When Planeta Sport embarked on a new digitalisation project, the company did not expect the improvements to materialise so quickly.
One of the most successful sports clothing and equipment retailers in Serbia, with more than 100 shops across the country, Planeta Sport already had a well-established sales network both instore and online. The company sought assistance from the EBRD to improve communication with its customers by investing in new digital tools. The changes that the project enabled came just in time at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, when most businesses needed to shift to online working in a very short time.
“The project helped us tremendously to prepare for what became the new reality. It was easier for us to quickly adapt to the situation and continue working without major disruption,” explains Sara Lovrencic, Innovation Catalyst.
The project entailed the creation of a digital strategy and the implementation of new marketing and communication software, and to achieve this, Planeta Sport needed external assistance. The company contacted the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme, which supports SMEs by connecting them with experts who provide advice and know-how. The programme covers a wide range of areas including strategy, operations, quality management, financial reporting, energy efficiency and more. It is funded by the European Union and has already supported hundreds of businesses in Serbia.
Planeta Sport’s leadership decided to engage a consultant with experience in digital transformation projects who helped them to analyse their existing situation and suggested ways to improve it.
“Together with the shareholders we agreed that we should focus on improving our communication channels with customers,” says Digital Expert Senad Kulenović. “Communication which involves sending messages to customers without knowing who they are is usually not well perceived and can affect your prospects of establishing a long term relationship with them.”
“We decided that the company should invest in an omnichannel platform to integrate customer relationship management (CRM), service and marketing automation functions. We chose Salesforce, which is the number one platform for these needs. We were one of the first companies in Serbia to implement this system,” adds Sara.
Implementing new technologies also required new skills. “We needed to hire some new employees and train those already working,” Sara continues. “But all these efforts paid off as everything we did at the beginning of 2020 helped us significantly in overcoming the challenges we faced later that year.”
The improvements in digitalisation resulted in increased sales, both in online and physical shops, which enhanced business growth.
“As a result of this project we continued to explore other possibilities. Namely, we invested in ePlaneta, our recently launched e-commerce project. We are now expanding online sales in some new categories – not just sports equipment – and this is in part thanks to the digital transformation that we successfully implemented with the help of the EBRD and EU,” she concludes.
Through the “Advice for Small Businesses” program, domestic companies can request consulting services for a wide range of areas, including implementation of quality standards, development of marketing plans, financial analysis, business plan, introduction of an information system or improvement of energy efficiency. In cooperation with selected consultants, companies work on the development and implementation of projects tailored to their needs. One of the benefits of the program is the fact that 50 to 75 percent of project costs are financed by grants provided by the European Union, which makes the projects much more affordable for companies.
The EBRD program is financed with funds from the National Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance of the European Union (IPA), and in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Serbia, 2.2 million euros have been allocated from these funds for project financing.