Achieve your e-commerce success with Polish start-up
It's getting increasingly easier to start an online store. But starting isn't even half of the success. The point is to keep on growing and making profit. Shoplo is a Polish start-up that takes care of your store from the very beginning all the way to commercial results. We talk to them about their customers, investors and scaling globally
Shoplo is a successful Software as a Service (SaaS) solution from Poland founded back in 2012 by Grzegorz Lech and Patryk Pawlikowski. The idea was to develop software that makes it extremely easy for non-technical people to set up an online store and focus on what they actually want to focus – selling their products and making money.
As its users may quit Shoplo at any moment, for example when their stores aren't doing so well, it's crucial for the Shoplo team to help them succeed. This is why Shoplo constantly adds new features and puts great focus on educating their users about making sales. This also includes organizing e-commerce conferences such as Ecommerce Day Poland.
Web.gov.pl talked to Shoplo's Agnieszka Lekszycka to learn more about their approach to customer, making the best of investments and going global with their product.
Web.gov.pl: Your e-commerce platform advertises itself as “the easiest way to sell online”. Does that indicate that Shoplo's solution mostly targets individuals and non-technical teams that only require basic features of an online store? How does Shoplo fare in comparison to solutions such as Etsy?
Agnieszka Lekszycka: I wouldn’t say that Shoplo has only basic features, but yes – the platform was designed for people without technical background. Most of our users are women who are dedicated to designing and manufacturing their products. They don’t want any complicated and advanced tools. They need something simple and ready to use, in order to focus on what they love instead of getting lost in tech aspects.
The difference between Shoplo and Etsy is simple. While they both target the same group of people – mostly DIY makers and fashion designers – they are complementary. Shoplo enables you to create your own online store and build a brand. It means you have your own place on the web. Etsy, on the other hand, is a marketplace where you can list your products and be present among millions of other sellers and buyers.
The two tools are different, but still many designers use both of them. We are aiming to make this process easier. Shoplo supports multichannel selling, through integration with a variety of sales channels such as Etsy, Allegro, eBay or Google Shopping. Multichannel selling is a necessity nowadays. Merchants are aware that their customers are diffused among hundreds of different channels, so it is impossible to reach them only in one single place. Consequently, they want to be present in all the marketplaces where they can find their prospects. We are aware that customers sell not only through their own online store, but also via numerous marketplaces. That is why we integrate with them and let people manage all their sales in one place.
More and more people decide to run online stores. Fields such as handmade items or clothes are especially fertile. What kind of benefits does Shoplo have for such people? How do you differ from other paid and free solutions?
As I have mentioned before, Shoplo was actually built for fashion designers and DIY makers. This is actually the group that understands and appreciates our tool the most. Why?
First of all, due to beautiful design of Shoplo themes. People who sell gorgeous products want to expose them in equally gorgeous online store. This group knows the importance of design – so do we. All our themes were created by most talented designers with other designers in mind. They are beautiful, intuitive and perfect for selling clothes, jewelry or home decor products.
Another thing that attracts these people is the fact that Shoplo is integrated with most of the tools and marketplaces they use. Sellers can quickly connect their Shoplo store with the sales channels above as well as Facebook, Allani, or Domodi.
Our users also pick Shoplo, because they want to be a part of Shoplo Market – our own marketplace with curated products from the best online stores. They consider it a great possibility to promote their stores and position themselves among the most recognizable fashion brands. The best proof of this is our portfolio – around 90% of all 12 000 stores that were created on Shoplo are those selling fashion and handmade products.
Our clear pricing policy is also an important factor – we do not take commission. Users can pay monthly fees or pay for a year from the get-go. This means that our users are not “punished” for good sales results.
One of the most interesting promises you make is that each of your customers can give up on their store without any consequences. But that also means that they won't pay you anymore. This model 'forces' you to take great care so that your customers succeed in their e-commerce ventures. How do you help them?
This model means that we have the same goal as our customers – making their businesses successful. After 2 years, we have already established some effective ways to achieve it.
The first one is education. We focus a lot on providing our customers with knowledge they need to be successful. How do we do it? We run Shoplo Academy, where store owners can find numerous ebooks, white papers, video tutorials and articles with helpful insights. All these resources are of course free and accessible to everyone. Besides this, we organize numerous events - Ecommerce Day Poland - a huge conference for hundreds of sellers with speakers from Google, Facebook, PayPal etc. as well as smaller Ecommerce with coffee which takes place every month and provides an opportunity for sellers to meet and discuss their everyday problems.
Second way to help our stores is sales generation. We promote our sellers through case studies, Shoplo Market (which sends customers directly to their stores) and marketing campaigns. What is more, every merchant on Shoplo receives his own package with deals and discounts for promotion and development of his store (from companies such as Facebook, GetResponse or InPost).
