Open up to the world. Global e-commerce
Pixers is a marketplace that offers thousands of various ways to personalize its interiors. It operates on the global scale, and services clients from 112 countries. We talk to the General Manager of Pixers, Ms. Aleksandra Szol-Tułecka, about the Polish e-commerce, its expansion to foreign markets and on the ways to run a company with international reach.
According to this report Gemius „E-commerce w Polsce 2018” for e-Commerce Polska, Poles are increasingly willing to shop at foreign e-stores. The case is similar with consumers from other countries. Therefore, it's no surprise that the entrepreneurs from the e-commerce sector are increasingly frequently pondering the development of cross-border trade.
PayU: At present, only 7 percent of Polish e-stores sell their products outside Poland. Why should this change in the coming years? What could make cross-border trade one of the most important tendencies in e-commerce?
Aleksandra Szol-Tułecka: This has already happened, the world has changed. Whoever decides to open an e-shop, examines his company from the global standpoint. If the business is well designed, you automatically seek ways for fast and effective reaching your buyers. Cross-border sales are easy thanks to the technology that limits costs. I think that e-commerce is already making another step, because the newest tendency is a-commerce – automation of the purchasing process on the client's side. The contemporary consumers do not complain about too much free time – quite the opposite. That is why they are willing to do a lot to automate or outsource part of the activities that comprise the purchasing process. Another element is the use of artificial intelligence. If we want to compete on a global scale, we need to keep up. The question arises, whether everyone should enter e-commerce? This is an individual decision, the business model you choose for yourself. Polish e-stores should consider their development from the global perspective. I do believe this will soon be natural. The focus on the domestic market can be rather risky in the longer run (because of lack of revenue diversification), or can limit the opportunities for sale growth. Unless the e-store is only meant as support for a well-known, recognizable local brand, but such cases must be extremely rare. We observe that Poles increasingly frequently shop abroad, looking for unique and interesting products that are not available in the domestic shops. Similar behaviors are demonstrated by buyers from other countries, this is why Polish e-stores should open up to the foreign markets. We are very creative as a nation, and have nothing to be ashamed about. We have the knowledge, the experience and growing opportunities. The expansion of our ideas should come naturally, so I encourage our entrepreneurs – they should courageously use the latest technologies and available solutions, and simply conquer the world.
According to the Polish Post, the domestic entrepreneurs are restrained from foreign expansion by their insufficient know-how, high costs (of postal services, providing guarantees and returns, and disputes with customers), as well as the lack of foreign language skills. Will these issues disappear in the coming years?
I think the situation would change. It is hard to predict the dynamics of this process due to complexity of this issue, but the market situation – the competition which encompasses the whole global market – would in fact force Polish entrepreneurs to expand their business to other countries. Moreover, development of the e-commerce area is changing our reality. Just look at Allegro and InPost, which together have developed an effective and really cheap system for delivery of packages. Companies which offer backup services for e-commerce, such as courier companies, online payment systems or customer care support of the chat bot type, are aware of the changes and strive to offer solutions that match our needs. The awareness of Polish entrepreneurs is rising. We exchange knowledge during various sector events, and the Internet offers us not only access to customers from all over the world, but serves also as source of valuable knowledge.
It seems that finance is the largest barrier – aside from the psychological one. Do Polish e-businessmen have tools that could help them with expansion? Are there financial products available in the market that could facilitate the start of cross-border sales for them?
Polish entrepreneurs have access to online payment systems that serve companies from all over the world. Brands such as PayU are recognized in all countries, which means the foreign customers are more willing to buy at our marketplace. They have the certainty of making a secure transaction, with the intermediation of a tried and tested financial services provider. Moreover, the use of such solutions is made easier by sale in various currencies. Until recently, the online payments market was monopolized by PayPal, which effectively superseded the traditional bank transfers. Nowadays, the number of providers of this type of services has grown significantly. That is why it is so important to implement many solutions, to allow the customers to choose the one they like best.
Pixers decided to integrate with the PayU Hub payment platform. What does your company want to gain through that? How is this integration supposed to help with running an international e-business?
We work very hard to ensure the highest satisfaction of our customers, using different means. The environment-friendly solutions, adapted to the buyers, and the huge selection of patterns available on demand, the extended Customer Service department which speaks twelve languages, constant activities in the UX and IT areas, a number of conveniences in the form of free mailing and 365 days for return of the goods, as well as safe payments, help us to fulfill this goal. PayU was the natural consequence of our development path. We needed a tried and tested, infallible and recognizable platform, trusted by customers from all over the world. Our priority is the ease of transactions for our customers.
