Based in St Helens, the Zurleys website offers a wide range of furniture and furnishings, backed up by modern customer service facilities. Live since January 2014, Zurleys offers around 5000 products, popular ranges including retro and mirrored furniture, as well as over 1000 lighting products. Furniture News quizzed director Michael Lee Burke on his approach to e-commerce …

Why visit your website?

Zurleys offers the ability to buy lots of furniture/home furnishing items for your home in one location. You will often find Zurleys to be one of the most affordable online retailers while still offering excellent customer service and a modern functional website.

We want customers to know we are here, and offer a personal shopper service as well as live chats to help make customers’ experiences of Zurleys unique. We offer fast delivery, with popular ranges such as mirrored furniture being delivered within a few days.
 

How did you enter this industry?

While I was at university I became interested in design and how different designs can make or break a room. Studying business at Huddersfield University, I have always been quite entrepreneurial. Funnily enough, it was my favourite module, and also my most successful module while at university. I wanted to get into e-commerce and I taught myself web design and online marketing. With a love for design and furniture, I visited several exhibitions, and this is where I combined my love for both.

Who is your e-commerce hero?

Jeff Bezos has to be up there for me with the best. The way Amazon has changed to online marketing for e-retailers are exceptional – the growth the company has had from selling books online from being able to buy anything you want via Amazon is amazing. As the logo suggests, it’s truly A to Z.

Describe a typical working day

Being a smaller online e-tailer, I’m still heavily involved in all aspects of the company. You can find me on the phone talking to customers or updating product pricing and adding special offers. I like to be part of everything to do with Zurleys, and I don’t think you can truly control your business if you don’t understand the tasks that have to be performed on a daily basis.

You can find that mornings can be taken up processing orders and the afternoon can be dealing with customers and working on the website.

“I like to be part of everything to do with Zurleys, and I don’t think you can truly control your business if you don’t understand the tasks that have to be performed on a daily basis”

What part of your job would you prefer to avoid?

Even though I do this role, I would love to avoid updating product availability. I’m not going to lie – it’s a tedious job and can be very time consuming even with our streamlined system.

What has been your greatest challenge to date?

I would say the hardest challenge for Zurleys and for most businesses is the competition. With the likes of Amazon, eBay, Argos and The Range, who all do similar products to ourselves, it’s an uphill battle. We try to offer a pleasant experience on Zurleys, and focus on the quality of what we provide.

How much do you invest in making your site more visible?

I would say that’s our main focus. A vast majority of our marketing is focused on online visibility. Zurleys is solely online – it’s where our audience is, and we need to be in front of them as many times as we possibly can be.

What’s your take on how the relationship between online and physical retail might develop?

I believe that physical retail has its place, and some companies such as Argos do it very well. With their click-and-collect services, they have moved with customers and reacted to how the world of shopping has progressed. Amazon, again, is a fast mover in the market – the way they adapted order and same-day-collect services for Christmas 2014 was a very successful strategy. I think the two do work well together.

Do you have any plans to grow your business?

Of course we do – our competition is growing, so shouldn’t we? The market is always changing, from styles, to how people buy. If you don’t move with the marketing you will be left behind.

What advice would you offer an aspiring e-tailer?

Make sure your website/system is the best it can be. I’ve seen time and time again businesses not succeed or have customer retention problems because of flaws/errors on their website/system.

Coming from an e-commerce/online marketing background, I have come across many problems with websites, and for me it’s important to have a great website and a great management system that is adaptive. Many companies outsource the website/systems work, and I think this is a big no because they don’t truly understand the most important part of their business – their website.

This article was published in the May issue of Furniture News magazine.