Rafał Osinski, Homebook for PMR: 2020 showed selling online can be a challenge

rafal osinski homebook pmr webinar

Wpis dostępny jest także w języku: polski

Online sales of home & garden products rose sharply in Poland during 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted in-store purchasing. But the pivot to online proved a challenge for some in the industry. Small, web-savvy stores often did better than large bricks-and-mortar chains, Rafal Osinski, Product Owner at Homebook, the online platform for interior design professionals and enthusiasts, told PMR’s Home & Garden webinar in November.

Garden and furniture were winners from first wave

A surge in online sales was the defining trend of 2020 – that’s beyond dispute. But which categories of home & garden products sold best? Mr Osinski says garden products were the star performer during the first wave: – Garden products always tend to sell well in spring, but spring 2020 was something else. Transactions jumped by 25%, year on year. It helped that consumers are generally more relaxed about buying garden products on the internet, without first touching or feeling them, than other categories. Garden products are not usually designer-grade stuff.   

The other category that increased sharply in spring 2020 was furniture. – Revenue in the furniture category grew by 31%, year on year. The shift to working and learning from home played a big role. Many people had to arrange and equip a home office for themselves, and/or a school space for their kids.

During the second wave in the autumn, there was a rise in customer interest in home decorations: – The growth in sales was perhaps not as spectacular. But what is interesting, intentionality went up by 17%, year on year. This means people were coming with very specific items in mind. They quickly headed to the shopping cart to finalise the purchase.

There was also an interesting trend during the summer holiday period, Mr Osinski said, namely that transactions dropped sharply (four-fold), but revenues held up. Average order values increased markedly.

Seniors are underestimated as online customers

What other changes in customer patterns could be observed in 2020? Mr Osinski says young consumers, aged 18-24, spent significantly less on home & garden products. But interest from older consumers in buying online rose very quickly: – Among persons aged 55 years and older, transactions rose by 21%. Among those aged 65 years and older, they doubled.

Mr Osinski attributes this to the spring lockdown, during which people had little choice but to turn to online channels, overcoming their misgivings. Before the pandemic, older consumers – even internet-competent ones – were reluctant to buy online. Many of them still are. Yet it is a demographic that companies ignore at their peril: – This age group should not be underestimated. E-tailers have an important task on their hands of persuading and reassuring seniors, who initially may feel intimidated by the purchase process, or worry about returns, more than others.

Selling online is not easy

Should we expect even more of home & garden shopping to move online in the coming months? In the opinion of Mr Osinski, there is no doubt that that’s what’s going to happen. However, what 2020 showed is that selling online has its own rules. A sudden jump in online orders can be a challenge, as large traditional retailers found: – Large bricks-and-mortar retailers were caught unprepared. They endured major logistical and technological problems. They were thrown in at the deep end and sometimes struggled. They were not ready for such a big shift to digital. 

By contrast, smaller players who had already operated online for a long time and had the know-how often did extremely well. There is no golden rule, though: – The key thing is to understand customers’ needs and motivations. Firms with a strong pro-customer policy will be the winners online.

Mr Osinski also spoke about one other trend that is becoming ever more important, namely m-commerce.  As he revealed, mobile devices are already responsible for as much as 70% of all traffic at Homebook.

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