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Zorana Milidrag, Co-Founder of the eCommerce Association of Serbia

Our Main Problem is One of Size

Our market is very small, which is why it would be extremely important for us to open up to the region. This would bring increased competitiveness and create space for the entry of new players, but would also enable Serbian merchants to enter new markets in a digital format

When a company enters into digital operations, all its weaknesses and strengths are brought to the fore. That’s why the eCommerce Association of Serbia strives to provide its members with support, encouragement and a pathway to develop e-commerce. However, this isn’t a story in which retailers are the only actors. Far from it.

“Advancing e-commerce requires development on two sides: on the one side are retailers/merchants and all participants in the digital ecosystem, while on the other side is the development of trust gained among customers,” says Zorana Milidrag, co-founder of the eCommerce Association of Serbia.

In order for the customer to have trust in the benefits of shopping online, it is essential that the other party provides a flawless experience. If the customer fails to see the benefit of buying online compared to a physical outlet, they won’t even give you an opportunity, explains our interlocutor.

But trust requires much more than showing an opportunity. “It’s like a Swiss watch: the mechanism mustn’t fail in either a cheaper watch or one costing a million euros, but those offering some additional experience and value will be the ones everyone wants and trusts,” says Mildrag.

It is crucial to understand that the digital ecosystem is a complex mechanism of marketing, sales, logistics, procurement and analytics, and if the processes aren’t improved and “lubricated” constantly, the mechanism starts to fail, explains our interviewee. “That’s why people dealing with e-commerce have to be creative problem solvers, i.e. prepared to constantly educate and reexamine themselves.”

You aren’t only constantly “open” and exposed, but all the shortcomings in the operations of a company also come to the fore when it enters into digital business, warns Milidrag. “That’s why it’s necessary to have experts who are ready to make serious decisions quickly and analytically, and thereby take responsibility in real time.”

How do the awards that the association has established contribute to this goal?

— I am very proud of the Hot Spot eCommerce Award that the eCommerce Association of Serbia is awarding for the third consecutive year, representing the votes of customers and renowned experts from the business world. The HSA represents a combining of the opinions of customers confirming the quality of a brand/company, i.e., the trust they’ve succeeded in building with customers, as well as the assessment of a jury that examines a brand/company’s business parameters and achievements.

It thus not only encourages online retailers to improve their services and become recognised by customers and the community, but also everyone doing business digitally. I find it interesting to observe how participants have started exerting additional efforts to win votes and awards and are thus simultaneously also working to generate the customer trust that is the key to success.

To what extent does the expansion of the eCommerce Association’s membership reflect this industry’s growth in Serbia?

— The eCommerce Association is oriented towards its goals of advancing the digital ecosystem in Serbia and the region, such that the benefits of the Association’s actions are recognised by both our members and the entire market. The ECS works to provide its members with additional benefits, but first and foremost with education, though our members are also aware that the entire market must be at a high level in order for consumers to have trust and confidence in this type of purchase.

The digital ecosystem is a complex mechanism of marketing, sales, logistics, procurement and analytics, and if the processes aren’t improved and “lubricated” constantly, the mechanism starts to fail

Apart from regular members, the ECS also has partners that have been with us since our inception and that understand the importance of the functioning of this kind of association. Alongside our partners, there’s also the ECS Management Board, which serves to raise the engagement of the eCommerce Association of Serbia to a higher level. We are all struggling for our common good together, and primarily for higher standards for the customer, which is all that’s possible in the digital world.

The EU recently adopted several important pieces of legislation (Digital Services Act, Digital Markets Act, Artificial Intelligence Act, Data Act, and Platform to Business Regulation) that regulate the operations of digital platforms as business entities and pave the way for the full development of a digital single market. What could Serbia gain by harmonising with Europe’s digital single market?

— Serbia strives to legislatively keep pace with the acts that are passed by the EU and we aren’t lagging behind the standard in that respect. Following numerous surveys conducted on our market, it is clear that the law isn’t a barrier to the development of e-commerce in Serbia. A problem arises when it comes to the market being closed to the European Single Market, which should actually be the essence of e-commerce (cross border sales), because, regardless of the harmonisation of some laws, we face difficulties in making sales, i.e. exports and imports. Some companies make sales abroad, but logistics procedures are more complicated and expensive, which leads to a lack of competitiveness. On the other hand, we also have great potential in opening up cross-border sales for the CEFTA markets and thus expanding the market and enabling ENCOURAGEMENT The Hot Spot eCommerce Award encourages everyone doing business digitally to improve their services and become recognised by customers and the community BARRIERS Our problem is the market being closed to the European Single Market, which is contrary to the essence of e-commerce (cross border sales), as we face difficulties in making sales, i.e. exports and imports SURVIVAL The digital economy has brought us many opportunities, but has also accelerated all processes and raised expectations. Now companies either keep pace with such demands or disappear slowly e-commerce to experience at least slightly more success than is provided by the domestic market. This isn’t yet possible due to customs procedures, but it is certainly a step closer to the European Single Market.

As an association, how would you rate the level of competition on the market and its openness to the entry of new players?

— The Serbian market is very small, which also represents one of the biggest barriers to development and investments in operations. E-commerce is one segment of our country’s trade and we must observe it as an integral part of the total trade in Serbia, so the competitors of an online store in Serbia aren’t only represented by other online stores, but rather also physical shops. Alongside this, ever-more people are following online competitors based beyond the borders of our country and are thereby informed regarding price ranges. New players, especially foreign ones, don’t see the potential of such a closed market. That’s why opening up to the region would be good when it comes to increasing competitiveness on the market and encouraging the entry of new players, but also for Serbian retailers to open up to the region in a much faster way than traditionally entering a new market.

ENCOURAGEMENT

The Hot Spot eCommerce Award encourages everyone doing business digitally to improve their services and become recognised by customers and the community

BARRIERS

Our problem is the market being closed to the European Single Market, which is contrary to the essence of e-commerce (cross border sales), as we face difficulties in making sales, i.e. exports and imports

SURVIVAL

The digital economy has brought us many opportunities, but has also accelerated all processes and raised expectations. Now companies either keep pace with such demands or disappear slowly