Furniture News' e-commerce interview series continues with a look at how director Jonathan Warren manages bed e-tail website Time4Sleep …
Time4Sleep is an online supplier of bed frames, mattresses and bedroom furniture. Launched in 2005, the site has grown by an average of 32% year-on-year. Offering many exclusively-designed models, Time4Sleep sources directly from factories around the world, and holds thousands of beds in stock, many of which are available for next-day delivery, or in 2-3 days via an express two-man delivery service.
Why visit your website?
We are able to offer our customers a high proportion of unique and exclusive designs, many of which are available from stock either next day or on a 2-3-day nationwide delivery.
Due to our business model, which relies heavily upon importing direct from overseas suppliers and working closely with a select group of UK suppliers, we are not only able to offer a degree of exclusivity, but we are also able to provide well-made products which represent outstanding value for money.
As we work closely with our partners in the supply chain, we also have greater control over product quality, packaging and lead times, all of which has an important impact upon customer service and the overall buying experience.
How did you enter this industry?
Having completed a BSc Business Degree I spent six years working in marketing in the carpet industry before moving to Dorlux Beds as marketing manager, where I spent six years. Time4Sleep was formed in October 2005. I had always wanted to run my own business and there was a realisation that I was at a stage in my life that the only person holding me back was myself and the fear of the unknown.
Who is your e-commerce hero?
The white goods supplier AO.co.uk. They have transformed the white goods sector, delivering amazing standards of customer service, and have created a business that achieved a market capitalisation of over £1b in the process, whilst also coming fourth in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For.
Describe a typical working day
There is no such thing as a typical working day, and I try to be as flexible as possible, but, typically, working on new products, forecasting stock requirements, dealing with suppliers and working with the team, and dealing with the day-to-day issues that business presents.
What part of your job would you prefer to avoid?
Dealing with the necessary administration and legislative matters that go with running a business can be time consuming and very tedious.
What has been your greatest challenge to date?
Dealing with Google algorithm changes and being on the wrong side of Google! The power of Google should never be underestimated, and can have huge impact – both positive and negative – on an online business.
What is your take on how the relationship between online and physical retail might develop?
I think what has become very clear is that there is a blurring of the lines between online and physical stores. We have major retailers such as Homebase actively reducing their store portfolio, whilst we have established online retailers such as Oak Furniture Land growing their estate of physical stores.
Fundamentally, success all boils down to trust, brand reputation and customer service. These challenges remain the same for both online and physical stores – in the most simplistic terms, it's about having the right team and culture within the business.
Do you have any plans to grow your business?
Yes, we are committed to future growth, nothing should stay the same, and scale will become ever-more important going forward in a market that continually demands great value and ever-higher standards of service. Our focus is really about trying to do things better and continual improvement within the business – if we get these things right, then growth should follow.
What advice would you offer an aspiring e-tailer?
The reality is that the world of online retail has changed since we started as a business, and it is brutally competitive and requires major investment. My advice would be to be very focused in what you do, and ensure you have a very compelling customer proposition in the first instance.
Before investing huge sums in marketing, if possible test the market on eBay, where you will be able to reach a huge audience without major investment. Once you have proofed your idea, if you can combine it with bags of energy there is nothing stopping you from achieving your goals.
This article was published in the February issue of Furniture News magazine.