Trade in Technology
Having built his business from the ground up, we spoke to Alex Chang, Managing Director of OmniTech, about the growing technology and retail sphere in New Zealand
Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project Manager: Josh Hyland
Your customers are your best advocates.”
In a small country building a reputation is everything - especially within New Zealand’s highly competitive retail sector.
For Alex Chang, Managing Director of OmniTech Limited and iterator of the opening statement, cultivating and maintaining a good reputation is the key to the company’s past and continued success in the nation’s market.
OmniTech is one of New Zealand’s largest retailers of mobile phone accessories and repair services and has 28 stores kept in successful operation by 85 employees, covering various regions of the nation. The company offers its customers high-quality products at competitive prices, as well as operating as a reseller for well-known global brands such as Apple, Huawei, Motorola, and Samsung.
OmniTech has managed to carve a niche as a provider of quality products and services at reasonable prices, placing customer service and experience at the fore of its business. It also designs and markets its own branded products, such as mobile phone cases and screen protectors, to best serve its customer base.
“People are always looking for great value for money. We are thankful that we have served many thousands of customers who continue to tell their friends about us. The most significant business challenge is hiring suitably qualified and experienced staff,” Chang begins.
“However, I am fortunate to have started this business in New Zealand as, overall, this market is very stable with good laws, and as long as you’re willing to work hard you can still build a significant business.”
Initially, Chang’s journey began with selling at flea markets before he had the opportunity to open a small shop in Auckland, New Zealand. Having always held an interest in the technology and retail sphere, he and some helpful family members provided mobile phone repairs and sold phone accessories to their customers. As Chang’s business grew its potential began to show, and he began to hire more employees to broaden his servicing and selling scale, that led to him founding OmniTech in 2007.
“I could see the massive potential of this sector as technology is a key part of our lives, and will become more so in the future,” he tells us.
“By 2010, we were in shopping malls in various locations within Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga. Today, OmniTech has 28 mobile phone repairs and mobile accessories stores across New Zealand.”
And OmniTech sets itself above and apart from its competition in the industry for a variety of reasons. A provider of high-quality and new products in the market, OmniTech is constantly innovating its services to best suit its customers.
The company produces its own range of branded products (Omni Life and iKiwi), and an extensive range of others including Otter Box, Life Proof, Zagg, Gear 4, original Apple and Samsung accessories, and popular brands like: Devia, Mercury, Red Pepper, Kingxbar, Hanman, X-Doria, and Obliq.
“A key factor that sets us apart is our ability to identify and market winning products that we know our customers will like. Being first to market with winning products allows us to capture significant market share and gain a head start on our competitors,” Chang elaborates.
“How do we know what our customers will buy? We utilise our experience as possibly the oldest and largest mobile accessories business in New Zealand and the rich data we have from serving thousands of customers daily. We also take risks by bringing products to market that customers can’t find anywhere else.
“Of course, this can be risky, but we believe in ourselves and the risks we have taken have paid off. We are also large enough to operate our own warehouse and specialist procurement function, which allows us to buy in large quantities and optimise our supply chain.”
What this means is that OmniTech are often the first to the market with the broadest range of products. The company’s array of phone cases and protectors exemplifies this, as it is the largest variety for every new model of mobile phone to be launched, and these are more often than not available in the country before the phone itself is.
“Our customers know this,” Chang adds. “So OmniTech is the default store for many early adopters because they know by coming to us, they can always find the product they want.”
Recently however, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting global impact have significantly affected the business. Like many across various industries, OmniTech received very little notice before lockdown was imposed in March of 2020.
“Most of our physical stores were inside shopping malls and the closure of malls during the lockdowns had a major impact,” Chang tells us, and elaborates.
“The management team took decisive action the moment the first lockdown was announced. Firstly, we engaged with our staff and kept everyone informed of our strategies.
We did what we could online, directing people to our online store, and subsequently when it was possible to operate some physical stores, we started taking in devices for repairs and implemented contactless pick up and drop off as well as online sales.
“The management team worked hard to put together an action plan for post-lockdown recovery. Although it was very difficult and the future was unknown at the time, we did not give up and maintained our optimism. We knew we had a good business, and we knew COVID-19 also represented an opportunity for us to strengthen our position as the market leader.
Through maintaining an active online presence through social and digital media, OmniTech engaged potential customers over 10 times a week in the form of marketing newsletters and through its various social media channels. The company is currently developing this customer engagement. OmniTech has launched new offerings to its customer base, such as a gift card programme that has seen thousands of individuals purchasing the gift cards.
OmniTech’s supply chain and business partners are key to its success. Mobile repair services are conducted in-store and also at the company’s Henderson headquarters, and turnaround time is an important factor in providing quality and fast service to customers.
“We have some of the best turnaround times in our industry,” Chang informs us proudly.
“For repairs done at a local store, turnaround could be within an hour. For more difficult jobs these are sent to our Henderson headquarters and typical turnaround time is within five business days. We source from suppliers around the world, but we have an established procurement function in Auckland, and China, ensuring we get access to the best possible products at the quickest time possible.”
Prior to the COVID-19 related restrictions on movement, Chang would travel to meet with suppliers to maintain strong relationships in the industry. Although the norm has shifted to online meetings, the aspect of long-term business partnerships is still critical to the success of the company.
“Many of our suppliers have been with us for more than 10 years, and we appreciate their support,” Chang states.
As for the rest of 2021 and beyond, OmniTech’s primary priorities are twofold: the growth of store numbers to 50 across New Zealand, and expansion abroad within the next two years.
“Australia is the largest market in Oceania,” Chang explains.
“To realise our ambition of being the market leader (by revenue and number of stores) in our industry across Oceania, we have to be in Australia. We are considering various options at present including mergers and acquisition, franchising and joint ventures. We can leverage our scale and also what we’ve learnt from building this business to grow across the Pacific. We are confident we will do well in Australia and across the Pacific Islands.”
Chang wraps up with an exciting note on his personal aim for the company.
“We are working towards an IPO by 2025. My dream is for OmniTech to become the first mobile phone repair and accessories from New Zealand to be publicly listed.”