Over the past three years, SIA “Bite Latvija” has been actively working on developing digital channels to transform a "digital billboard with a login button" into a smart e-commerce solution that not only lets you buy the latest cell phone with a few clicks but also tracks customers’ habits and creates personalised offers. Renārs Neimanis, the company's head of e-channel development, talks about the experience of Bite Latvija in this interview.
In 2021, you reported that you invested 630 thousand euros in a new personalisation system and the development of e-commerce channels. Why did you make that decision?
Nowadays, the competitiveness of any company depends on how quickly and accurately it deals with its customers. Companies must always be one step ahead, especially at a time when consumer behaviour has changed due to the digital acceleration caused by the pandemic.
Like probably other mobile operators, Bite had a website with a simple application form five years ago. But it had little to do with e-commerce or the ability to do everything digitally. It was simply a digital billboard with pictures and a "sign up" button, and incoming applications were processed manually by an employee. The first step on the road to digital development was the creation of the Bite.lv e-commerce platform, where both goods and services could be purchased. Everything was to be in a single place - both the services and the equipment.
The next step in digitisation was that Bite.lv should also offer the possibilities of a self-service portal. This idea was implemented in parallel with the creation of the platform by integrating the ManaBite section into the platform, which offers not only the possibility to view mobile data consumption and pay bills, but also other options - buy devices and change tariff plans, etc.
It took about three years to develop and improve both the e-commerce platform and the self-service portal. Conversely, the application took a year to develop. But it's not just the e-commerce platforms that need significant improvement, but also the internal systems that can meet the necessary requirements. Namely, the entire "digital architecture." Therefore, the time is generally much longer, but it has great potential today.
Why is the transition to digital channels and their development important for your company?
When we talk about e-services and e-channels, it is important to look at them from the user's point of view. There are companies that focus only on beautiful websites but do not think about the core internal systems. If these are outdated, it is difficult to develop modern and practical solutions.
It is important to keep up with the latest solutions in key areas such as payment systems, logistics, accounting, customer service, etc. Without these changes, it is not possible to consistently work with today's goals or even obtain real-time data.
The transformation of a company begins internally. How have you prepared your employees for the transition to digital channels?
When developing solutions, it is also very important to transform all the company's internal processes so that they are modern and digital as well as efficient. In general, Bite has a well-developed internal digital infrastructure, so no special training was required for employees. Conversely, the specialists in this area are already working on developing e-channel solutions.
How to encourage customers to opt for distance selling options? How do customers respond to such changes?
Although outlets can now be visited in person, many of us will continue to actively shop online. However, the digital environment is saturated with a variety of goods and services that are often neither targeted nor tailored to people's needs, making it difficult for them to find what they need.
For this reason, we have recently started cooperation with the global platform “Salesforce”. In practice, it allows not only centralised communication with customers but also the integration of their shopping habits and the creation of personalised offers based on them.
The response has been quite good because we are addressing the customer at the right time with exactly the offer that is relevant to them. We have also noticed that the customer accesses the web version of the self-service portal on average 2.4 times per month, which is relatively rare. However, thanks to the possibilities of self-service on mobile devices, we see that the average number of visits per month has increased rapidly. This way, it is more convenient to interact with the customer - send notifications, special offers, etc.
Which services do customers prefer to use on-site?
Of course, there are still customers who want to see the device in the salon before they buy it, hold it in their hands, and talk to a consultant about its performance and suitability for the user's needs. There are also customers for whom direct communication is important to learn more, such as about rate plans, and who choose the most appropriate rate according to the consultant’s recommendations. However, every day we see more and more bold purchases being made online - vacuum cleaners, TVs, smart devices such as watches, scales, etc.
What challenges do digital channels face today? What challenges and development opportunities do you see for the future?
As we and society become more digital, it is clear that cybercriminals are also operating in the digital environment. I think every major company in recent years has had to deal with emails sent on behalf of the company, invitations to participate in contests, exposure of sensitive personal data, various fake contests on social media, phone scams, and SMS.
As we move into this digital age, society as a whole must also improve its knowledge of how to behave in the digital space, i.e., what companies can and cannot ask their customers to do and why they should not share it.
But even without all these challenges, the digital environment opens up endless possibilities for us, making everyday life easier and enabling processes to be completed more quickly and efficiently.
What would you recommend other companies consider when developing e-channels as part of the digital transformation?
The last two years of the pandemic have been an incentive for many to address the often-postponed matters surrounding enterprise information technology solutions. At the same time, however, it was also time to examine which business processes could be run differently in the future, recognising in most cases that it is very difficult to remain competitive and think about growth these days without ICT solutions.
We are all now used to simplified online processes - remote medical appointments, job interviews, online meetings with partners, and finally working from anywhere in the world. Why should we give up these conveniences and the new habits we were taught and became accustomed to during the pandemic years?