All these activities support sellers and help them grow their businesses. Even if they start as total beginners.
Shoplo is gaining ground in Poland, but it's not a secret that it has global ambitions. Where is Shoplo available now worldwide, what markets are the most interesting for you and why?
Shoplo is now available on four markets: Polish, German, British and Brazilian. It means the tool is fully translated and integrated with local providers, especially in terms of logistics and payments there.
We are soon planning to expand to other South American markets as well as Turkey. This countries seem very interesting for us, because they are less saturated than European ones and, simultaneously, represent a great potential of growth in the upcoming years.
Is there something more to opening your service in another country than just changing the language? What are entry barriers to scaling business such as Shoplo internationally?
To be honest, language is the smallest problem. Even though e-commerce becomes more and more global, every market still has its own demands and specifics. Customers in each country have their preferred payment and delivery methods, which means Shoplo needs to be integrated with all local providers. Besides technological aspects, the product itself and the marketing strategy have to be adapted to the characteristics of a country. You won’t succeed in conquering new market unless you get to know it pretty well before.
Depending on a country, we use different channels - for some the best marketing source will be social media, for others content marketing and there are still some markets dominated by press where there is one particular portal or magazine that remains the biggest lead generator. We also change our marketing communication according to the aspects that are the most crucial for customers on a particular market.
Shoplo has already received a substantial amount of investment from VCs such as Xevin Investments and Protos Venture Capital. In hindsight, do you believe that you made the best possible use of that funding? What do you think are the strongest points of Shoplo from the perspective of investors that may give convince that it will continue to grow?
Majority of the money we received from the VCs was spent on specialists acquisition for the team to scale the business. If it hadn’t been for the investment, Shoplo wouldn’t be able to grow so fast – in 2 years we have reached almost the same results that our competition completed during 8 -10 years. We have managed to build a great team full of professionals and now we can focus mainly on product development and customer happiness, as most of our clients come to us directly. Shoplo does not perform many marketing campaigns – we benefit from recommendations and word-of-mouth marketing instead.
This and Shoplo’s traction in general, are probably the best arguments to convince investors to put more money in the company. Our results show that we know how to use investment to grow quickly and scale the business. Moreover, we have a very precise plan for the global expansion, which also generates a huge interest among VCs.
Are you interested in more funding from foreign VCs in the short- and long-term future?
Yes. We recognize the value of foreign VCs, especially in terms of smart money. We’ve learned that these are the know-how and contacts, not money itself, that are more important in terms of business development. Furthermore, foreign VCs are especially attractive for us at our present stage, as we are planning to expand to new markets globally.
Shoplo keeps on growing very fast. We do not only intend to conquer new markets, but also have many plans related to product development. Shoplo, as an e-commerce platform, is only a part of what we offer. There are other products, including marketplace creator (a user can build his own marketplace), tools for multichannel sales, our own mPOS (app designed to bridge online and offline sales), Shoplo Payments (our own payment system), Shoplo Market (our own marketplace), Shoplo Fullfillment, Ecommerce Day Poland, or any other offline events, including fashion and DIY fairs.
Shoplo Marketplace is a product that needs more explanation. It was born as a response to merchants needs. There are more and more people who come to us, because they want to build their own marketplace - not a store, but one integrated place where different sellers list their goods. The constant emergence of new marketplaces is a global trend, so it doesn't surprise us at all. That is why we created Shoplo Marketplace - a tool that enables users to build their own marketplaces as easily as the build their stores on Shoplo.
It is only the beginning of the list – we still have many products that are soon to be developed. That is why many foreign VCs are interested in Shoplo and willing to help us achieve all these plans.
Could you let us in on some latest moves of yours? Can we expect some new features or debuts in new markets? What are your plans for the next couple of months/years?
As you can see, we never stop at Shoplo. We are now working very hard so that we can launch many novelties soon
Firstly, we are focusing a lot on our offline activities. You can expect many events for e-commerce entrepreneurs taking place soon – you can find a lot of information on that on our Shoplo blog. We aim to help sellers even more that is why we plan to meet them in person and give them tips they need. Where? During Ecommerce with coffee, during events for female entrepreneurs, in fashion schools and through business student organizations.
Secondly, we will give a lot of attention to aforementioned Shoplo for Markteplaces, Shoplo Market and Shoplo mutlichannel features – our three products that reflect current trends in e-commerce. We literally want to support sellers in all they need.
Finally, we plan some more trips to e-commerce fairs – to Brazil, Argentina and Turkey – to get to know these markets better and establish core partnerships with local providers there. By the end of this year, we want to have Shoplo fully ready and adapted to expand to these three countries.
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