Founded in 2017, The Sheet Society is still fresh on the e-commerce scene, but that doesn’t mean the business isn’t on the fast-track to success. Power Retail catches up with the bedding retailer’s founder, Hayley Worley.
Following the motto, “sheets to live in”, The Sheet Society has been built around the concept of beds being used for a lot more than just sleeping. In fact, Worley believes that for some people, the bed can be a home’s hub.
“Our demographic is 20-35, either still living at home or in a smaller apartment where their bed really is the focal point of where they spend most of their time,” she says. “In 2018 you eat dinner in bed, sleep in bed and often spend the whole weekend in bed watching Netflix so it needs to be a place you love going to.”
Worley says she wants purchasing bedding to be like shopping for clothes, ensuring her customers have access to on-trend bedding options in an industry that’s seen as boring and confusing.
“We’ve fused the feeling of wearing a new on-trend outfit with the feeling of fresh sheets and to us, there’s no better feeling!”
So, what inspired Worley to start her millennial-focussed business? Power Retail finds out in this exclusive interview.
What was your inspiration for getting into the online bedding space, and how has your business evolved over the last 18-months?
The idea came to me one day when I bought a new set of sheets and realised that it changed the whole look and feel of my room. I found myself trying to build a set of sheets the same way I would build an outfit, but I couldn’t find any brands out there that were approaching dressing your bed in this way.
Not many people really understood my change of direction, I just kept saying, ‘bedsheets, but you know, cool bedsheets’. I found myself on a mission to tell the story of the brand through our product photography and when we launched it was a big ‘ahhh, that’s what you mean, I get it now’.
We really wanted to cut out all of the BS from buying sheets.
There is so much information out there about what are the ‘best’ sheets to buy. There’s the classic linen, bamboo, and new fabrics like Tencel, which is a reconstructed wood pulp. We’ve kept it super simple and chosen to use an all-natural 100 percent cotton. We love the cotton pieces in our wardrobes like our tee’s and denim, so wanted to use a fabric we know and trust.
What were the key challenges you faced in setting up The Sheet Society?
Launching online was a huge eye opener into the whole world of digital marketing. We set the website live and almost expected the flood doors to open until we realized that no one could actually find our website. We were on page 12 of Google for ‘The Sheet Society’ simply because I hadn’t known to submit our sitemap to Google. It was the exact opposite of ‘build it and they will come’. Because of my background, getting the product made and into our warehouse was the easy part, so I quickly realized I had no idea what came next!
I wanted to know more about the Digital space, so I enrolled myself in as many online and full day courses to up-skill myself in this area. There are so many supportive Facebook communities out there, which were also a huge help. I know we had an amazing product so the missing piece was to get our brand out to the world. I’ve actually learnt so much about digital marketing in the last year that I’ve started consulting as a side hustle.
Coming into our second year of business brings whole new challenges as we start to scale. I’m really focusing on growing my team and structuring the business for success.
What are some of the key features that differentiate The Sheet Society from other bedding and homewares retailers out there?
We’ve made our sheets from an extra long staple cotton which is commonly referred to as an Egyptian cotton. These threads are longer, so we don’t need as many of them to keep the fabric woven together. This means that the thread count of long staple cotton doesn’t need to be as high. Our weave is more open so the fabric can breathe better and is much softer as the strands are longer.
We also inject a fashion element into our designs. Our best-selling Terracotta colour was inspired by the Timberland boot, which was back in fashion when we launched and our Blush has been another bestseller, which also launched right around the time that ‘millennial pink’ was in fashion.
Another key point that differentiates us it that we’ve split our audience into two groups – those who want to feel good and are searching for softness, quality and breathability and the people who want it to look good and are searching for the latest colours to update their room. This also gives us a leg up with our marketing, as it increases appeal.
What marketing and website initiatives do you believe have been the biggest contributors to your businesses success?
We are one of the only online Australian bedding stores where customers are able to ‘create your own’ bundle on our product pages. This means that every available unit of stock can be purchased either individually or as part of a bespoke bundle. Some of our product bundles have over 300 different SKU configuration options and this structure is key to ensuring we are able to give our customers the best user experience and the product they ultimately want.
We designed this method outside of the standard scope of a Shopify online store to offer this seamless shopping experience to our customers. It is important to us that our site follows the same ‘mix and match to create your style’ vibes to ensure customers feel completely in control of their purchase.
