INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
How to Monetize Growth in E-Commerce with Affiliate Marketing
We talked to Alicja Borucinska, CEO at Users Digital about tailor-suited user acquisition and here is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alicja Borucinska: I couldn’t be better. I decided to temporarily move to the Canary Islands for the time Germany, where our headquarter is located, remains in lockdown. The mild, sunny climate here positively impacts my wellbeing and motivation. I go surfing after work and on the weekends. I am very thankful for my situation. I know that many others don’t have it so easily.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Users Digital.
Alicja Borucinska: I founded Users Digital in March 2020. It seemed like the worst time to start a business with all the uncertainty around the economic consequences of COVID-19. It’s my third startup. I exited my previous two investments without the feeling of great success. The first company was on the edge of insolvency when I exited, and the other was liquidated due to a conflict in the founders’ team. I took some precious learnings from those situations and decided to try again. Third-time lucky, right?
How does Users Digital innovate?
Alicja Borucinska: Our team held a lot of internal product discovery workshops during the summer of 2020 to find a B2C solution that would offer a solid USP to the users. We decided to utilize our affiliate marketing experience and create a cashback site for eco-friendly and sustainable e-commerce. That’s how moincoins.com was developed. It’s a marketplace for shops selling organic fashion, vegan pet food, upcycled homeware, natural cosmetics, and other green alternatives. The main target groups are younger generations, Millennials, and GenZ, who show more affection towards our planet and sustainability. We launched the site in the US, UK, and Germany. Users save on average 10% on every online purchase, and if they feel especially bighearted, they can donate the cashback amount to a charity planting trees.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Alicja Borucinska: We had a very good year financially. With coronavirus, more people stay at home and use online services, so our revenues grew. Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, the boost of traffic to monetize was very significant. The last months are not so bright anymore. We see more of our advertisers cutting their marketing budgets and more companies going bankrupt. I am positive that our investment in moincoins.com was a good choice. Some habits that users developed during the lockdowns will remain. More online shopping is one of them.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Alicja Borucinska: New colleagues joined while we were working remotely, which was new grounds for the team. We had to create more structure and processes to make sure everyone is on the same page. The introduction of CRM and Project Management Tools helped to achieve that. To minimize any misunderstandings, we regularly make online Retro Meetings. I recommend it to all startups of any size! What we all miss during coronavirus restrictions on human interaction, so we take time to share some personal updates on every video call. Those few minutes of jokes with colleagues are my highlights of the day.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Alicja Borucinska: Affiliate marketing relies on international connections, so we usually use email and skype to communicate with our clients. That didn’t change much in COVID-19 times. In the last months, we started working with a CRM to ensure the sales team remains focused on key accounts and generating new business leads. We introduced regular newsletters to our affiliates, which is working really well! I usually attend international events on digital marketing to keep in touch with clients. Last September, I tried dmexco online. The organizers of this biggest German digital marketing event decided to move the trade fair to an online experience. I was disappointed chatting over an app that can’t replace in-person meetings. Let’s see if those events come back in their old format at the end of this year.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Alicja Borucinska: No, we didn’t receive any grants. When the company started working on the moincoins.com project, we applied for a preferable loan for startups. Our application was denied because the financial institutions were overwhelmed with distributing corona stimulus packages to companies in dire straits. We had to bootstrap our project, but it worked out!
Your final thoughts?
Alicja Borucinska: COVID-19 made it harder for startups, at least in Germany. Founding takes longer, access to capital is harder, the unknown long-term consequences make new ventures riskier. But founders shouldn’t feel discouraged. There is so much potential in the further digitalization of everyday life. At Users Digital, we placed a bet on e-commerce growth.
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