industry. We don't want any bad apples. And that's it. It's not some private equity thing. It's not something like what's your bottom line. I need to have a shareholder meeting. It's none of that. It's we're literally genuinely listening to customers in our brick and mortar stores or on job sites, or we're reading forums or on Facebook, we're gathering all this data and it's like, we can meet all of these needs. We have the staff to do it. All of my service guys have cell phones. They're all in the info box at pool goods. They're all answering technical questions seven days a week. You know, it's good for them because now they can get over time. I mean, all this is geared for everybody. It's for the people. Yeah, you're not flying 10,000 feet up in the air and sitting up in your ivory tower. You got the pool company there. You got your three retail locations. You got those boots on the ground with 100 employees. So you kind of know what's going on in the industry. We've seen some big changes though in the last couple of years. You know, we saw that spike in demand during the height of COVID, but the past few years the demand has kind of tapered a bit. I mean, are you seeing an increase or decrease in prices in conjunction with the changes that are happening in the market? You know, I've actually seen a decrease. It's like you said, 10,000 feet over. You actually have that because I'm in sales as well. So when people buy on price, I mean, let's not sugar cook that. Price is a major thing I want people buy and there's obviously other reasons. You know, the industry got out of control during COVID. Because everyone's life did keep getting hit with 3%, 10%, 100%, whatever price increase in a year, year and a half. And you just sit back and you're calling those guys like, you all still want to have a job. I mean, this industry is going to suffer if we don't figure out how we can bring prices down. So we do still all galvanized kits and we've actually seen those prices come down on materials. You know, we've seen a majority of the product in this industry come down, which is encouraging, you know, because the reality of it is that human nature is if you can get a certain price, a lot of it ever comes down. If I can get that price. Right. And that hurts the industry. So, you know, even basically the players that industry, I think are realizing that. And it's, I'm thankful for it. We've seen the price come down. And, you know, we're at a point now where, you know, artfulgids.com margins and a lot of that product is really slim. So, you know, it's, we're again, just trying to get product, get our brand out there, get in front of people. And, you know, that's kind of where we're at with this whole thing. Not trying to hit some grains, Liam. Sure. It goes back to that model that we used to see at the grocery store. I mean, those guys operate on our Razer thin margin as well. But many of the products that you sell on your site, I see are priced lower than some of the most popular retailers out there. So, how does allgids.com offer such low prices and comparisons to some of these other retailers? I'm crazy. I want to give it away. And that's a great question. And it can be answered in a couple of ways. Again, really, it's, there's no secret potion. It's 35 years of doing it the right way and people coming to you and they're wanting to do it the right way. And you build a relationship and, you know, you're able to buy a lot of their products and then you get a cheaper price, where ability to store it, ability to fulfill it. You know, there's a lot of value that we're giving those partners, a lot of peace of mind, because we're going to service their brands to the highest level. So, that helps with margin, obviously. And then there is some huge markup, you know, things that aren't map protected. We're having honest markup on things that are map protected. And I say map. It's a manufactured agreed pricing or manufactured advertised pricing, meaning I can't sell below that pricing. And I love it because it protects my retail stores. We got into this because you get, you get tired of, well, I can go, thanks for testing my water. I'm going to go buy it on Amazon. You're like, well, I did all this work for what? And you get discouraged. So, I love the map. I believe it's great for the industry. It's great for consumers because it doesn't get out of control. So, we're map on everything that we can be and, you know, continue to grow our customer count and rely on good customers to help us. One other thing on your website that kind of differentiates you from a lot of the other retailers out there. And that's your subscription service that you have on some of these products. Maybe you could speak to us a little bit more about that. Yeah. So, for example, we have a subscribe option for a lot of consumables. The customers, you know, for example, if they have a fresh water spa, which is like, it's a saltwater spa, they have the ability to subscribe for their consumables. They know they're going to need every three to four months. And really it is just to kind of automate, you know, instead of them having to beanly go in and say, hey, Jake, or hey, pool goods, I need to buy this. It's just like, hey, we're going to ship it to you. Hey, it's time. You're ready and send it. Because, you know, when we started this is just about fun. We wanted our customers not to think about it being a burden. We wanted our customers not to think about like me. It's time to clean the