The last year was very dynamic for online trade in Serbia. It started with a significant drop in demand, which was the result of the slowdown after the covid-19 pandemic and some major external events that influenced the increased uncertainty of buyers. All of this has put retailers, especially online players, in a very difficult position as they have had to manage increased supply and energy costs, rising prices, slower demand, increased inventory, all of which have hit available cash flow hard. However, it should also be noted the huge increase in acquisition costs in online traffic and the decline in its efficiency, especially with the companies Meta and Google.
On the other hand, the use of real-time demand data and insight into customer habits relevant to continuous optimization, which could offset some of the challenges, is still at a very early stage.
These are some of the main conclusions of the analysis of Darko Dujic, CEO of the company WeTeh Ltd, which manages the ePonuda platform or – as he likes to point out – “the largest virtual shopping center in Serbia”. It is a portal that offers a price comparison of different online sellers in one place, with about 1.5 million products segmented into more than 2,000 groups. In this way, he has a unique insight into the local development of online trade, the development of categories and brands.
When it comes to the overview of the last year, Dujic said in an interview with Biznis.rs that he noticed some bold market entries in 2022.
In the end, three market platforms entered the Serbian market in the last 12 months and gained significant space and visibility. Despite the fact that the understanding of the business model of the market in the B2B segment is still at an early stage, consumers have rewarded these new players with some interest. From the data on eOffer, we can see that four platforms that claim to work on the business model of the so-called marketplace or at least a hybrid one, took a 13.1 percent share in demand in 2022,” our interlocutor points out.
A detailed analysis of the data shows weak market demand in the first quarter, and especially in the second quarter of this year, if compared year on year. On eOffer, sales of certain categories, such as computers, large home appliances, televisions and mobile phones, are stagnant or even declining year-on-year, while some have only a small single-digit growth. The lowest demand was recorded in May and June.
“Nevertheless, there are a number of positive signs that the market is still in a growth phase. There were major categories that saw continued growth throughout the year, with online sales up more than 70 percent. These were fashion, tools, home and garden, sports and recreation, health and beauty,” says Darko Dujič.
A special projection of his analysis shows an annual growth of demand and sales in the market of 31 percent in several categories.
We expect a full recovery at the end of the year, because the fourth quarter contributes to great growth and excellent sales results. November and December are far above average annual growth, and even double-digit demand for computers increased compared to the previous year . In addition to standard categories such as phones, televisions, computers and home appliances, where customers are already used to buying online, there are a number of product groups that are experiencing double or triple digit growth due to new customers who have changed their habits and started to search and buy online. which led to more frequent purchases. Here, too, the categories of fashion, health and beauty, pets, furniture, home and garden and babies stand out”, explains our interlocutor about the latest trends.
Dujic says that we can only imagine what the future brings us in 2023. Will it be continued growth or a game of survival in retail, a clash of retail channels, attempts to use data and optimization or just a place for the fittest and the most invested, ready to race for the long haul.
” The habit of customers to search for product information online and then choose the most convenient shopping channel, including brick-and-mortar stores, is becoming even stronger and practically mainstream. Decision-making is increasingly complex, as information about payment options, shipping and inventory are increasingly relevant, so e-tailers are forced to integrate this information and make it valid. We expect the development of tools and new content that will build trust and relevance in all aspects of virtual shopping, which will be key for brand and product competition”, Darko Dujic points out and adds that the mobile phone is the key device that customers use to search, compare and decide, while desktop is still somewhat more favorable as a platform for online shopping in Serbia.
“Next year will also be a year of big changes in digital analytics on a global level, and marketers will have to quickly understand how to incorporate these changes into their daily business planning and operations,” concludes our interlocutor, Biznis writes.