An online presence allows retailers to better cater to their customers by communicating with them quickly and effectively.
Home furnishing retailers have never had it so good in the UK. We’re lucky to have an established internet economy and it’s common practice to sell many large ticket items to consumers while they’re sat on their couch.
The internet is an area that older established retailers have struggled to embrace fast enough, which has led to new companies, like ours, becoming major players.
But there is still a lot to learn and act on and there is the opportunity for UK businesses to grow overseas, especially in Europe. Believe it or not, none of the internet companies in our category are established in Europe.
Why do I mention this? Fashion, music and TVs all sell well online, but furniture does not in Europe. One serious obstacle is the standard psychology of retail… do I trust this company with my hard-earned cash?
It took at least 10 years to gain internet users’ trust in the UK. Europe reminds me of the UK pre-2008 and this is why I feel ‘opportunity Europe’ is for the taking.
On a home front, businesses that embrace customer experience will be the ones that become the industry leaders.
Online furniture retailers have always struggled to get nationwide delivery to fit in with the consumer’s needs. At BetterBathrooms.com we’ve just invested in a Southern distribution warehouse near Oxford to match our Northern centre.
That means our fleet of lorries can deliver to our customers up to 10pm, seven days a week – I’d say this now makes us the market leader not only in price but in service. We control the full process from manufacturing to the last mile in the journey.
As an entrepreneur, I’m always looking at ways to make BetterBathrooms stand out from the crowd. In 2014, I saw many companies retreat from the ‘personal experience’ and not maintaining close communication with their customers.
In contrast, we have been testing various ways of keeping in touch. One that has proven successful was me, personally, being active on Twitter.
It has allowed customers to connect with me and provide critical information required to improve our performance. I believe our customers appreciate speaking to the chief executive of the company – I value their opinions and feedback, whether it’s positive or negative.
I’m the only business-to-consumer chief executive in our category who is active on Twitter. Could it be that bosses are hiding?
Possibly. It may be ignorance or the fact they are busy; either way it’s leading us to continue to steal a march on our competition – we are always listening to the needs of our customers.
Furthermore, I was so happy with the results that we have taken it a stage further. On BetterBathrooms.com we now have a chief executive promise on every page of the website – it features a personal message from me and most importantly my email address so that anyone can contact me.
We don’t always get it right, but I can guarantee we will fix it when it goes wrong. My point is, the closer you are to your customers’ wants and needs the better your business will become.
- Colin Stevens, chief executive, BetterBathrooms.com