Aldona Mioduszewska, Galeria Wnetrz Domar for PMR: You cannot evaluate a sofa or mattress online

Wpis dostępny jest także w języku: polski

Online shopping has boomed during the pandemic, also in the furniture and home furnishings category. Galeria Wnetrz Domar, one of the largest home decoration malls in Poland, has experienced this trend, too. Speaking to PMR’s Home & Garden Retail Webinar on 5 November, its marketing director, Aldona Mioduszewska, expressed strong belief, however, that the in-store channel would remain important.    

Classic case of online spike

Galeria Wnetrz Domar in Wroclaw hosts more than 100 furniture and home furnishings shops over 24,000 m2 of gross lettable area. How has it coped in the Covid-19 reality, with its restrictions, temporary lockdowns and consumer concerns?

– We implemented measures to expedite purchasing decisions, and to make the collection of purchases easier. We communicated very clearly what the new situation required in terms of cooperation between tenants and shoppers. And it worked. There was a time when online orders went through the roof. So we were a classic example of the pandemic-induced surge in e-commerce – Ms. Mioduszewska said.

Customer Assistant for time-pressed shoppers

The profile of visitors to Galeria Wnetrz Domar has changed, too. Before Covid-19, a large group were showroomers. They came to browse products, looking for inspiration.

With the arrival of the pandemic, and its attendant restrictions and anxieties, this has changed. What we are observing now is the typical Research Online, Purchase Offline pattern, in which people first check out on the internet what they can buy in GW Domar, and then come with a very specific purchase in mind – the mall’s marketing director explained during the PMR webinar.

Customer Assistant is a role that Galeria Wnetrz Domar created before the pandemic. It has served it well in the Covid-19 era. As Ms. Mioduszewska explains, Customer Assistant fields customer queries posted online, offering advice on where in the mall to buy specific products. It is a hybrid, online/offline service: Customer Assistant can advise online, or take you on a physical tour of selected shops, showing and suggesting products.

Customers really like this service – they spend less time inside that way, and still buy what they need. We launched it in response to clear trends in customer behaviour that are by no means specific to home & garden retail. Quite simply, people have less and less time and want to make purchasing decisions faster – Ms. Mioduszewska said.

In-store sales will not disappear

E-commerce has grown at a record rate in 2020. But does this mean that in-store shopping will soon become a thing of the past? That’s unlikely. – Some product features or characteristics simply cannot be experienced online. This is definitely true of certain pieces of furniture. There are parameters you have to test out in-store – even the most beautiful pictures or descriptions will not tell you whether a mattress or sofa is comfortable. With some products your first experience as a customer has to be a tactile one, not just visual. You need to touch and feel a product to know that it is the right one – Galeria Wnetrz Domar’s marketing director told the PMR webinar.

According to Ms. Mioduszewska, the coming months could be a period of brutal adjustment. – We will see a polarisation of spend. In persuading customers to make a purchase, relationships based on genuine values will be crucial – she concludes, adding on a positive note that the market will surely rebound at same point.

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