filters or it's time to do this. We wanted to kind of find a way to automate that for them and let them just not have any time and enjoy their product. And that was the way we thought that we could collectively offer our customers. And whether they want to or not, it's not a big deal. It's just a feature we offer. No, I think it's a great feature. I mean, I know I'm going to use X amount of chlorine and shock over the course of a given pool season. And that's the one sticking point for me is always getting out to the pool stores. Having the convenience factor of being able to order that stuff when a subscription basis just makes a lot of sense. Oh, absolutely. And then like, you know, we're open for conversation, you know, you can always email us and say, Jake, you know, I know I'm going to use this during this year. You know, what can you do on price or hey, you know, I want to try a new product. What can you recommend? I mean, that's always there. It's not some like, Hey, this is the screen price. I need to accept that in a lot of ways. Yeah, that is the price. I can't do any better. But, you know, we're approachable in that, you know, we're not some people behind behind a corporate, you know, veil. It's no we're super approachable. We're down to earth, you know, we're willing to work deals. We're willing to service you. And that's bottom line. No, I think that's great. I mean, what are some of the hot and trending products that you guys are excited to offer in your catalog this season? Yeah, that's a great question. The pool industry hasn't changed much and it obviously changed a lot with COVID, but it's like anything, you know, salt's still on the up and up. We're still getting requests to hey, I want to salt pool. It's tough to say what's hot and trendy in this industry. Like I said, but I feel like, you know, the pentair salt system is a great product to me. That's trendy as well as like the metronics cleaners, electric cleaners. We traditionally would do the booster pump pressure side stuff, but I feel like the electric cleaner is very cool because you can just plug in and hit a power button runs its cycle. And it's kind of like I said, the room above the pool, if you will. I think that's cool product. And then, you know, that's that's kind of it, in my opinion, unless, you know, everyone might think something else is cool. And if you don't see it on our catalog, then you can ask us and I bet we can source it. So you don't see it still ask. I bet we can find it. We're getting back to what you were talking about with Amazon. I mean, I think consumers have a love hate relationship with Amazon and with places like Walmart. I mean, they have a deep catalog. Sure. They have low prices, but getting back to that customer service aspect. I know a lot of times when I order something off of the web and all the question or, you know, the product didn't work as intended that if I reach out to somebody, a lot of times my email just goes into a black hole, you know, or the response that I get is like a canned message. I mean, I think that's where you guys really have the potential to really stand head and shoulders above other guys in the sector is because you are answering questions and you do have the right answers. Absolutely. And if we don't have the answers, I can find answers and you bring up a great point. You know, there's a lot of people. I mean, there's a lot of technical things to this industry, like flow rate and pumps and, you know, what is the size of gas plumbing for heaters and those are things that are ever looked when it's coming to pick out, you know, what size pumped on the heat. I don't want it to be ever killed or pay this heater. Like, this is how mine lines, an inch and a half gas line, what heater do you recommend? You know, what is a heat pump? Why does it make sense? I mean, we can answer all those questions where as you know, that everyone serves a role in the industry. I think everyone's trying to add certain value and there's a need for all of it. And we're just trying to be, you know, a small fish in a very big industry and kind of find our way and, you know, answer those questions and have fun doing it. Absolutely. Well, I mean, we're really pleased to have you guys come on Pull Magazine as a sponsor. We love the platform that you guys put together. I'd whole heartily recommend pool professionals and consumers alike. You know, if you're looking for another great source to purchase your pool products, please hop on poolwoods.com, give them a try and find out what their platform is all about. Thank you so much. It's just been a privilege to be a part of this whole entire process. Glad to be a partner. Well, that's all the time we have left for today. Make sure to like, subscribe, and follow and we'll catch you next time on another episode of Pull Magazine podcast. Pool cleaning has a new hero, Iper and the award-winning Iper Scuba S1 Pro. They're on a mission to eliminate pool maintenance and transform your swimming pool into a backyard paradise. Designed for the toughest cleaning jobs, the Iper Scuba S1 Pro is your complete premium cleaning package. A dual layer filtration system works in tandem with quad brushless motors to dedicate more power to scrubbing and suction and can pick up and store debris as small as three microns. So the question isn't whether the Scuba S1 Pro is for you. But really, what will you do with all the extra time saved by not having to clean your pool? For more information, visit iper.com.