DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions
Takeaways from the DIRECT TALKS from Home 05 webinar: “Is e-commerce the future of commerce in Serbia?”
Despite all the challenges, the pandemic has been an e-commerce accelerator of sorts in Serbia. Now it is up to marketers to retain the new online shopping users through detailed data analysis and creating a well-paved consumer journey. On the other hand, the e-commerce community needs to make collective efforts to find solutions to delivery issues and steer everyone — even small producers — towards online commerce.
Mihailo Ponjavić, CEO, SuperKartica
Maja Marković, Head of Digital Marketing Department, Mercator S
Marko Mudrinić, Managing Director, Netokracija
Marko Ilić, Business Development Manager, Dijaspora.Shop
Biljana Stojković, Business Solutions Director, Wireless Media
Discussion moderated by Igor Černiševski, Head of Digital, DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions
Despite the widely accepted opinion being that e-commerce has expanded during the pandemic, European e-commerce is actually seeing a downswing — regardless of certain categories benefiting, among which are food, hygiene products, and medicines.
“The Serbian market is in a similar situation and also coming to a standstill, which is evidenced by the fact that 70% of placed orders were never delivered on account of delivery bottlenecks. Different companies and product categories have been struggling with different setbacks, and those identified as key are e-commerce platforms and technology themselves as limiting factors, alongside product unavailability and delivery logistics,” says Igor Černiševski. He notes that a shift has indeed taken place with e-commerce transactions going smoothly, which is supported by a noticeable spike in marketing campaigns centered around e-commerce and their obvious results.
Loyalty and marketing and communication platform SuperKartica has seen consumer basket climb by 91% among active users, while partners’ data reveals more than interesting trends in consumer habits. “The main phenomena driving shopping are ‘fear, need, greed,’ and we are now gradually entering the arena of need, with a visible increase in purchases at Intersport involving big sports equipment, home gym systems, and now also scooters and roller skates. It seems that we are all getting ready for spring because the fear has dissipated. Tehnomanija’s figures are showing sales jumping in work accessories, laptops, and printers, followed by bread bakers, refrigerators, and freezers. We are seeing spikes in PlayStation consoles, clippers, and epilators. Sberbank experienced a spike in payment cards and 13% of new users; Uradi sam’s online users reached an 80% climb; Metro’s online traffic also jumped by 250%,” says Mihailo Ponjavić, noting that SuperKartica itself saw a big rise in all parameters on social media and other online communication channels.
According to Maja Marković, Mercator S saw a considerable increase in online grocery sales, with as many as ten times the usual number of newly registered users in March. “The user structure has also changed, and the need for online shopping has spilled over to all age groups throughout the country. The categories seeing substantially greater numbers include the entire healthy food range, bottled water, fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, and household cleaning products,” says Maja, adding that online payments have also seen a noticeable upswing. According to her, logistics is the bottleneck of the process, especially when it comes to food because its distribution is subject to strict standards. “We have special trucks for transporting goods, but meeting the demand has not been easy. In all of this, we must remember that people on the frontlines are under a lot of pressure and that we have to safeguard their physical and mental health. We are actively negotiating with delivery services operating in the market and hoping to manage to arrange for groceries to be delivered under two hours as well,” says Maja, noting that Mercator S will be branching out its Click and Collect service to as many as 17 cities and 24 locations.
According to Marko Ilić, Dijaspora.shop holds 20 categories, more than a thousand subcategories, and 120,000 products that the website sells through its platform. Over the course of the pandemic, sales were climbing up to 300% on some days. “We saw had a downslide in beauty, makeup, and perfumes — which are now on the mend — but overall we are selling products that we didn’t even know we had on offer. We work with more than 130 suppliers, and our general practice is not to stock the goods, but instead to rely on our partners’ stocks, which has caused an occasional deviation and a demand vacuum. We responded on time, relocated the business to bigger premises, started stocking the goods ourselves, and even had to deploy our own delivery vehicles, thanks to which we were able to handle same-day deliveries. Home exercise equipment is hard to find, as well as above-ground pools, which we had been focusing on and stocking up for their sales season. Imports are slowly getting back on track, but in addition to logistics, product availability and overstrained courier services remain problematic,” says Marko.
