Why “Bigger is Better” for Temple & Webster’s Growth as a Market Leader

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 29 Jul 2020

Homewares and house improvement have been some of the biggest trends for Aussies as they remain in self-isolation during the pandemic. We sat down with Mark Coulter, the CEO and Founder of Temple & Webster, to discuss the retailer’s FY20 results, new innovations and changing customer behaviour. 

Temple & Webster has had an impressive first half of the year, despite the pandemic and everything that has come along with it. Well-placed before the WHO placed the world into pandemic alert, Temple & Webster has experienced ‘significant growth’ in both revenue and customer acquisition.

“We were growing very quickly,” said Mark Coulter, the CEO and Founder of Temple & Webster. While growth was prominent during the first quarter of 2020, it was accelerated with the outbreak of the pandemic and closure of stores across the country. “It was quite a big step up from the start of the year and growth during the pandemic,” he told Power Retail.

The online boom of the past six months has been unprecedented but expected. As Australia first learned about its lockdown on March 23rd, home workspaces became some of the most sought after categories.

“In the early days, thinking of April, customers were using us for home offices and were really get their home ready for a lockdown,” Coulter explained. “But more recently, the mix looks very similar to what it has historically looked like. So, categories like bedroom furniture, living room furniture, dining room furniture – it’s a typical mix. So, what I take away from that is that customers used us, in the beginning, to set up their multi-use spaces. Now, they’re using us as their general channel to furnish their homes.”

Temple & Webster’s active customer base has grown 77 percent YoY, with first-time buyers and repeat customers both actively increasing. “In terms of customer service, we’ve done a lot to make sure our customers still have great experiences,” Coulter told Power Retail. “Our customer satisfaction has increased, and we’re seeing that has resulted in a higher repeat rate. So the customers that are coming to us for the first time during this period are good customers and are repeating at high rates.”

Temple & Webster’s work both offshore and onshore is set to support high stock growth, and its work with vendors ensures its ‘continuity of critical services’, such as freight, technology and marketing. The retailer has announced its data integration with each of its freight carriers to enable ‘full end to end’ tracking of deliveries.

“We’re doing our bit to make sure customers can still furnish their apartments, and decorate their homes during this period. We’re quite bullish that we think people, and at the very least, they’ll keep online in their consideration set when things go back to, whatever normal they go back to,” Coulter explained.

To maintain market share growth, Temple & Webster aims to ‘continuously improve its service offering’ as online continues to develop in Australia. In its ASX results, released yesterday, Temple & Webster’s goals to continue as a market leader included creating faster brand awareness growth, investing in a bigger technology platform, and creating more ‘inspirational’ content and services.

“We’re constantly improving range and service, and adding more inspirational content – that’s our challenge, to keep going faster and faster and have a better and better experience,” Coulter said.

“There are benefits of being a market leader,” he continued. “For e-commerce, bigger is better. The bigger we get, the bigger our team can get on our technology, which means we can do interesting things like integrate AI interior design services and build out a library of 3D models. The more money we can spend on marketing to improve our brand awareness across the country. There’s a lot of things we can do, which is a direct consequence of us being bigger and getting bigger during these times. So, there are natural benefits of being a market leader – our job is making sure we’re deploying those benefits in the best way possible, and keep putting the customer first.”

Temple & Webster is taking its launch with digital offerings very seriously and is releasing its first iOS app in the coming weeks. “The app we’ve chosen to launch with as B1 is very much making sure the shopping experience is a beautiful shopping experience,” Coulter said.

“Image resolution is very high; it’s very fast and stable. The biggest difference from our other channels like desktop and mobile sites, you’ll see is the home page is much more editorialised. Someone shopping on the M-site may not have much time, so you’ll want to get them to a product page as quickly as possible. Someone shopping on an app has initiated that session; they’ve come to us through the app. We’ve taken a much more editorial layout on the home page. You’ll see much more content on the homepage, you’ll see much more curated collections on the homepage,” he said.

The favourites section of the website will be more prominent on the new app, Coulter told Power Retail. “If you’re furnishing up your apartment, you can create a mood board, share your mood board easily, and that’s a neat way to shop.”

The next iteration of the iOS app will include visual search functionality and AI, Coulter explained. “At this stage, it’s really to make sure that the shopping experience is very slick,” he said.

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