Click, buy, carry.
Can you say "Eco-merce"?
E-commerce has never been so important as it is today. Those last pockets of resistance which we had against on-line shopping was blown away by Covid. Nowadays, almost all of us do at least some part of our shopping by using a desktop or mobile device. Many will say how "that's not the real deal", that nothing can replace interaction, product selection, bad or good music that plays from a loudspeaker at some random store. Lack of free time, pandemic situation and good old laziness have pointed us as customers towards web stores.
Just like it takes two to tango, it is pretty similar with on-line shopping. On one side we have the customer and on the other there is the seller. Although merchants are generally in favor of opening new sales channels, especially webshops which are cheaper to run than for example stores in shopping malls, webshops require certain adjustments from the merchant. In order to open a webshop, they must have speciphic skills and experience, also there are risks involved. It's not enough to build the web site and store administration. Merchant has to deal with logistics, packaging, delivery, payment methods, stock, complaints. Not to mention that everything needs to be in-sync with their existing systems, procedures and resources. Of equal importance is to make sure that the web store is compliant with law requirements. And then, after all those problems are solved, the struggle begins. A new webshop has to be advertised, marketing campaign's success needs to be measured, an eye has to be kept on sales channel profitability, and most important the store needs to grow and do business.
How much for a brick?
Slobodna domena has quite a lot of experience in designing and building web stores. We understand the process and circumstances in which e-commerce is happening. Currently we take care of five different web shops which we have also built. Each of them was different and required unique approach.
Green Tools and Libricon are two web shops that were built with the help of Wordpress and it's popular WOO Commerce plugin. We previosly wrote about pros and cons of Wordpress and all mentioned rules apply here as well. In both these cases merchant had the need to enter the marker, promtly and within budget. They were ready to adjust their expectations to meet features of Wordpress. Although this sounds like a quick and dirty approact, in fact it was not. WOO Commerce has enough of potential and value to run a successfull small on-line business. Still, there are limitations. When it's time to grow, automatize, be smarter, WOO becomes too tight.
On the other side we have Hrana za dobro, Ciklo centar and Cinesamples, all webshops that were heavily adjusted to match merchant's needs. For example, with Cinesamples it was about facilitation of their speciphic sales and distribution process. They sell software used to compose music and for that they use a 3rd pary vendor. After each sale, data comes in through API calls and that triggers a series of processes in order to provide users with full service and also centralize the data for the merchant. This relatively complex system had to be tailor made in order to take care of such sales procedure. Ciklo centar is a store which offers a large number od different products. While building their catalogue we had to predict many options for users to browse it. Although there are similar solutions on the market and many of them are more advanced than the system we've built, we still feel that we helped this family business to survive.
E-commerce for social change
Hrana za dobro is a project of Zadruga za dobru ekonomiju started in 2014. It is a short suply chain between producers and customes that runs on solidarity and helps small local family eco farms to stay active on the market. It promotes sustainable lifestyle and eases access to healthy food. In short, at Hrana za dobro you can get delicious and healthy ecological food that comes from local farmers. Their sales process is somewhat speciphic since it happens in weekly cycles. Producers announce their offers by sunday, customers have a deadline by which they can do their shopping. This is usually by tuesday. The circle is closed by pick up or delivery of food on thursday. Yes, the system allows many more combinations and deadlines. It was completely adjusted to run this sales process with consideration of all situations that have happened in the past years. With this webshop a series of administrative problems were resolved. It has improved Zadruga za dobru ekonomiju's workflow. Since Hrana za dobro is a project in realm of social enterpreneurship, one that is completely in line with values promoted by Slobodna domena, the realization of this webshop was partly financed through our Solidariy fund. So, do not waste another second, go to hranazadobro.org!
Since the system is used by small local producers, their offer varies. Sometimes, although announced, some products are not available. Such situations happen. Because of that we developed a method to administer "credits". If customer makes a payment and does not receive goods, they will be allowed credits which they can spend on next purchase. This is a simple solution to a more-less standard problem, but while working on this we started to think one step further. Since Hrana za dobro's customers are socially responsible and motivated people who not just love nice eco food but also want to help local farmers, a thought came to mind how it'd be great to use the existing system for micro-financing of projects. Zadruga za dobru ekonomiju could stand behind their producer's projects and offer delivery of food as guarantee for funds that were paid in advance. Customers could make an advanced payment and receive credits which they'll spend on food in the next period. By doing this they would directly finance the development of local eco friendly agriculture. Such system would be very simple and direct. Ofcorse, we were not the first people who thought about this. There are numerous similar examples where such direct investments work in practice, without banks as middlemen. It was just interesting to realize that by solving the "credits" problem, we have built something that could be applied in a wider sense. Hopefully, one day it will.
While having our morning coffie in Slobodna domena, we sometimes deal with imaginary problems. We can play mind games, "what if", "if i had power". Driven by caffeine we throw ideas so we can postpone the moment before we have to do and sit by our computers to deal with daily tasks. One morning we played with the idea of how to simply resolve an automatic pick-up point for Hrana za dobro. An automated warehouse where customers could pick up their delivery by themselves. The name of the game was to make it DIY and cheaply. With a bit of mechanics, electronics and some programming this would be very doable and within our competence. On that morning it was a bit harder to separate from our coffie cups and sit by the computers. For some time we were dazzled with scenes of arduino robots helping social change to happen.