Wireless Media, which markets omnichannel technology solutions, including e-commerce platforms, are seeing an increase in online purchases of telecommunications services. “Not only has internet access — both indivudal and bundled with TV — spiked, but we’ve also seen an increase in activations of existing users’ cards, owning to new minutes and data allowances that people now need,” says Biljana Stojković, noting that telecommunications services are becoming a modern utility service like water supply, electricity, and the like. According to her, e-commerce platform Sasomange, which launched seven days prior to the pandemic, has seen a six-digit growth in users, above all small and medium-sized enterprises. “Another nice project is zanaterija.rs, a small virtual department store selling craft products that are now climbing in beauty, children’s toys, and craft beer categories. In addition to the delivery, which is generally a negative experience for everyone, palpable setbacks included websites crashing, order automation and order acceptance issues, because the retailers did not have appropriate e-commerce solutions,” says Biljana.
Marko Mudrinić notes that the delivery is only one in a slew of bottlenecks we have encountered over the recent years in Serbia. “At the beginning, people had no interest in online shopping, then we had no stable solutions for accepting payment cards, and now that we are facing a state of emergency and people are rushing to buy online, we realized that courier services are another issue,” says Marko. According to him, the spike in e-commerce was evident in the first week of March, and everything that followed were oscillations. “We still have a large number of orders and there is growth, but logistics is an issue and from my perspective I can’t see any quick solutions to this problem. When it comes to courier services, scaling up has been quite challenging and I the only response is for the entire e-commerce community to identify their faults and try to find a solution,” says Mudrinić.
From the perspective of DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions, a considerable shift is evident in more performance campaigns aimed at webshop visits, online shopping, and online ordering.” Also noticable are the increasing effort and need of online businesses to invest in quality user experience, creative solutions, and a fitting media mix in order to yield the best results from their activities. What happened with the pandemic is indeed a boost of sorts. So far, Serbia has been lagging behind, steady tech solutions have been few and far between, with not many companies investing in e-commerce and not enough revenue to justify the investment. However, now we are in a position to cross that threshold and for e-commerce to start bringing in serious money,” says Igor Černiševski.
The pandemic, according to Mihailo Ponjavić, has been an e-commerce accelerator of sorts. “Marketers are now shouldering much of the burden. If they indeed acquired the user, it would be a waste not to analyze the data, personalize the offers, and create an appropriate customer journey that will drive users even more towards online shopping. People are also mature in the ROPO model (researh online, purchase offline) and if the projections indicate that by 2024, 85% of the global trade will be carried out online, then this is an opportunity for everyone,” says Mihailo.
“It is up to us to use this situation for the benefit of all participants in the digital ecosystem, but for this every link in the e-commerce chain is important, including the media, which need to work on consumer education,” says Maja Marković, adding that she does not believe that e-commerce will see tripled growth after the pandemic, but that the situation has further prompted us to think about creative solutions for which we as a market are ready.
“E-commerce is the backbone of digital, which is now becoming evident because the demand is largely happening online,” asserts Marko Ilić, noting that e-commerce will have a big impact on new services emerging and that education of both businesses and customers will continue to be vital.
According to Biljana Stojković, we have been receiving an amazing amount of data, and now we have a great responsibility to maintain e-commerce — to keep users shopping online using data analytics and personalized user approach.
Although he thinks that as a market we cannot have significant exponential growth, Marko Mudrinić says it will be interesting to see how small retailers and micro enterprises will adapt to online commerce. “I would like to see a systemic solution with both the government and the economy coming together with a view to avoid sacrificing small producers and them losing their jobs because of poor user experience,” says Mudrinić.
Watch the webinar here: