How did Kaubamaja begin its eCommerce journey?
I’ve thought many times, that if I could take my current knowledge and understanding of eCommerce and go back a year or two, I would do many things differently. I definitely would have left some things undone, and argued less over others. It would have saved a lot of stress - for Kaubamaja and Vaimo! When I became eCommerce Development Manager for Kaubamaja in January 2014, Kaubamaja intended to move into the world of eCommerce in the very near future. While we already managed about three online sales per year with a limited number of products, we didn’t have a single individual harnessing the field of eCommerce. I assumed the role to ensure all different departments and aspects would work together during this project, and in the future.
What did you learn from conducting online sales campaigns a few times a year?
We set up a temporary online store for Osturalli, our massive, twice-a-year sales event and we did the same for our Christmas online pop-up shop. Osturalli was a completely invaluable learning experience because Kaubamaja is utterly unique - there’s no other department store in the world exactly like it. While other department stores may have similar challenges when it comes to eCommerce, the solutions can be completely different. Osturalli and our pop-up e-store taught us how processes work, how our customers react, what we need to outsource, and what we can get done ourselves. This experience provided us with the initial know-how on online success, what we wanted from an online store, and what Kaubamaja is able to offer to its customers. We also understood that our customers know us and trust us - we are not an arbitrary, faceless online shop; we have a well-known, physical presence in the very heart of Tallinn and Tartu.
Tallinna Kaubamaja first opened its doors in the Soviet Union era in 1960
When you host Osturalli in a few weeks from now, will the products be on a separate page?
No, they will be included with other products. We are actually working on perfecting our next Osturalli now. We’ve always had the mindset that we want to solve things online the same way that we do in-store - and in our store, our sales items are mixed with regular priced items. And that’s something we couldn’t do before; the previous online solution only featured our marked down products. Now, the online solution will reflect the sales bonanza in-store; and as a result, customers will go shop online for sales items, but also buy other products as well.
How does Kaubamaja plan to implement omnichannel into their eCommerce experience?
We want the barriers between online and in-store to blur for our customers. This is what our shopping experience will no longer look like: A customer wants to buy pants, so he goes to the store, where he is recommended pants that he ends up purchasing. Now, this customer will look up the products online first. Maybe he will stop by and try them in-store and purchase them, or maybe he will do the opposite; he will come in and try them, and then decide to buy them online later. Or you will tell your child to go try on some shoes at the store during the day, and if they fit, you will purchase them online in the evening. Omnichannel, for a department store, is completely merging all channels of communication. It doesn’t matter if you are on your phone or in-store; you know you can use your Partner Card, you will receive quality service, you will obtain your purchases fast, and we will solve any issues you may have. Our Partner Card and quality service are there - on your phone, or in-store.
Tallinna Kaubamaja today is located in the same spot, in the very heart of Tallinn
While still on the topic of omnichannel, are you planning to encourage customers in-store to visit your online shop? And is there an app in Kaubamaja’s future plans?
In the future, we definitely want to merge our channels of communication together more and blend our brick and mortar stores with our online shop. Maybe that will mean something like coming into the store, scanning a barcode with your phone and purchasing that way and having the item delivered later, or saving it to your online shopping bag and buying it at home.
We have heavily debated whether we should do an app - especially linked to our loyalty card, the Partner Card. At the moment, both the Selver and Kaubamaja sites are fully responsive, and we are happy with this solution. But who knows - maybe in the future we will have an app. I see an app working like this: you notice your detergent is almost used up, so you simply scan the barcode and order a new one without entering any payment details, as your payment details are linked up already. But how and when - that is yet to be determined. But we are ready to take on the future.
How do you plan to compete with other online stores in Estonia?
Kaubamaja has a unique and trustworthy portfolio of brand names, and we also provide all of the products in-store. Often, the issue with online stores that sell brand names for cheaper prices may be that the products themselves are not necessarily trustworthy or authentic. We have two physical stores, and our delivery service is quick and reliable. We have built trust with our customers for over 55 years of quality service and products - and that speaks volumes for our online store as well. We also strive to include a wide selection of products in all departments - whether it’s our Beauty Department, or our Grocery Department, you know you will find an immense variety of products.
In Estonia, people may not have as much incentive to buy online because as soon as you step out of your home, you have several shops within 100 meters of your front door. So why order online?
When it comes to Kaubamaja, we are very focused on brands, and delivering quality brand goods. This wide range of quality brand names just doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country in one single store. Now, our customers have a chance to buy them online anywhere in the country and have them delivered fast. Also, a large majority of Tallinn’s residents use public transportation, and buying online takes away the hassle of lugging heavy packages home, especially when it comes to products from our Home Department.
