Scattered notes from a conversation with Juliette Bellavita, founder of Shoppable, the e-commerce reference website for lifestyle and unconventional décor.
What have we learned, developed and perfected at Shoppable in three years, during which we have created a community of 20,000 customers in Italy and Europe?
Pamper and surprise the customer… up to their doorstep. For those working in e-commerce, customer focus is essential. You should put yourself in the shoes of buyers, from the moment they enter your website up to when they have their parcel delivered, as this allows you to add something more to the service you are offering.
At Shoppable, for example, we have created colored packaging with smiling monster faces – very different from the usual heartless cardboard packaging. Customers appreciate this to the point that they often write to thank us and share photos on our social networks: of their cat hiding in our packaging or even of our big boxes turned into houses for children.
Image is everything. Every item offered for sale must be presented at its best. Photos are the most important thing, but also texts are important and of course the website design, which should allow an optimal user experience. In our case, we have discovered – to our big surprise – that designers who produce beautiful objects are not always able to present them just as well, providing good quality images of their products. What we do, therefore, also in order to ensure a smooth narrative and a consistent presentation of our website, is to take new photos of everything. Hence, it becomes very important to consider this significant cost entry in every e-commerce budget from the very beginning.
Have a well-balanced product mix. What shall we sell between expensive furniture with a low purchase frequency and home décor objects that generate more traffic, but cost less? Actually, there’s no choice to make: at Shoppable we’ve understood that we had to sell both. And that leaning towards one or the other should follow the type of business you want to pursue.
Build a motivated team right from the outset. When you create a start-up, you often have a limited budget and tend to give space to young, unexperienced or little-experienced people, with the idea of growing together. Unfortunately, in this respect, Italy is not keeping pace with the other countries: in fact, it is very difficult here to find people who really want to make a difference and enter your working group to grow together and be part of a potential future big company. At Shoppable we have chosen to focus on experienced enthusiastic people, so not to “waste” energy and time to train young talents, who in some cases see companies as “cash machines” and have no interest in taking advantage of the other workers’ experience in order to grow professionally.
Gather information. Seeing, selecting and proposing design and home décor items from all over the world every day, we have gained a privileged viewpoint on this industry and have gathered data for statistics and trends, both on a sociological and business level. For example, we have learned that Spanish designers are among the most creative, innovative, and fun designers in Europe, but are also very messy, while the French, thanks to Moroccan and ethnic influences, express a fascinating mix of cultures, fabrics and lines, and usually sell their items at the right price. Scandinavian design? Apparently a commercial hype, but actually not much purchased, perhaps because of the very high prices and lack of warmth – that instead we need in Italy. They try to compensate this lack by “warming up” the items using bright colors, which for Italian people, who love and buy neutral colors, is quite bizarre.
The situation of Italian design is not bright at all: of all the big names that have made the history of design remains a very small and meagre legacy. What is missing is innovation, but above all the commercial sense of design creations, although you can still find some good examples in the furniture industry.