We caught up with Lauren Roe, founder and director of bedding brand I Love Linen, and her team to get the lowdown on the fast growing homewares industry and how this mum of two has grown a thriving ecommerce business that’s one of Australia’s best online destinations for all things home.
Tell us about your business?
“I Love Linen is an online-only boutique specialising in luxury high-end bedding, homewares, and textiles. It began with my search online for high-quality French linen sheets. A trip to France had inspired me and I wanted to bring the lush linens I was enjoying in boutique hotels and villas, into my home. Coming from a family of retailers, and running bricks and mortar stores, I had already learnt about thread count and quality sheets from an early age so it was a natural progression for me.”
Where are your products sourced from?
I Love Linen’s main focus is pure French linen bedding made from flax. One of the oldest fiber crops in the world, flax fibre is soft, lustrous and flexible, producing the luxury linen that gives you a beautiful night’s sleep, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in winter. A renewable plant based resource, flax is sustainable and environmentally and socially conscious. Lauren explains;
“We work closely with a great maker, who is SA8000 rated - meaning they have been independently audited for their social accountability in relation to protection of workers' rights.”
But products are sourced from all over the world, and Lauren has personally visited many of the makers.
How have you grown the business so far?
After working in bricks and mortar retail all her life, and witnessing the growing love for linen in her parent’s manchester store, Lauren decided to launch I Love Linen, which was around the same time she had her first daughter, Olive.
“Australia has totally exploded with demand for linen.”
It started out as a part time project but then just grew and grew. “There’s always been a strategy in place to grow the business, but it’s always done so organically,” Lauren says. “I never invested more into it than I wanted to, I wanted it to be bare bones.”
As the demand for linen and luxurious textiles has grown, the team has had to grow too. Now a team of six, Lauren recognises the importance of having the right capabilities in the business to meet demand and facilitate growth recently bringing on board a Marketing Coordinator and Graphic Designer.
In terms of marketing, Lauren invests there too, but it’s about testing and seeing what works and using analytics to support the decisions.
“We’re focussing our marketing efforts into social media and around bamboo as that’s where people are most engaged; they don’t respond as well to cotton. And we’re seeing a lot of sales come from social media so that’s been quite positive,” Marketing Coordinator, Philippa explains.
How do you manage your time with family and business?
“Is there really a choice? I just keep going, and try to carve out time for my own self care so things don't implode.
Which products sell the best?
Living up to their namesake, I Love Linen’s French linen bedding is unsurprisingly the most popular product line. But whilst linen is having its heyday, Lauren is keenly aware of the risks of being too ‘niche’ and has been careful to diversify into other textiles and products in line with consumer trends and demand; “if one fabric kind of dies down that’s all you’ve really got.”
Their range of pillows also sell quite consistently, despite not being actively promoted.
“The range of pillows are stocked in lots of boutique hotels and although we don’t talk about them on social media, they do have lots of positive reviews”, Phillipa tells us, which can be a massive factor driving purchase decisions for something as personal as a pillow.
Where do you see yourself in the next 12 months and what’s your growth strategy?
The business already grew quite substantially in 2017 and now, for I Love Linen, the future is all about expanding the range, tapping into technology and going international.
“Over the next 12 months, we’ll continue to expand our range. Right now we specialise heavily in french flax linen bedding and we want to provide more options in other fabrics such as cotton and bamboo, which have become quite popular, as well as different categories such as clothing and textiles.”
Plans to expand internationally mean that our foreign friends will soon be able to get a piece of I Love Linen too.
“We’re looking at a couple of international markets and how we can deliver fulfilment and shipping and what the web experience will be for customers coming from different markets.”
In terms of tech, I Love Linen switched to Neto for their ecommerce platform in February 2017, which was also an investment in growth, and with that change came the scope to continue tweaking and adding functionality to the site to make it more engaging and tangible.
“We want to make it the best linen website in Australia… or any market we are operating in.”
Selling such a highly physical product online that shoppers would usually touch and feel is a challenge, but it’s something that Lauren strives to overcome through the website so that shoppers feel they’ve had the chance to ‘touch’ the products.
Small things like big, high quality product photography, images with products in-situ and lifestyle type images all go a long way to help create tangibility, and we think Lauren has done a pretty great job with website design, so much so that we featured I Love Linen in our recent blog Take Your Ecommerce Website to the Next Level with These Inspiring Designs (Part 2).
And even though I Love Linen is a beautiful product and with a site to match, Lauren emphasises that it’s not just about having a pretty face to the business, it’s the metrics that matter, which is another area Neto delivers
“We’re really excited for the analytics capabilities and insights of Neto Analytics Studio (Now available on all Neto plans). For those businesses who really want proper growth, they can go to an ecommerce platform that offers marketing people the insights to develop real strategies and not just a gut feeling.”
And what’s Lauren’s favourite thing about Neto?
I can’t stress enough how great it’s been having the local team, who’ve been really, really helpful and you get a sense that they do really care - that comes through loud and clear. Other providers can’t match that localised feel, which is a totally winning combination for Australian-based businesses who want to have successful online stores but feel like they’re supported with that local support as well.
Two top two tips for other retailers growing their business.
1. Be prepared to work ridiculously hard
2. Always make calculated decisions with outcomes you can measure.
Do you want to take the next step to scale up your retail business like I Love Linen? Start a free trial with Neto to see how we can help.