20CENT MEETS COBELO.BE the new platform for Belgian retailers and merchants
Today in 20/CENT Meets, I have the honour of presenting you an exclusivity and, announce the launch of a totally Belgian online sales platform.
COBELO stands for Commerçants Belges et Locaux (Belgian Local Merchant) and is the result of several months of work by two entrepreneurs, Thomas Binon and Vincent Larcanché.
First of all, could you tell us where the idea for COBELO.BE came from?
"Initially we were active in different companies, one in the field of communication and digital and the other was active in events. Our companies are neighbours and we already knew each other quite well.
Like many people, we were aware that due to the repeated closures and confinements, Belgians were buying more and more online. As we discussed and exchanged ideas, we realised that people are buying more and more online but that Belgian retailers and brands are lagging behind in this respect. We wanted to help Belgian merchants sell their products more easily to the Belgian public. We thought that it was possible to order from Dutch or American sites, for example, but that there were no Belgian sites as such. The ones that did exist were nice, but they were mostly directories that referred to other platforms. Furthermore, although we found the concepts really nice and useful for Belgian consumers and Belgian merchants, we found that the online shopping experiences on these Belgian sites were not optimal. And finally, none of the sites give any guarantee that the company you are buying from is Belgian.
Hence the idea: why not create a website that brings together Belgian brands and producers?
As a digital company, we already had a lot of requests from merchants who wanted to sell online. But often these people were confronted with the same problems: little budget, no time, few internal skills to keep a site up to date, to publish product sheets or quality content, or to promote it, and many other problems...
And so COBELO.BE was born from the idea of offering a Belgian merchant site with guarantees that the site is made in Belgium, that the platform pays its taxes in Belgium, etc... "
The business plan is designed to meet the needs of Belgian companies and customers, but must also be profitable in the long run. How will you do this?
"Indeed, we have built a business plan that includes the cost of the platform, the cost of communication, promotion, hosting, maintenance... a platform like this is expensive to maintain and improve. Clearly, we have paid attention to all the elements necessary to allow companies to sell in optimal conditions, and buyers to find interesting products.
What is our business model? We charge a 10% commission on sales, which is low compared to the market, in order to make the platform affordable for merchants. For your information, other platforms take commissions of around 15%, and sometimes even up to 20-30%!
Above all, we want it to be simple: it must be easy for a company to put its products on the platform, for the customer to make his purchases, and at the same time offer the guarantee that it is a purchase made from a Belgian business, perhaps in the next town or village.
Of course, in the first year, we will not yet be profitable with our 10%, but we are taking the plunge and we believe in it. With the volumes, we should reach a number of transactions that will allow us to be profitable quickly in the second or third year.
Also, it is worth mentioning that as part of our plan, we have negotiated preferential rates with BPost for shipping, and established an agreement with Viva Wallet to offer the lowest prices on the market to merchants.
Making it easier for Belgian businesses to sell online is our dream and our credo. "
So how does it work for a merchant?
"Basically, we are an additional sales channel that is easy to use and doesn't cost much.
We have tried to think of everything and simplify the life of the shopkeeper. To start with, they have to register on the platform. Then they are validated by the system (contact details are checked, the validity of the VAT-number is also verified). A Viva Wallet account is created. This account is where the sales amounts will be transferred automatically.
Finally, once validated, the merchant receives access to add products, categories, customise the platform... The front office has been designed to be as user friendly as possible. "
The development took place in a few months, do you already have interested participants?
"We already have about 30 registered businesses who are already selling. Of course, we continue to optimise the platform and improve it to help the sellers who register with us.
In terms of development, we have worked on a lot of things, and discovered things that we didn't know at the start. The project is not that simple but we really tried to think of everything. Both in terms of online payment and the delivery system, or how to optimise shipping, how to make sure that everything is legally correct, etc.
In short, our goal is to constantly improve and optimise the platform, but we can also say that we have already developed a competitive and legal marketplace. “
You mention there are already about thirty registered companies. Do you have any quantified ambitions in your plans in terms of registrations, transactions or other KPI’s?
As mentioned above, our ambition is for Cobelo.be to become a reflex for consumers and for them to be able to buy online from merchants in their region. We also want to be profitable in the third year. It's as simple as that.
In other words, we first want to become a reference as a Belgian marketplace. The customer who says to himself, "I want to buy a product from a Belgian business" and immediately thinks of COBELO.BE, that's the dream.
We would also like the merchants and brands to become our ambassadors. In fact, the thirty or so current subscribers have come to us even though we haven't yet started promoting the marketplace. And sales have already been recorded. For us this is already a good sign. "
Exceptionally, allow me to extend this 20/CENT Meets article with some additional comments.
In my opinion, the COBELO.BE project is interesting because it makes life easier for merchants and offers a sales channel to many Belgian entrepreneurs and businesses. But above all, I would like to emphasise two elements that emerged from my discussions with the founders of the platform.
First of all, I could have written a longer article because the COBELO.BE team has worked so hard on its tool and its development. The journey was full of difficulties and surprises, but this did not stop the founders who went all the way with their project. And during our interviews, they told me everything honestly, in detail and with passion.
And passion is also an essential element of the project. It is not a project born simply out of opportunism. It is an idea that comes to fruition and is driven by the passion of a job well done. Passion is a trait that has been lacking in Belgium in recent years when it comes to e-commerce. Our country has too often lagged behind in terms of digital commerce. But it is with this kind of project, driven by enthusiasts, that our country will finally catch up with its neighbours. Clearly, all we can hope for is that the platform reaches its objectives quickly, because it would be well deserved.
If you want more info : www.cobelo.be