Kaubamaja as a whole is a unique port of goods.
The Kaubamaja web shop currently displays a countdown to Osturalli, their large, bi-annual sales bonanza
Kaubamaja’s loyalty card, Partner Card, has over 630,000 members, which is almost half of Estonia’s population. How do you offer your loyal customers something new?
I think we have something new to offer to our frequent customers all the time. Four times per year, we publish Hooaeg - our magazine that is the biggest fashion and beauty magazine in Estonia and also has the highest number of subscribers in Estonia. Kaubamaja is a trendsetter - we like to establish what’s in for the season. In that sense, we always have something new and unique to offer. Every season brings new inspiration through Hooaeg, and we have provided rich content this way for years. We produce an immense amount of content for this magazine - and now it’s digital. Now we can create even more content and tie it with our online products, tell our story, and tell a new story for each season as well. The best part is, when you receive your issue of Hooaeg at home, you can log in to our web store, order the products, and receive them the very next day.
How has it been working with Vaimo?
When we chose to work with Vaimo, we decided right off the bat to make online stores for both Selver and Kaubamaja. Our collaboration has been great - our Kaubamaja project has been extremely complicated, since we sell absolutely everything - beauty, fashion, home, groceries - you name it! All of these products are extremely different and need to be treated differently in an online store. We had our own ERP system and one of our biggest challenges was making it work accurately with Magento Enterprise. But we did it! Vaimo has been there every step of the way to make sure that everything is synced up and working like clockwork. What’s fantastic about working with Vaimo is that they are not a regular agency - they really do it all. They developed our online shop, designed it, and integrated complex business systems with Magento. Vaimo ensured we had the most efficient work flows established with picking, packing, and shipping, and set us up for eCommerce success.
The Kaubamaja web shop showcases products against a clean, minimalist backdrop
How did you find a solution for shipping?
The variety of stock is one thing, and the location is another. We sell products that are sitting on shelves in our physical store or in storage, and products that are in one of our two warehouses at opposite ends of Tallinn. So if you order four items, they may literally be coming from four different locations. If a customer places an order at eleven at night, then all those items need to be packaged by the following day. When and how should we collect the products? That was a huge challenge for us. We came up with a great solution, and it works. The two main components were making our ERP system work with Magento and stock management. Everything had to synchronise.
Kaubamaja has two department stores, in Tallinn and Tartu. How does the other department store in Tartu factor into ordering products online?
Tartu is not one of our stock locations. We do show on the web shop how many items are available in our Tartu department store, but when you order a product, it comes from Tallinn or from our two warehouses in Tallinn. The reason is that our department store in Tartu does not offer the variety or volume of products, simply because it’s a much smaller city with less demand. But our online shop gives a chance for Tartu Kaubamaja shoppers to have access to more products.
The Kaubamaja web shop offers a variety of gourmet grocery products
You are using the Vaimo Content Management System - does it work for you?
Before we had an online store, we still had to update our website every time we published a new issue of our magazine, or hosted a new campaign or posted news updates. And we actually had numerous updates. As much as I have heard from my colleagues, and from using the Vaimo Content Management System myself - we are very happy with it. It’s so easy; it’s a drag and drop solution, and it’s fool-proof. The solution that we used previously was not adequate for us. To use a metaphor - we built a barge to cross a pond, and we ended up sailing across the ocean in it. We are growing all the time, but our previous solution was simply not scalable. Now we have our moment of truth coming up - our next Osturalli sale is in April. Vaimo furnished us with Varnish Caching, which should allow large amounts of traffic with no problem. But we only have a limited number of products for sale in Osturalli - what will happen when large quantities of customers press “buy” at the same time? We’ll see!
Kaubamaja also has the timer feature set for forty minutes on products in your shopping cart - tell us about that.
There’s a practical and a psychological reason for a timer; it’s practical because we have a limited number of products, and unfortunately, we can’t reserve all products for one person indefinitely. But on the other hand, it also motivates a customer to checkout.
Finally, does Kaubamaja have plans to utilise marketing emails?
We already send them; we used to send them to customers when we hosted sales or specials, and encouraged them to come visit us. Now, we can include a “buy now” button - and they can shop from the comfort of their homes. So while we’ve already been doing it, we can now make it even better. Speaking of media, the question for us is how to send a customer a personalised selection of products at the right moment. Because of Partner Card, we have a lot of invaluable data we can use to target customers. My dream is that one day, when you go to our beauty department and purchase shampoo, Kaubamaja will be able calculate that a 100ml bottle of shampoo will run out in X amount of time for you. Then we can send an email with a selection of shampoos around the time that the product should be used up. Although this kind of thing would be much harder with fashion - I’m not sure how long jeans last!