Q&A: Graham Wilson, Head of Business Development at Sofology
Graham Wilson – expert panelist at our upcoming Digital Transformation event – has been Head of Business Development at Sofology since December 2019 with responsibility for driving and growing the Digital side of the business. Before his time at Sofology, he was Head of Delivery at AO.com, where he was responsible for the delivery of IT change across the UK.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I joined Sofology in January 2020 having previously worked for 7 years at AO.com as the Head of Delivery. During my time at AO, I saw the business develop from a single category, single country e-tailer to a multi-category, multi-country market leader. Throughout my career, I have been incredibly fortunate to work on a number of projects for different sized organisations in a variety of sectors ranging from the NHS and Local Government, Oil and Gas, Financial Services and Sports / Gaming.Love a challenge and enjoy the fast paced nature of the digital world.
Can you describe your current role, and where it sits within the organisation?
Head of Business Development reporting into the COO. I am responsible for our Digital and Inbound Telesales Departments with a goal of connecting digital to physical in a seamless way. We have a fantastic foundation with our current omni journey, however it can always be improved and that is where my team fits in.
Can you tell us what your company does?
Sofology is a leading furniture retailer selling Sofas and Accessories online and and in our network of 44 stores UK wide.
What’s special about your company? Is there a particular gap in the market you are trying to address?
We are a product led customer focused retailer all about matching the right product to the right customer. Our team are not on commission and we don’t do discounting or sales – we believe our products are fantastic value. We are also incredibly proud of our ESG values. So much so that we don’t partake Black Friday – instead we have Green Friday where we plant a tree with our partners Woodland Trust for every order.
What challenges are retailers facing in 2020 and where do you see UK retail in 2021?
Buying a sofa isn’t a quick decision, it is a considered purchase that on average takes 7 weeks to complete. Our research shows us that 90% of customers who buy a Sofa, want to sit on it before they commit to the purchase, after all if you get it wrong then you are left with it for several years which nobody wants.
The challenge for retail in our sector is how we bridge the gap between online and offline customer experiences. How can we get customers to visualise the product in their space? How can we inspire customers without them physically seeing an item or room set and more importantly how can we solve a key milestone in the purchasing journey – the comfort test – when the customer is buying online.
How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
We are incredibly proud of the brand and products that we have. When you combine that with our great foundations we are already in a strong position to solve the problems above.
As with everything we do at Sofology, we will be agile in how we approach the problems we face – test, learn, measure and listen to our customers is our standard approach to solving all of our problems.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
New amazing products – we have just launched our first ever Autumn Collection and we are incredibly excited to see how they perform.
On a personal note, what are the key challenges – and most rewarding aspects – of your role?
I’ve been at Sofology for just under 9 months and I have loved every minute of it. Coming from a world of online pure play, it has been awesome to learn about the dynamic of having a store complementing online and visa versa.
Also, having a global pandemic 3 months in, meant I had to really get to grips with the whole organisation lightning fast, but that was fun and the support I received from everyone at Sofology was truly amazing.
How has your previous retail experience helped you in your current role?
AO is a fantastic business and I am really pleased to see them performing so well at the minute. The pace and scale at which they operate enables me to push boundaries as I know what the art of the possible is from a digital point of view.
I also learnt a lot from listening to John Roberts (CEO & Founder), one particular saying sticks with me – ‘make mum proud’. Even though I am no longer working for AO, the principle behind those 3 words is still something that I think about in my current role today, especially when it comes to decision making – she’s my harshest critic, so best make her proud with what I do 🙂
What advice would you give someone interested in a career in retail?
Go for it!
One thing I would say to anyone starting out in a career, is make sure that you look at the values of the company you are looking to join. If they mirror your own personal values then there is a good chance that you will have a fantastic learning adventure.
The other bit of advice I give people is to have no regrets. The world is full of what if’s, however if you make a decision, commit to it and if it doesn’t work out how you want, then go again – don’t look back, it will slow you down.
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