Two perspectives. Two great minds.

This episode turned out to be a fascinating interview of two of the brightest entrepreneurial minds in Romania and we had the chance to witness it.

Hosted by Alex Goaga, with the special appearance of Cristi Movila from VTEX – our sponsors and partners of this wonderful podcast – and the experienced Alina Cazacu, episode 10 of the Ecommerce Growth Stories has been one for the ages.

Let’s enjoy it to the fullest!

Who is Alina Cazacu?

Alina Cazacu is the Founder of Digital Kitchen, with over 15 years of hands-on experience in eCommerce, online publishing and online marketing. She has an entrepreneurial mindset, having launched several e-businesses from scratch.

She rolled-out on the market with an E2E responsibility of more than 7 e-commerce platforms, a publishing website, a top listing platform and an AVOD platform. Alina has also been an experienced Senior Manager (at Deutsche Telekom, PRO TV) and Management consultant (at A.T. Kearney), the Head of Marketing & Business Development in, the second eCommerce player in Romania, the Head of Digital in PRO TV and much more.

Alina managed the largest online media inventory in Romania. She was also the winner of several awards in eCommerce (best marketing campaign etc.). She has great expertise in the main start-up development methodologies (Lean start-up, Value proposition and business model Canvas, Design Sprint).

The journey of a successful business: ideas of 2 great entrepreneurs

The business plan and business modeling

Alina Cazacu:

  • The business plan and strategy are the most important topics at the beginning of a collaboration.
  • In most cases, the businesses, even if they are pretty big, don’t have all the time a very well developed plan.
  • They look at the cost structure, but not only in terms of the marketing budget, but the budget for investment, the platform, technology, for anything that might impact the business.

Cristi Movila:

  • He divided the planning objective into three parts:
    1. What you plan, do not change.
    2. What you plan, be able to make changes.
    3. What you don’t plan, you do it only after an input.
  • A waterfall type of planning today is the riskiest one for your business because everything that you had planned can be changed radically.
  • You need to be flexible in a business.

Strategy and development

Alina Cazacu:

  • If you go first of all on a marketplace and you see what the feeling of the customers of the market is, who your competition is, you have a better view on what you can do afterwards.
  • You should have multi-channels in order to see and know your customer.

Cristi Movila:

  • Do more than what businesses regularly do (market and competitor analysis).
  • Look at testing your products and services, assortment, everything that you are doing in that market and get insightful feedback from the customers.

The platform choice, the front-end and back-end of the e-store

Alina Cazacu:

  • The best asset that belongs to you as a business are your customers and the ones that subscribe to you as a business, either they are newsletter subscribers or following you on Instagram, Facebook or other marketing channels. 
  • There is a trap: we are all the time aiming for something that we actually don’t really need. 
  • Most platforms are offering the basics, and there are multiple frameworks that at the beginning, you actually don’t really need them.
  • If your business has a complicated infrastructure, your front-end should sustain that.

Cristi Movila:

  • Check your plans first and strategy.
  • Identify if you want to go with a platform for entrepreneurs, very fast to market, but very simple, with basic functionalities, that can serve your needs in the short term, like Shopify.
  • Identify if you want to move towards a platform that can become a marketplace, that can serve multiple inventory, warehouses, shipping strategies, sales channels, different payment methods, different logistics in different countries, that can serve your needs in the medium or long term.
  • Choose the right platform for the right time in your business.

Creating a team and process flow

Alina Cazacu:

  • It’s really important to have the right amount of people and the right skills on the product side.
  • Another thing coming near the product is the platform, the technology behind because if you have a very good product but you don’t have a very steady environment where to place it, it’s really, really hard. 
  • In time, find the right approach in acquisition.
  • Depending on the scale of the business, take customer support very seriously, either online or by calling the customer directly (as South-Eastern Europe is used to do).
  • Be really good in terms of operational excellence.

Cristi Movila:

  • Identify your core values, business features:
    • If the core of your business is to provide best-class services, then have an impeccable customer service team.
    • If the core of your business is to have a best-class product, then focus on acquisition.
    • If the core of your business is to deliver the fastest, then have a well-designed logistics team.
  • If there are things out of your business core, then externalize and work with external teams, until they become part of your core.

Becoming a marketplace for other players

Alina Cazacu: I guess not every business should transform into a marketplace.

Because I’m selling cherries and I would like to sell maybe tomatoes. It’s maybe the right approach. But if my name, my brand name of the cherry seller is not a very big name and I don’t have a huge customer database, I don’t know why I should invest into putting money into a platform that would be built on an architecture that would allow others to sell.

Amazon made this because they were Amazon, they are selling books, they are selling software. Actually, this is not on the B2C market, but they didn’t know how to source all the other stuff that actually they are selling now, and that’s why they built the platform.

I guess it’s not for everybody, it’s for the big brand names and for the ones which are really having the marketing power of attracting visitors to the website in order to diversify their portfolio. 

Cristi Movila: Then you really start doing business. Then it’s a game-changer for you.

I was looking at a graph from our platform, how businesses evolve if they are not a marketplace, so they have a steady revenue stream, they double, triple in size. They evolve, they are linear, let’s say.

When they open a marketplace in the first year, they have lower revenue by statistic than the ones that are focusing on only their business. Then after the second year, they explode. If you see the graph, it’s mind-blowing.

It isn’t a game of, for example, people have this wrong impression of when they are thinking of building a marketplace, they think you need to have the resources of Amazon, eMag, Alibaba or whatever. It isn’t about that. If you have a software as a service platform, if you think of starting with an MVP, with testing the waters, it’s the same as in any other business.

When looking online as well, that’s why Amazon is investing heavily in the marketplace. That’s why any other businesses are investing heavily because they cannot buy all the products in the world. And also because it’s not only about that, even though you have the money, it’s about knowing the products. It’s about knowing what to do with the products. It’s about knowing how to service those products, how to deliver those products to the customers because it’s also about storing them in the warehouse. It’s about transporting them. It’s about picking them. It’s about packaging all of those goods. So it’s about all of those things.

When you have a partner that is selling on your marketplace, you can address the needs of your customer. Also, this seller can attract customers for their products and customers can buy yours as well. It’s a win-win game if you do it correctly. 

Coming up next week, we have Bili Balogun, the Founder of Tribe Beauty Box. A not-to-miss episode, as well!

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