In the Spanish Basque Country there are three Chambers of Commerce, one for each historical territory: those of Alava (constituted in 1904), Bilbao (1886) and Guipuzcoa (1886). In 1999, in order to facilitate dialogue with other institutions and take advantage of their synergies, these three Chambers were grouped as Eusko Ganberak, the Conference of Basque Chambers.
The main mission of the Chambers of Commerce is to support and stimulate the local business fabric, especially SMEs and freelancers, contributing to the socioeconomic development of their region. They are entities of great social and economic importance that act as advisory bodies of the central administration, process business aid programmes or perform commercial arbitration, among other functions. Eusko Ganberak currently comprises 130,000 businesses in the Basque Country.
Eusko Ganberak challenged us to improve its retail digitalisation programme, eus-Commerce. When we began working together, the programme applied the same formula in all cases, supporting the development of an eCommerce platform in order to sell the products that were available in physical stores. Was this the right solution? The Chambers themselves were aware it wasn’t, because it did not take into account the particularities of each business (services and products marketed, degree of digital literacy, etc.), for which an eCommerce platform wasn’t always the right proposal.
Thus, we started working on the redefinition of the support programme for the digitalisation of retail, creating more personalised options based on the type of company and product instead of providing a one-size-fits-all solution. We placed special emphasis on constant training, adjusting retail’s times and resources to the fast-paced evolution of eCommerce.
A comprehensive analysis to pave the way for the proposal
We began by conducting comprehensive qualitative research, with which we sought to obtain a complete view of all perceptions and variables related to eus-Commerce, as well as to identify major trends in e-commerce. The research was divided into four lines of action:
1. Desk research: we analysed the evolution, main trends and medium-term projections of global e-commerce. We grouped our findings into four macro trends that will define the evolution of eCommerce worlwide through 2025:
- Convergence: continuous expansion of technology companies, both in terms of market growth and service diversification, could impact and modify the entire eCommerce value chain.
- Exponential growth of connectivity, through connected homes and hyper-personalised devices.
- Artificial Intelligence applied to eCommerce allows for the processing of huge amounts of information, which feed back into the value generation process (recommendations, real-time analysis, customisation, etc.).
- New business approaches: New opportunities are continuously emerging throughout the whole e-commerce value chain thanks to the ongoing technological evolution and the constant feed of information into the e-commerce cycle.
2. Workshops with previous participants. We gathered the beneficiaries of previous editions of the programme and AECOC’s representatives in the three Basque capitals, as they were the ones who could best talk about eus-Commerce. During the workshops, we applied the Design Thinking methodology in order to understand their perceptions and expectations regarding customer engagement, the competitive environment, technology needs, and more.
3. Ethnographic analysis. We carried out field work in which we paid incognito visits to different shops in San Sebastian and Bilbao. This type of research allowed us to better understand the relationships between sellers and buyers, minimising the bias of surveys or panels through direct observation.
4. Co-creation with the end consumer. Finally, we use the Dscout application to map the main drivers behind digital purchases. To this end, we held a panel with EU consumers – the end-users of the businesses included in the programme – where we asked them to complete a number of tasks related to their buying or selling habits on the Internet.
After this in-depth analysis, we gained the insights needed to present Eusko Ganberak with a new proposal for action.
The new proposal: from one-size-fits-all to personalisation
Once we had identified the challenges, it was time to map the realities that could influence the success of each company’s digital strategy: the degree of digital maturity, the uniqueness of the product or service offered, the recurrence of the purchase, the duration of the decision-making process and the type of consumer.
Depending on the positioning of each business in each of the five axes, we would propose a different solution in order to address their needs. These solutions included:
- Digital store: development of a fully transactional and operational eCommerce platform.
- Marketplaces: the business can start or complement its online sales in massive channels operated by third parties.
- Online traffic: actions to drive traffic to the eCommerce platform, and improvement of lead generation strategies.
- Offline traffic: actions to increase the number of visits to the physical store, based on digital acquisition strategies.
- Conversion: improvement of the conversion rate, turning website visits into sales, in the case of electronic businesses with a certain level of digital maturity.
We suggested that the solution be implemented through a sequential model beginning with a diagnosis, in which each business could understand the proposed alternatives and pick the one that best met their needs. Then, each business would be assigned to the most suitable solution.
The programme would start with an initial audit in order to evaluate how businesses responded to the technological proposal. Then, a roadmap for the implementation of the whole solution would be developed. We completed the proposal with a set of tools and technical solutions recommended for actions aimed at conversion, online and offline traffic, massive sales and support.
In short, the work we developed with Eusko Ganberak combined comprehensive research, observation and reflection with our extensive knowledge of the e-commerce process, which we applied to the local reality of Basque business in order to develop a more flexible, robust and varied support programme. Moreover, this was one of the first projects in which most interactions with the client took place online, demonstrating it was possible to carry out a project without the need for physical contact.