Episode 8: GPeC offers best practices for your online store

Andrei Radu, CEO & Founder of GPeC – the most important E-Commerce and Digital Marketing event in Romania and Eastern Europe

  1. What is GPeC?

The GPeC gala means many things. We began 16 years ago as an e-commerce awards gala which, for players in the field,  was considered the representative event that rewarded e-commerce performance.

It is true that e-commerce in Romania was extremely fragile 16 years ago. And while there is still room for expansion, we are approaching a mature market.

Meanwhile, things have changed in the 16 years between then and now. We began as a gala and evolved into GPeC – e-Commerce Awards Gala and we always added new modules: conference mode, workshops, and more.

In a nutshell, what is the GPeC competition?

At the awards ceremony, we recognize the accomplishments of the major players in the field, with a focus on online stores in general. Online stores enter the competition voluntarily and unforcedly, and they go through a very complex evaluation process that includes over 200 judging elements that are analyzed by over 30 specialists in the field, and these criteria are very much related to the front-end area. That is, the interface that the consumer perceives in relation to the online store: how the site looks, how easy it is to manage, how simple the purchase process is, in short, user experience and conversion rate optimization.

In addition to these essential criteria, there are more technical SEO criteria, site security, or legal issues for an online store such as terms and conditions, if all GDPR information is available on the site, or about the cookies policy, privacy policy, and so on.

The most significant victory for an online store in the GPeC competition is not always the cherished trophy that someone receives when they go on stage. Of course, the trophy is valuable because it symbolizes the stores’ efforts to become as customer-centric as possible. It’s going through this process of over 200 criteria that is a great achievement.

The most important benefit, however, is the real-time optimization of their site, which allows them to respond to customer needs as effectively as possible.

2. What types of online businesses can be found in GPeC?

Almost everything related to e-commerce and digital marketing in Romania.

The scope is quite broad because it is a market ecosystem that includes everything from online stores to courier companies, digital marketing agencies, marketing performance agencies, SEO, and so on. At GPeC, everyone involved in this system known as e-commerce and digital marketing is present.

Most businesses were small when we first started. For example, when we started GPeC, eMAG had been on the market for three years, so it was also in its early stages.

As time has passed, more and more businesses have realized that the internet is a channel they must have because it is both the present and the future. We already see major brands, such as Dacia, selling automobiles online. More and more brands are turning to this new channel, a trend that is unlikely to change anytime soon, and companies will be forced to resort to a hybrid, the so-called omnichannel, of online and offline presence.

To summarize, the majority of online businesses are represented at GPeC.

3. What are some examples of good practices implemented by award-winning companies?

All the stores that took the GPeC stage considered the jury’s recommendations after the competition.

In brief, the evaluation process is as follows: you enter the competition, you are evaluated based on the 200 criteria of some of the 30 jurors, you receive the recommendations, and you have the opportunity to discuss them face to face.

You are re-evaluated and have the opportunity to earn more points if you implement them because you have about 2 months to do so. The ultimate goal is to make your site as user friendly as possible for end-users. Those stores that have gotten to that point and optimized the purchasing process, check-out flow, and everything else are the ones who usually appear on the GPeC stage at the e-Commerce Awards Gala.

4. What three pieces of advice would you give to an online store?

The first piece of advice that comes to mind is to focus on your client’s requirements.

Always try to listen to what the client says and what he feels he needs. Unfortunately, I have met entrepreneurs who do not listen to what the consumer says: “No, the consumer does not know what he is saying.” “The button is on my site, and it looks great, but he doesn’t see it.” It is the site’s fault, not the consumer’s.

Always pay attention to what the customer wants, and by that, I mean the entire shopping experience, which begins with a website and ends with the package being delivered to the door. The entire experience must be seamless in order for the customer to return to you on the site and become a repeat customer. This is the first piece of advice.

The second piece of advice I’ve been giving recently is to think globally, internationally. We do not limit ourselves to the geographical area in which we are when we engage in e-commerce. We can deliver to neighbouring countries, and the entire area can be “attacked.”

Why am I saying this? Because the Romanian e-commerce market, which is nearing maturity, is currently extremely appealing to foreign investors and foreign brands looking to set up shop in Romania. And then we, as Romanians, should do the same, because otherwise, our share of a market that is becoming increasingly crowded will be smaller.

Last but not least, there are numerous other important recommendations that can be made, one of which is to take care of the team. The team is the engine that propels the company forward and is critical to its success.

There are numerous other suggestions, such as thinking about your marketing strategy from the start, thinking about your business strategy so that you can win an investment, have a board of advisors with you, or make an exit. And so forth.

All of these elements represent a coordinated effort. E-commerce requires the same amount of effort as opening a physical store. It is a continuous effort of optimization, marketing, target audience, and understanding its needs that do not refer to, say, ladies aged 20-40 with medium to high incomes. It’s just that some of those ladies prefer Metallica while others prefer manele. You must first determine who your target audience is and then move in that direction.