First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mayte Jurado Gómez: We are based in Spain, one of the countries most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. However, my family and all of our employees are, fortunately, ok and have not been infected by COVID-19.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ociohogar.
Mayte Jurado Gómez: I used to work as a salesperson in brick and mortar stores for a long time before I decided to found ociohogar.com in 2011. I always found that the work of a sales representative in a physical store was very inefficient. So I decided to start my own business that would be fully driven through an e-commerce channel. We have some small warehouses to manage the stock of smaller products we sell. We work with logistics partners all around Spain for the large furniture that requires special handling during the delivery and assembly.
How does ociohogar innovate?
Mayte Jurado Gómez: One of the main areas that we are focusing on since around 3 years ago is automation, especially around our online catalog management. We currently have over 400.000 different product combinations in our store, each of them with a different set of finishing and a different price. And the catalog is very dynamic as our suppliers make changes on the finishing and pricing very often. It is impossible to keep the online catalog up to date by doing the updates manually, so one of the main innovations we have done in the last 3 years and are still working on is developing a catalog management framework that allows us to automate the catalog update process. The framework requires some integration for each supplier depending on the product feeds available, but once the framework has been integrated with a specific supplier, all the updates from that supplier are managed in a fully automated way. We are still making evolutions on the framework to keep simplifying the integration process of new suppliers and to automate the updates even further.
Another area that we want to focus on next is improving the usability of the website for our end customers. We have done some improvements in the last few years, but there are many more that we plan to make during 2021.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mayte Jurado Gómez: Fortunately, around 90% of our operations are compatible with teleworking. Since the early COVID-19 outbreak, we decided to have all employees in charge of customer support, catalog management, and logistics coordination working from home.
For the logistics of some of our smaller products, we work with stock with some small warehouses around Spain. We have a small set of employees in charge of the packaging and shipping from these warehouses. We have increased the warehouses’ security by having the employees working on turns so that a maximum of 40% of the employees are on the warehouse at the same time and with a special clean-up process twice per day.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mayte Jurado Gómez: When the COVID-19 outbreak strongly hit Spain on the second week of March, and we went into confinement, everyone seemed to be in shock, and our sales during March got significantly reduced compared with s standard March. However, by around the second week of April, we started seeing sales growing, and especially the period of May-June contributed to have the strongest Q2 in terms of sales in the 9 years of history for ociohogar.com. Similarly, the period of September-November has been so far quite strong, and specifically in November, including partially the Black Friday season that is still going on, we have grown our sales by a 35% compared with 2019.
We have been lucky that our business model, which is fully concentrated around the e-commerce channel, is fully compatible with the current pandemic situation and confinement.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Mayte Jurado Gómez: We decided when the outbreak started that our focus would be to keep our employees safe. We haven’t set up any specific end-date for our policy of teleworking. We will keep working in the same way until all the pandemic is finished.
But on the other hand, we make sure that employees are well connected. We rely on Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts with video to keep all employees connected. For us, the fact that around 90% of the employees are working remotely is not making any significant difference in productivity even though we don’t see ourselves physically.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mayte Jurado Gómez: Any luxury furniture and lighting stores that invest in the e-commerce channel are our competitors. We don’t compete with Ikea, for instance, because we sell a different type of product. Some of our main competitors in Spain are Gunni & Trentino and Roche Bobois.
Your final thoughts?
Mayte Jurado Gómez: We are sure we will get through this pandemic sooner than later. There is very good news about different highly effective vaccines that will be available during the next few months, so hopefully, by Summer 2021, a large set of the population around the globe will be vaccinated. From that time, we can start going back to a more normal lifestyle.
In the meantime, we have reinforced our idea that the e-commerce channel’s investment was the right choice. Our business model demonstrates a very good resiliency and is a safe choice in these times where there are limitations for people going out for shopping but are still interested in receiving products and services at their homes where they are now spending much more time.
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