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In our latest Publisher Spotlight we interview Ray of uFurnish. This innovative publisher allows users to search furniture and home furnishing ranges from 100+ retailers all on one website. Using detailed filters to segment the market, visitors can easily find what they’re looking for.
We spoke to Ray to get an understanding of his journey as an online publisher - from a standing start just over two years ago!
CAN YOU INTRODUCE UFURNISH?
ufurnish.com is a search and discovery website for home furniture and furnishings. It's a business that was founded by my wife, Deirdre Mc Gettrick, and I back in 2018. After we purchased our first home together, we then found the process of finding furniture through online search to be super painful.
We felt so strongly about there being a better way of delivering online search for furniture and furnishings that we decided to leave our jobs and start ufurnish.com!
Right now, we have over 150 retail partnerships on ufurnish.com showcasing mainstream, high street brands like John Lewis, Barker and Stonehouse, Dunelm and Heal's right through to small, independent and unknown retailers such as Grace & Grey, Norfolk Bay Company and Tobias Oliver.
There are over 1.3 million products on the website - and growing. So our mission is to help people discover the perfect items for their home.
YOU'RE PRETTY NEW TO THE AFFILIATE WORLD - WHAT WAS THE AHA MOMENT THAT MADE IT A 'MUST DO'?
We are new to the affiliate world and growing super fast. We're learning and improving everyday which is super exciting. There have been a few 'AHA' moments that made this business a must do. Those moments are:
- We experienced the problem first hand when trying to furnish our own home. It was such a fragmented process and we felt like the online experience for the consumer needed to be better. We then ran focus groups with different consumers and validated that the issue was universal and everyone felt the same way as us!
- In other markets this was a tried and tested concept. Companies like Rightmove in Real Estate and Auto Trader in automotive had nailed this so we felt that furniture and furnishings was ready for disruption/ innovation.
- The trend of furniture and furnishing searches and purchases has been trending up aggressively over the past 10 years. Consumers are becoming much more accustomed to online so the time felt right to meet consumer demand.
WHAT MAKES YOUR FURNISHING WEBSITE DIFFERENT?
ufurnish.com has so many distinct USPs. To list a few:
- There are over 150 retailers and 1.3 million products can be discovered on ufurnish.com all in one place. Rather than go from retailer website to retailer website, you can literally find everything in one place in seconds.
- You can compare and contrast products on ufurnish.com all in one place with the added ability to favourite products and track them. It makes it so much easier to sign up to one website with ufurnish.com and furnish your home in the easiest way possible.
- We innovate the search experience. There's no standardisation of search terms across the furniture market meaning that every retailer's website has a different way of describing products, colours, styles etc etc. That's super confusing for consumers but on ufurnish.com we bring together one standard way of searching across the market. We simplify the search experience and empower the consumer to find what they truly want.
HOW MUCH OF A CHALLENGE WAS BUILDING A BUSINESS THIS PAST YEAR?
2020 into 2021 has been challenging, exciting, frustrating and rewarding all in one. We started 2020 by raising a strong investment round to really get the business going and that gave us a strong platform to build our team, technology and brand.
At the start of 2020 it was just Deirdre and I working full time in the business and we ended the year on 15 team members. We've grown to 18 team members now across all departments and it's been extremely rewarding seeing the business and people within it grow!
Naturally, COVID and lockdown threw a spanner in the works in terms of our hiring plans as we intended on having an office for the team to work from but being an online business allowed us to pivot very quickly and now we are a fully distributed, work from home business. Everyone works remotely and we bring together the team for different events and meetings that we run but it's a work from home approach.
This has allowed us to attract some amazing talent into the business and we can offer people real flexibility in their work/ life balance which has been well embraced by the team.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR FROM A MERCHANT RELATIONSHIP?
We refer to merchants as Retail Partners and we very much see our relationships as partnerships. Our objective is to help our retail partners grow their brand and sales through working closely with us.
What we look for is openess around our retail partner's business objectives so we can build out clear plans of how to help them hit those objectives. We also support our retail partners in providing us with a detailed product data feed which helps us best represent their products across ufurnish.com and ensure they are found in as many ways as is possible to maximise their results.
WHAT ARE YOUR KEY FOCUSES ON THE NEXT 12 - 24 MONTHS?
As a business, we're 100% aware that we are a technology and data company, not a furniture retailer. So our role in the industry is to use our technology and data capabilities to drive a best in class consumer experience in searching for furniture and furnishings.
We gather millions of data insights every month through the way people search the ufurnish website. We use this to iterate and improve those searches every week. This drives how we work with our retail partners, as we use the data and insights to grow our partnerships - and help our partners make better business decisions through what we can provide them. It's a truly unique position we are in and one that we're growing strongly into the future.
WHAT KEY ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYONE ELSE STARTING IN AFFILIATE?
That's a good question. There are a few key points to share on this:
- Be very clear about what you are trying to achieve in your business. What's your purpose and what value does that bring to your merchants? What I've seen is that merchants are quite often uncertain about what affiliates are trying to create and therefore they are unclear in what value they can bring. Building value is critical to an affiliate business and being able to communicate that to a merchant is crucial.
- You have to deliver on your promise. We've been laser focused on ensuring that what we say we will do for merchants is what we actually do. It's all about building trust and focusing on the long term sustainability of your relationships. That comes through actions and delivering results.
- Be sure to understand the technical aspects of what you're building. In our case, our product is very technical and has multiple layers to how it is built. I think it's important that affiliates acknowledge that and take steps to build the right products/ platforms. Short term technical roadmaps and shortcuts only lead to future failings so be sure to avoid this.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU'D LIKE TO SAY TO ANYONE NEW TO MANAGING AFFILIATES?
My feedback here is probably universal to anyone building a business and I feel it's crucial. Be honest with your affiliates/ partners, stay true to your word and keep super engaged. The more energy and dedication you bring to your relationships, the better results you will drive.
Prior to starting uFurnish, Ray & Deirdre were in very different worlds. Ray was one of the first hires at LeadForensics which he was instrumental in growing to 500+ employees.
Deirdre was a VP of Leverage & Acquisition Finance at HSBC, managing a portfolio of Global and European clients.
Ray and Deirdre have the vision to be the destination website for home furniture and furnishings that allows users to search an incredible choice of furniture products from across the retail market in one place. ufurnish.com is reinventing the way furniture is searched, discovered, compared and shopped online.
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