Faster than Amazon

The home improvement and gardening industry is the last non-digital sector, says Christian Raisson. The co-founder of ManoMano sees potential here above all for the specialists – and for manufacturers as the heart of the digital transformation. 

How would you describe ManoMano’s development in the last year when it comes to its acceptance by consumers on the one hand and by suppliers and distributors on the other?

In 2017, we became the number one online destination for home improvement and garden products in France. In the coming years, we expect to become the leader in this category across the other European regions in which we operate – Belgium, Spain, Italy, the UK and Germany. Our customer base across Europe has reached more than two million consumers, and we are currently driving more than 15 million unique visitors per month to our platform.

We work closely with our sellers to achieve a win-win partnership and as a result we have a rapidly growing number of top-quality suppliers and distributors across all country platforms. Our objective is not to have the biggest number of partners, but the best suppliers and distributors in Europe, and we are therefore very selective in our choice. We want to grow quickly, which is only possible if our partners grow as fast as we do.

And when it comes to the figures?

Today, we offer over two million products to consumers across Europe. In 2017, our sales reached over €250m, tripling the business year-on-year, and we won’t stop there.

Are there new countries ManoMano will enter?

Right now, we are focused on the development of the countries in which we operate and are looking into launching new services for our partners and consumers. With a market of €200bn in Europe in the six countries where ManoMano is present, we already have plenty to do. However, if we do see an opportunity to accelerate the business, we will do it.

At the 6th Global DIY Summit you gave a talk entitled “Creating the new frontiers of the DIY industry”. Can you tell our readers to what frontiers you were referring. Sergio Giroldi, the CEO of Obi, preached the spirit of cooperation in an interview with DIY, the trade magazine for the German-speaking market. The interview was also published in the most recent issue of DIY International.

The New Frontier is, of course, a reference to Kennedy’s speech in 1960. At that time, the USA had to choose between isolationism and progressivism. I do agree with Mr Giroldi – we can’t do everything alone. We need to work together, and not just the traditional players, but new entrants into the market, like ManoMano.

Customers are changing faster than anticipated and they are already living in the digital world. Look at the growth of online shopping penetration in the last five years. It is the fastest growing sales channel in DIY and it will continue to accelerate. We are still surprised by our massive growth and realise that it is because of our unique offer.

When it comes to e-commerce in general – and the online shops of the DIY and garden category in particular – there is (almost only) one name: Amazon. Is Amazon overestimated – and ManoMano underestimated?

In France, we were bigger than Amazon in the DIY category in 2017. The “funny” thing is that this US giant created the new category “DIY and Garden” in the same year we launched ManoMano in France. With my partner Philip de Chanville – co-founder of ManoMano – we are proud to say we have been faster than them. Amazon is a great generalist shopping solution, but when it comes to purchasing certain specific products that need advice, services, inspirational or technical support, these large generalists are not the best solution for consumers. Specialist leaders appear in many different industries such as textile/shoes, travel, accommodation and transport. We strongly believe that the large generalists are too big to develop expertise in all sectors. There is room for specialists that can bring advice and additional services, and where a community can develop. Consumers don’t have a personalised shopping experience through these generalist giants, unlike through that of a specialist.

More importantly, we do not have the same philosophy as these large retailers. ManoMano is a dedicated player in home improvement and gardening. We understand our DIY enthusiast customers and we speak the same language as our partner sellers. We had to reinvent the marketplace business model to fit this industry and, as a result, ManoMano’s positioning is closer to DIY than e-retail.

We promote long-term strategies and collaboration with our seller partners. Thanks to this partnership and the intelligence we brought to the industry, we have forged strong links and can proudly compare ourselves to the large players.

Sometimes it feels like the aim of large retailers and generalists is to kill the market; our aim is to build the market together.

What will be the future of physical home improvement stores?

Customers no longer want to shop anonymously in large stores. Many retailers have not adapted to the current climate. The home improvement and garden industry in particular has been afraid of implementing digital solutions. Long-term investments in intelligent digital solutions can create much more business by diversifying the ways of doing business, but the decision should not be about whether or not to invest in a digital future – it is whether retailers want to survive or not. Innovation wins. Innovative stores will flourish, but if home improvement stores don’t adapt, they will struggle to survive.

And what will be the future of the home improvement and garden e-tailing?

For the moment, the home improvement and garden industry is the last non-digital sector. Most other sectors have moved to online: travel, clothing, culture products, services… and for between 10% and 35% of the business. Why should this be the only industry to stay as it is? The reality is it won’t be. There will be no exception for our industry.

What role will manufacturers’ brands play in this future?

We think that manufacturers and brands are the heart of this transformation. They are innovative and flexible, they are best placed to take advantage of this changing market and potentially will have the biggest impact on digitalisation.

There is a massive opportunity for them because we are opening a direct access between them and the end consumer. Which brand or retailer does not dream of understanding its consumer, what they purchase, their habits and behaviour?

From this change will grow a new breed of brands and manufacturers, who will create innovative products to make home improvement and gardening more accessible, more economical and more environmentally respectful. ManoMano is the simple solution, allowing these players access to the future. Direct access to consumers will allow them to increase their margins too.

This article was originally published in DIY International Issue 2/2018, and has been reproduced here with the kind permission of both DIY International and ManoMano.