Why small is powerful in the big world of ecommerce – an interview with Mrdjan Uzelac, Vice President Business Development at ePages GmbH
The size matters when it comes to the operational complexity, strategy or goals to achieve of an SMB compared to an ecommerce giant. Yet, there are companies that help the small ones compete against the big ones. In this interview Mrdjan Uzelac shares his insights on how ePages supports small businesses in the competitive world of ecommerce.
Paulina, E-commerce Capitals: As a speaker at the E-commerce Berlin Expo you're an authority on ecommerce. What is it like to lead global expansion, manage global salesforce and shape the strategy at ePages? This is definitely a big and demanding role in a big company!
Mrdjan Uzelac, ePages: Our global footprint does indeed involve a high level of operational complexity. Since we exclusively sell our online shop product via our distribution partners, our entire business revolves around supporting our partners in providing our online shops to their customers. We have around 100 partners globally, each with a unique version and configuration of the ePages software. Our software is available in 15 languages, all currencies, and tax matrices for the countries we operate in. We have partners in most European countries, as well as the US, Canada and Australia. Furthermore we have a localized product, which means that we offer local payment and shipping methods, as well as shopping portals, in these countries. This complexity is the reason why we have 170 members in our team. In order to be able to offer a competitive product in so many markets means you have to provide meaningful localization. On the strategic level, this means you have to be aware of local and global competition, as well as very different market conditions.
E-commerce Capitals: Yet, the topic of your presentation at the E-commerce Berlin Expo is “Small is powerful – What’s unique about ecommerce for small and medium businesses?”. Could you tell us why you decided to focus on SMBs in your talk?
Mrdjan Uzelac: It’s a simple answer. At ePages we’re committed to providing solutions for small and mid-size online merchants. We make online shops for the small guys, not for the large etailers. “Small is powerful” is our credo at ePages. It serves as a daily reminder to us for whom we do what we do every day. We believe in small businesses. It’s a bit of a David vs Goliath ethos. Therefore, we focus our efforts on enabling them to carve out a successful niche in the competitive world of ecommerce.
E-commerce Capitals: ePages has been founded over two decades ago, has offices in Hamburg, Jena, Barcelona, London and New York – and operates successfully on these quite diverse markets. What is the secret of this success?
Mrdjan Uzelac: Yes, ePages has been around for a long time. The secret is the belief in and focus on SMBs. Luckily the SMB ecommerce market has been growing, and as a result, so have we. At the core we are a software company that focuses on the product, online shops for SMBs. Instead of investing marketing funds in our brand, we leave the marketing and distribution to our large service providers, like Strato and 1&1. This way we managed to scale to 140,000 customers, allowing us to reinvest in the product.
E-commerce Capitals: And this is tangible success! But new year often means new challenges – what, in your opinion, are the biggest challenges that any ecommerce business, irrespective of its size, has to face in 2016?
Mrdjan Uzelac: Due to constantly growing competition customer loyalty is becoming increasingly important. Brand identity is as important for small businesses as it is for large retailer, yet is somewhat more difficult to achieve. Small businesses can differentiate via storytelling, in other words with an emotional presentation of their business. An own online shop is a great platform for this, especially when compared to marketplaces. A recent Strato shows that 40% of respondents state that their own online shop is the sales channel with the most repeat customers.
E-commerce Capitals: Running a successful ecommerce business requires constant learning. Where do you take your knowledge from? Do you have any sites or resources that you read every day to keep track of news relevant to your job?
Mrdjan Uzelac: I personally have my eyes on the web hosting and service provider media, since my job is to work with our strategic partners. When it comes to ecommerce news, most of us at ePages read general internet news at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, t3n, Internet World Business, and many local portals on the internet business around the world. Then there are some specialized portals on certain aspect of ecommerce, like payments, e.g. PYMNTS.com. The most relevant information, however, we get from speaking to peers in the broader industry, be it ecommerce, hosting, or payments. This is why events like E-commerce Berlin Expo are important to us.
Mrdjan Uzelac will speak to the audience of E-commerce Berlin Expo that is taking place on April 27th, 2016, in Postbahnhof, Berlin. The title of his talk is “Small is powerful – What’s unique about ecommerce for small and medium businesses?”. The event is free, so make sure to be there – irrespective of the size of your company.