In your opinion, are companies aware that they can use numerous online payment solutions? Are they capable to use them?
I think this is not about awareness itself, but whether we think what the customers expect and need. I would focus on simplicity of solutions, their availability and security. The next features are transparency and intuitive use, which allows to save time. The comfort of transaction fulfillment in the payment process is very important. The focus on customer expectations and the customers' preferred payment forms are the basis for approach to scale the business to new markets – and an expression of care for our potential buyers. I believe it makes sense to devote time for developing this knowledge, if we have not done this yet. Today's world is changing very rapidly and something which was current yesterday can be old news tomorrow.
Pixers has customers from 112 countries. How did you manage to build such reach?
Most importantly, owing to the clearly defined development path, supported by various tools used by the individual departments of Pixers, which cooperate with each other to ensure we do not stray off the path. The mission and values of our company have not changed through the years, which means our actions are consistent, despite various changes and implementation of new solutions. We work very hard to ensure the shopping path is easy, transparent and convenient for users from all countries where we are present. We deliver value to our customers. We are not simply service providers, but purveyors of the best personalization solutions, used by our customers for interior decoration.
The Departments of Marketing and Customer Journey (EMA+UX+design) guide our customers through all phases of the journey, which ends with placement of the order. We strive to involve, but most importantly, to inspire. We publish information on the hottest trends, suggest proposals for ready arrangements which can be viewed at our website in the Metamorphoses section.
Why would the products of Polish e-commerce be attractive for foreign customers, who are used to shop at Alibaba, Amazon or Zalando? What are the advantages of our e-stores?
All the giants you named sell mass products, available to the general public. Their competitive advantage stems mostly from the convenient, flexible forms of shopping and the access to many varied products. Persons looking for something different, for a change, can find it at Polish stores, probably at lower prices than locally in their countries. Of course, this is a chance for author's online boutiques, for stores that sell handmade, limited goods, or just for local brands. Thinking outside the box is what matters. We Poles really know how to do it. I could keep naming examples without end: Displate, The Odder Side, Le Petit Trou, Lilou, Local Heroes, MSBHV, Eve or La Millou. These are just companies from the fashion and design sector, and what would happen if we dug deeper. Stores with more traditional goods can compete by prices with their peers from Germany, the UK or France.
They key to success is to get to know the human side of our customers best – and the Polish e-stores are capable of doing this. This becomes an element of competition with the large players. We follow the buyer, we get to know his or hers emotional behaviors on the Internet, and as a result, we learn about the DNA of our customer, and can offer personalized solutions. We care about the human experience on the Internet. There is no border between offline and online. The Internet-based solutions are a tool which makes it easy to close the distance between the provider of services and products and the client, but the offline world brought the human face into the Internet. We are talking about the human version of e-commerce.
On what countries should the Polish e-commerce operators focus? Should they target primarily the markets in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, or should they not be limited by geography?
Geography should not be a restriction. Certainly not in the contemporary world, which is not even the global village anymore, but a full off-on blend – the mix of real space with the virtual. We function globally, in the single Internet space-time – we live, we buy, we exchange experiences, we do not heed any divisions, because they simply do not exist. We can be limited only by technology and traffic costs. Pixers currently operates 27 domains which allow us to sell constantly to over 100 countries. They are whole islands covered in Pixers' products, such as Reunion. They love us in New Zealand or the Seychelles. I can say just one thing – do not fall into the thought trap. Do not be limited by the pragmatic approach. It is important to keep in mind that consumers from various countries have different habits, needs or just shopping patterns. When the customer is at the center of attention, sale is the natural implication. We just need to provide the most adequate response to his or her need. Certainly, before entering a given market you need to perform various tests, interviews, check the costs (customs duties, shipping), but first of all, you must respect the buyer – the culture of a given country and the habits and rules of the given nation. In brief, you need to become just as the customers in the given country.
It makes sense to strive to gain presence in many markets, because clients for our services can be anywhere – I encourage to reverse the process of thinking about sales. Let them get to know our company and to profit from our offer. Democratization of services is just as important as universal access to information. Thanks to it, we all win: us, our customers, the economy and the culture.
Entry into the cross-border market is another challenge faced by many enterprises from the e-commerce sector. And although it certainly is quite difficult, the matter is certainly made simpler by the modern platforma PayU Hub. The uniform integration with the API interface allows the sellers to gain access to 2.3 billion users. But this is not the only advantage. The main advantage is to guarantee higher conversion for your e-store. Payments can be processed via local settlement centers, which is favorable both for the customers and for company development.