Harnessing the possibilities of the web opens up new business expansion opportunities for companies through direct interaction with their clients. Those who are aware of this cannot lose. Chișinău-based Vitra, a company specialising in designing and manufacturing commercial and industrial furniture is now convinced of this. With support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Advice for Small Business Programme, funded by the European Union through the EU4Business initiative and by Sweden, the company has upgraded its website (www.vitra.md) and turned it into an active platform to interact with consumers.
The Țăranu family from Chișinău discovered Vitra in the summer of 2017 when they were looking for solutions to reorganise the space in their storage room. The search didn't take long. With an active online presence, Vitra managed to attract their attention and come up with an offer to satisfy the family’s needs. “Online options played a critical part in our decision to buy storage shelves from Vitra. It was easy: we just went to the website, chose the right shelves, and bought them. The next day, the product was delivered,” says Maria Țăranu.
Until two years ago, the company’s client base was 95% corporate, but the balance is now changing, with an increase in the number of individuals calling on the company's services. This change has been triggered by the possibilities offered by the company's upgraded website, which was designed to increase interaction with customers. “Individuals currently account for around 30% of the company's customer portfolio, and their number is on the rise. That’s why we're investing more and more in products for individuals,” says Vitra manager Sergiu Crețu, who has almost a decade of experience on the Moldovan market.
Vitra is currently the only company in the sector selling through a virtual platform, and the decision to expand online was conditioned by the needs of the times. “We set out to upgrade the website in order to meet our customers’ demands. That’s why we called on the EBRD, who gave us the support we needed to develop a high-performance virtual platform,” says the manager, adding that, “the move into the online environment has so far accounted for a 10-15% growth in sales for the company, and this trend remains positive.”
What do customers ultimately want, whether individuals or business? High-quality services, short order times, a wide range of available products and attractive prices. Starting from these requirements, Vitra upgraded its website to enable its customers to feel in control of their time, first and foremost.
Moreover, as a supporter of automation, Sergiu Crețu wanted a website that wouldn't require hundreds of sheets, Excel files, or duplicate work. “Our intention was to have a single accounting system through which we could run all our sales. It was also important to manage production and warehouse logistics. Our goal was for the website to have all these components linked together, which finally worked out, as our website is 100% integrated with our internal software.”
This new approach allows efficient order processing, which, in turn, enables higher customer satisfaction. To meet all these needs, the EBRD advisory team guided the company throughout the process, and the website was successfully developed in line with the recommendations of an expert consultant. It was therefore a double effort, with a result to match – a modern, flexible, easy-to-browse website. The total cost of the website upgrade project was €11,940, of which an EU grant covered €4,975.
The software analyses user behaviour, such as frequency and duration of website visits. This helps the company to market its material in a more efficient and targeted way. “It's an innovative possibility that takes into account the visitor’s needs. The website basically customises our offer for each separate customer. If we were to analyse just the online environment as a promotional tool, I think the website accounts for around 50% of the company’s entire virtual promotion,” says Sergiu Crețu.
Two years after the launch, the manager of Vitra admits “this is actually the best performing and most flexible website our company has ever had”. The new features make it possible not only to improve customer communication efficiency, but also to find out what the customer needs. All these things help the company develop its services and, at the same time, meet its customers’ requests.
The more sales go up, the more Vitra invests in its online environment, as it is aware that its virtual presence maintains and strengthens its interaction with customers. For customers, it is becoming easier not just to buy products, but also to stay informed about the new innovative storage solutions that Vitra regularly comes up with.
Taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded by the online environment has increased the company's online traffic, which has directly led to a more widespread popularity of the brand among consumers, a larger number of customers, and therefore higher sales. While Vitra was previously only known among businesses, it is now receiving attention from individuals as well, who are the driving force of its market competitiveness. The company's attractive prices enable it to increase the number of individual customers, which, in turn, helps keep prices low. Therefore, the influx of individual customers is an important element, which helps the company get the market pulse.
The Moldretail Group, which owns a supermarket network in the Republic of Moldova, started working with Vitra as early as 2012. Since then, their collaboration has expanded to several categories – warehouse shelves, cold rooms, commercial display cases, etc. “The prices are competitive and the quality is high,” says Andrei Garaba, Engineering Networks Manager at Moldretail.
This is not Vitra’s first collaboration with EU4Business through the EBRD. From the beginning, the company's production system was aligned to European standards, as the company was able to take advantage of the expertise brought by an international expert from London, with EBRD support. “The idea was to launch the production process at European standards from the very beginning, and we fully succeeded in that. Our goods meet all the quality requirements of the European market,” says Sergiu Crețu.
Accessing the European market is also part of their future plans. The company already has requests from Germany and Poland, which it hopes to be able to meet in time.
The company currently has 40 employees, but intends to invest 2 million euro in development in the next year, which will increase the number of employees to 100. “The main problem in Moldova is the lack of specialists in the metal processing industry. We have to train these specialists ourselves,” says the manager.
Sergiu Crețu developed a passion for the exact sciences and for inventions back in his student years. All this is now helping him to do something that gives him a feeling of fulfilment – to create. “I enjoy what I’m doing. Maybe there are far more profitable businesses out there, but the activity I’m managing gives me personal satisfaction, which makes the effort fully worth it. All the more so if I’m helping so many people organise their space efficiently,” concludes Vitra manager Sergiu Crețu.
During almost one decade of activity, Vitra has helped over 3,345 businesses to organise their commercial and storage spaces.