Although dramatic for the affected populations, the crises caused by epidemics are also vectors of change for society. Driven by necessity or by the desire to buy, consumers have given pride of place to e-commerce and other online platforms during these confined weeks. A pioneer in its sector, GAUTIER took advantage of this time to accelerate its strategy.
Context and Covid19
Today we talk about millennials, but they are not the only ones to give a lot of importance to digital. Generation Z is not to be outdone and there is also a “boom in online shopping on the part of Generation X (1960-1979), which could keep these habits after the lockdown (Foxintelligence)”. Without forgetting the seniors since 7 out of 10 baby boomers use the Internet to find information before buying a product (co-marketing study).
In the May issue of L’Officiel des cuisinistes, Christophe Gazel (General manager of IPEA) shared his analysis of the market in this context: “Concerning the furniture market as a whole, I notice that the phygital logic, i.e. the strategy that combines the web, stores and logistics and that is loudly proclaimed by the brands is not at all operational. “He then adds: “The notion of arbitrage will be a significant factor, and I anticipate many postponements in 2021. The rebound will therefore be very strong. Those who know how to deploy the right tools so that they are fully operational quickly, I am thinking in particular of the online configurators, will be the winners. But between now and then, furniture will not be the top priority for the French.”
Some players in the sector have already invested in digital several years ago and are taking advantage of the quiet times to give a boost to ongoing projects. This is the case of David Soulard, General Manager of GAUTIER, who agreed to answer a few questions.
A bold vision to grow and bounce back
For GAUTIER, made in France and digital have joined forces for a winning strategy. Yet David Soulard did not wait for the health crisis to buy or procure “French”.For 60 years now, this family business has been producing furniture in the Vendée (French region) where it employs more than 930 people.
Very attentive to consumption patterns and new products, David Soulard and his teams began the digital shift several years ago: “Our website came out 8 years ago with a strong perspective that was a 3D software available to consumers. We called it the digital project part. It was a first big step. More than 50% of the people who come into the stores have already been on our website tinkering with our software”. With this in mind, they wanted to go further. “The project with Innersense was born in our heads 3 years ago. We thought that our software wasn’t going far enough and that we wanted to move towards something more sustainable like what HomeByMe offers with Innersense. So here we are on the configurator part which goes much further”, says David Soulard.
GAUTIER is therefore investing heavily in digital and has given a definite boost during this confined time. Its General Manager speaks of Gautier stores as “fervent defenders of phygital“. He adds that he “very quickly sensed that people were very agile in preparing their visit to the store from home”. Satisfied to have anticipated with Innersense (currently INSPI after merging with SPI Software), he foresees the importance and the extent that digital will take on, especially in the period ahead. “Tomorrow it will certainly be fewer in-store visits, but the store remains at the heart of our preoccupation. Digitalisation also means moving towards perhaps smaller stores, which would allow us to express our collections and our know-how even better”.
GAUTIER now offers a full web sales solution (in deployment) with products configurable on HomeByMe (Dassault Systèmes). Given the circumstances, the official launch did not take place at the Milan furniture fair but will take place virtually.
A “start-up” mode that works
GAUTIER also owes its agility in a rather traditional sector to the spirit of its team. David Soulard explains: “We follow the approach “Vis ma vie”” (reference to a French TV show encouraging introspection and innovation). It has often been said that GAUTIER is distinctly “start-up” in style. We all experiment, on weekends when we do our own shopping, or on things we observe. And then I didn’t come from furniture and there is this will to be inspired and bring back things that we can see elsewhere. “By “elsewhere“, he speaks in particular of the fashion industry and its ability to sell on the internet. “ They have a lot of collections, they don’t sell too badly on the internet, so that means the quality of the textures and colours is pretty good. They are the ones, these big brothers, who are leading the way for us. “
Even if he is convinced of the central role played by the store, he now sees it as an inseparable part of digital tools to better inform consumers. Visitors often arrive on site with a very precise idea because of the omnichannel nature of the brand’s offer.
The conclusion is therefore clear. It is necessary to invest now so as not to miss the boat and get left behind by competitors. A major crisis such as the one we are going through has the effect of giving a boost to trends that were already emerging. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity. 😉
Many thanks to David Soulard for his time and his answers to our questions.