PETALING JAYA: Aureas Media Sdn Bhd through its online-based furniture brand Cuura Space, aims to launch two experience centres in Malaysia by year-end.

Based on Shopify’s Commerce Trends 2023 report, it found that more digitally native brands are opening physical stores, as in-store experiences are trending.

“As the report suggests, digital and physical are no longer separate lanes of business. Both are equally important to supercharge the growth of the brand. For Cuura Space, having an experience centre enhances the buying experience for our customers as it further builds trustworthiness and confidence in our brand.

“After 18 months operating as an online-only furniture retailer, we learnt that building that connection between our brand and the customers is the most important aspect. The experience centre further extends that trust and connection with our customers,” co-founder and CEO Benny Lim disclosed in an exclusive interview with SunBiz.

He said the company expects to debut up to two experience centres in locations with high potential for customer growth, namely in Klang Valley and Johor.

“We are looking at doing our first experience centre in Klang Valley by the second quarter of this year and the second one will be in Johor in the fourth quarter this year.

Lim pointed out that most of its customers reside in Klang Valley, particularly within the Bangsar, Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur areas.

He added that the setting up of a centre in Johor could potentially entice frequent Singaporean visitors. Moreover, he shared that a significant amount of its customers are Malaysians living in Singapore.

“It's also a strategic move for us to tap into the Singapore market as well in fourth-quarter 2024. We have many Singaporeans (and Malaysians) who order from us and we are able to provide delivery to Singapore,” said Lim.

He explained that the goal of an experience centre is not to act as a separate sales channel, but rather as an extension of the customers’ journey from online to offline, designed to create one continuous experience.

Understanding that customers may want to experience the product through “touch and feel”, he said they could visit the experience centre before making their decision on a big purchase.

“The customer experience team will assist the customer in making a well-informed decision, which will likely increase the customer satisfaction rates while decreasing the return rates at the same time. We will not be packing too many SKU (stock keeping units) in the centres, only those which are new and best-sellers.

“The main product categories we will display in the experience centre will be sofas, dining tables and chairs, bed frames and mattresses,” he said, adding that, currently, it carries close to 2,000 SKU.

On expansion, Lim said the company does not have plans to set up an overseas branch as the e-commerce space which it occupies allows it to enter other markets such as Singapore, where it is able to accept orders and arrange for deliveries.

In terms of revenue contribution, he said sofas made up about 50% to 60%, followed by beds at 20%, while the remaining is contributed by other products such as tables, cabinets and so forth.

“Moving forward, we aim to increase our revenue contribution from other categories such as bed frame and mattresses, dining tables and chairs. These three categories will contribute a total of 70%, while other categories such as coffee tables, TV cabinets, home decoration and so on will be 30%,” he added.

On trends, he observed that its competitors of late have started to invest increasingly into online marketing.

He reckoned that in 2024, consumers will either make their purchases completely online or via offline, with the emergence of “massive furniture malls”.

At present, Lim said, furniture buyers are spoilt for choice due to the variety on the market. Therefore, they are likely to choose convenience above all else to save them the hassle.

He reckoned that smaller furniture retailers will likely lose a lot of their competitive edge as buyers prioritise convenience by going to retailers with more choices.

“(I reckon that) the big retailers will only get bigger ... more and more retailers will move more of their businesses online because they would be able to carry more SKU,” said Lim.

At the same time, he recommended that retailers which have strong physical presence to explore and strengthen their position through building an online presence and vice versa.

On outlook, Lim is optimistic that the furniture industry will flourish this year, underpinned by the thriving local property market.

“The property market is booming, so the outlook for furniture is bright, with more homes (being built), hence more people will need to shop for furniture ... We will work towards strengthening our online presence as well as our presence in the Southern part of the country and central Klang Valley.

“Once we beef up our presence down south, we'll be able to serve the Singapore market much more efficiently than present,” he added.

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