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eCommerce Webinar featuring NIU!

NIU joins ICE Malta's webinar

What did we learn from the webinar that ICE Malta recently organised for industry experts from NIU, ANCHOVY. and the Digital Marketing Institute regarding the rising importance of eCommerce?

This meeting of minds revealed why eCommerce is a critical tool for thriving in any business climate, especially like the current one that restricts physical interaction. Throughout the webinar there were several great takeaways from all three highly experienced participants, these being Matthew Sammut from NIU, Benji Borg from ANCHOVY. and Alex Tierney, from the Digital Marketing Institute in Dublin.

When the eCommerce webinar commenced, Benji started off by describing 2020 as being an unprecedented and rollercoaster year as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. He pointed out that when the pandemic hit the world last March, the initial reaction by all clients was to seek curtailing non-operational costs. Clients also sought to quickly rethink on-going strategies and replace those with more realistic ones for the next three year period. He however stressed that new clients couldn’t understand that there is so much more than just developing and launching a new eCommerce website, since lots needs to be done, with creative costs likely to match those of launching a physical point of sale!

During this eCommerce webinar, Matthew then explained how eCommerce development requests flowed into NIU as the pandemic hit. Proposals were submitted to prospective clients from March, notwithstanding the complexity behind the scenes. It was important to create websites that ‘flow’ seamlessly with the integration of a payment platform, stock management and more. NIU had planned for just that, with questionnaires, surveys and hiring more people to make this possible and get the ball rolling! 

Alex stressed on how clients just flocked to develop an online presence without having any knowledge about the crucial aspects of setting up an online portal. It isn’t as easy as it looks. In an ideal scenario, businesses need to learn about the digital world before seeking to go online, with a particular aspect being that it’s not as easy as having a shop where one can generally rely on prompt customer service.

All three stated that it is nevertheless now essential to be present online with an eCommerce platform, which should not be viewed just as an additional benefit supplementing traditional operations.

The panel was then asked how could local brands compete with worldwide leading brands, like Amazon.


It is important to understand that mainly younger generations don’t only want to shop online but also seek to be associated with a brand itself, thereby giving a clear voice to what they stand for. Huge companies such as Amazon are true to their mission statement and therefore raw customers will easily flock in their direction.

The success of eCommerce platforms must simplify the customer experience and that most times boils down to certain operating factors like a user friendly checkout process. Clients seeking to move to online retailing need to get to know their target audience well in order to set a clear path to achieve successes in the short term, first time right.

Having said that, they agreed that though Amazon is hugely popular, there remains tons of space for local operators to add online trading. Setting a Mission Statement for all activities is a key factor that should be established before launching any online presence. Matthew gave a great example of a local shoe shop going online, providing an example of a customer wanting to buy a pair of shoes very close to an event.

This person left it very late to go online and couldn’t conclude a purchase since he didn’t know his actual size.  The shoe shop staff were kind enough to deliver two pairs of shoes for him to try and left a nice note explaining that he could purchase his preference and have the other pair returned in good time. Now that’s great customer service which in turn benefits the online activity!

Digital Marketing Presence

Digital marketing is crucial. Indeed one is likely to become a better business person by becoming digital savvy. Customer behaviour has changed. A great digital experience is now foremost of mind that includes personalisation. Alex then continued by stating how brands that do well are the brands that made that connection pre and during Covid. During this latter period, budgets are being cut, it was therefore crucial to ensure each was getting “your bang for your buck”. Budgets dedicated to eCommerce should not be spent on a learning process but on knowing what customers want. Knowing your target audience and knowing what you are doing remain key factors before taking a business online.

Benji was then asked how ANCHOVY. supports its clients. 

He explained that his firm charges jobs at an hourly rate so clients would best come prepared, already knowing the basics about digital platforms and eCommerce. ANCHOVY.‘s philosophy is to tell a good story. Then everything normally falls into place. Tools aren’t looked at initially since it’s all about being captivated with the right story, then upfront analysis, brand positioning, data collection and so on and so forth. They push their clients to redefine who they are since if one is not repositioning its brand, it could be missing its customers’ needs and wants. “Stop & look at the brand and then optimise tools after” – Benji Borg / ANCHOVY. 


It was also mentioned that 50% of online sales are happening through mobile devices. Matthew stressed how vital it is for one’s website to flow on a mobile device since the whole experience, especially check out, needs to be the same as when using a computer. “Web design is like fashion – something which works today might not work in a few months” – Matthew Sammut / NIU.

Keeping up with the latest trends is also crucial. In continuation, mobile-first buying is the new trend. Matthew said that all the websites that NIU develops are tested on mobile devices before computers. Mobile will continue to grow, however businesses need to also be aware of multi device purchasing – the journey goes from one device to another in some cases. Thankfully, Google Analytics offers a report that shows multi-device tracking!

The next question asked was about built in features that can secure sales fast through the check out section.

The panel stated that developers shouldn’t define the same checkout process for every client since much depends on what items are being sold. The ‘trust’ element also comes into play. Some websites, such as eBay and Amazon, offer ways to effect a purchase in two clicks by first having saved information, this makes it easily accessible. Understanding the checkout process and being able to track it will enable the company to develop a client profile to use in developing an improved experience.

“It is an interesting time to be going digital – everyone is trying to move online, so if you do it well, the benefits are endless” – Alex Tierney / the Digital Marketing Institute.

A question was asked if ANCHOVY. use influencers. Benji replied that the problem is that you pay big money and then the click through and conversion rate just don’t add up.

Another was….what should be happening online?

Bare minimums have increased – in order to be looked at, one needs to stand out from the crowd ! It’s not just about placing a product for sale. It’s now a whole lot more. 

Then this……what is the best way to increase sales for a service business ?

Selling a service is totally different, communication, education and showcasing one’s work are all key factors to this. One needs to be on the right channels – advertising the right way – to sell a service well. It goes back to the story and being creative with the content. Clearly explaining what one is doing…..the WHO, WHAT and WHY factors, as Benji said. He also mentioned how consistency is key and less is more nowadays.  

eCommerce and tracking of individuals 

It was said that Google will not continue tracking individuals and one would consequently need to build its own customer database by collecting email addresses and phone numbers that will allow one to segment one’s customers, by using the reverse functions! Benji also mentioned that SMS marketing can bring you instant marketing conversion rates. 

To round it all off, we have learnt that if businesses are not going to invest into time spent on their website and listening to your customers, they will not succeed and sales conversions will not be achieved It is not about having a nice looking eCommerce platform, since the process needs to be smooth and flowing, stock needs to be there or else customer retention will be lacking. 

Lastly E-Commerce Funding was mentioned and the ease with which to apply for something like this whether it be a large company or an SME – there are offers for all! Check out our article to find out more about this. 

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