This was a nightmare to implement as it meant that we needed to integrate systems that probably weren’t required for our size of business, but we are now all set to scale having already ironed out the kinks, which is exciting.
What fulfilment options do you offer, and how do you handle your logistics?
We are really lucky to be a part of Clik Collective, which is a shared warehouse/office space in Kensington. We have a 92 square metre unit that we have fitted out with an office in the front and our warehouse in the back. There are 20 other online businesses in the space so it’s such a great community to be a part of.
The space has a loading dock where we can easily receive our deliveries and Click has a partnership with Australia Post so we have courier pickups three times a day and really great rates as a part of the collective.
It is really important for us to be able to pack and ship our own orders in-house. We hand write personal notes to each customer, which they absolutely love. Warehousing ourselves also means that we can resolve any issues really quickly and can be really agile when we need to.
We had our biggest sale day ever last Click Frenzy and were able to dispatch all parcels either same day or next day to give the best possible service to all of the new customers we acquired. I’m not sure you’d be able to do that at a 3pl!
How does The Sheet Society use social media?
We were late to the game in terms of growing an organic social following so using paid ads has been our main driver for our social media growth.
Paying for social has meant that we can clearly determine the ROI so the focus is on optimising the spend to get the most out of it.
We’ve structured what our customer sees from us through the different stages of discovery through to purchase to ensure that we’re showing them the right message at the right time.
This strategy takes them on our brand journey and ensures our ad spend is kept as lean as possible.
What technologies do you use to help drive your bedding business?
We use Shopify to manage our online store, which is definitely the most intuitive product for new online retailers. Our Shopify store connects to ‘Dear Inventory’, which we use to manage our purchasing and stock levels. Both Shopify and Dear Inventory connect seamlessly to our Xero, which manages our accounts. Dear Inventory also links directly to our Amazon and eBay stores, which is imperative as a multichannel retailer and means we are able to keep inventory data up to date in real time.
Although Shopify offers a basic, inbuilt inventory management solution, the decision to add Dear Inventory to our list of supporting technologies had to do with the ‘bundle’ functionality that we built on the front end of our website. The way we have structured our ‘Product Families’ in Dear enables us to create a different SKU variation for each possible configuration (eg: double fitted, king flat, two pillowcases) and provides us with an ‘auto assemble’ and ‘auto dis-assemble’ functionality.
This allows every item to be purchased and doesn’t restrict stock levels based on pre-allocated bundles or sets. This cost-effective yet comprehensive solution keeps our website ahead of the curve until we can sustain a custom web development project.
We then utilise the app ‘Stamped.io’ for our customer reviews. The automation and simplicity behind this app has been key to us receiving hundreds of five-star reviews. We really look up to our competitors in the bedroom category like Koala Mattress for marketing inspiration and these guys have shown that it is possible to sell a product you’d usually need to touch and feel before purchasing with the power of social proof!
What are some of the things you know now that you wish you had known while you were setting up your e-commerce business?
I really wish I had known more about cash flow! In the beginning, it was easy to plug into a spreadsheet ‘if we sold x we would make x’ but in reality, if you’re purchasing twice as much stock each time you order to keep up with demand the money invested in the business just keeps getting larger.
There’s never any ‘spare’ money!
There are a lot of seemingly glamorous stories about e-commerce businesses being easy to run as the customers come to you. The reality of e-commerce nowadays is that building a strong brand and an online presence is as important as the product that you are selling.
Websites like FrankBody and GoToSkincare sell more than just the product, they sell the brand through the colours, copy and UX. We are working with a branding agency on figuring out our tone of voice and aim to pull together a branding strategy that is just as strong!
Finally, what do you love most about the online retail space?
I actually really love the community. The whole ‘working for yourself can be lonely’ is the absolute opposite of how my experience has been so far. I’ve met so many amazing people in the e-commerce space who have generously given me their time and advice without any expectation of anything in return. This culture, in turn, has made me make sure I’m trying to also pay it forward to others in their own journey and helping out by sharing my wins and mistakes along the way.
The Sheet Society is currently nominated for the award of Best New Online Retailer at this year’s ORIAS.
The winners of the 2018 awards will be announced at the Online Retailer Gala Awards night, which will be held in Sydney on July 26, 2018.