Digitalization of authentic local brands for boosted economic development
The agricultural sector in North Macedonia remains yet to be fully digitalized. E-commerce platforms are slowly starting to include local agricultural producers in their offer, who in turn begin to understand the importance of basic digital skills and the power of digitalization for boosted economic activity.
E-commerce platforms are demanding more and more locally grown and organic products (fresh or processed) to be featured for online sale. On the other hand, small agricultural producers do not possess the right capacities and resources for online sales, while the larger ones are more focused on exports and sales in larger quantities.
Thirteen small agri-producers readily joined the initiative “Agri E-Commerce” in the form of a well-packed series of trainings referring to e-commerce introduction, social media marketing, power of storytelling, digital marketing tools and business pitches in front of leading e-commerce platforms in the country. The domestic agri-businesses that went through all phases of the project were the following: “B Organic”, “Badi Winery”, “Berovo Ecological Products”, “Biomelan”, “Nutz”, “TrekkMe”, “Winery Peshkov”, “Seed of Life”, “Ivanov Winery”, “Tuf.mk”, “V’K – Fine Craft Rakija”, “Likom” and “Agrokorp”.
“The Covid pandemic hugely accelerated the need for digitization, hence everyone involved in production and trade must follow the rules of the new normal. Our focus is to be featured on several domestic online platforms and potentially other European platforms in the future.” – states Blaže Minevski from “Badi Winery”, one of the program participants and a wine producer.
Process of ongoing improvement for small businesses and e-commerce platforms
Online platforms enriched their assortment with new local products. Some of the digital platforms even made substantial changes in improving their appearance and labeling, by adding a new section “Domestic Products” through which local agricultural products are showcased and which is expected to positively influence consumer habits of authentic local products.
“The demand for authentic local brands is growing more and more throughout the years. These are authentic products that bring additional value to the market. I strongly believe that consumers are fed up with industrial brands and they are intensively looking for new experiences. This project helps achieve exactly that.” – says Dragan Josifovski from “Paket.mk”.
For the first time, B2B connections were made between e-commerce platforms and agri-producers to market their products online. Small agri-businesses introduced useful changes in their work, related to brand presentation on social media channels, but also largely to perfecting the products’ appearance like packaging, design and so on. The possibility to be featured on renowned domestic web-platforms stimulated some of the small producers to finalize registration processes and obtain administrative permits to be able to sell online.
Female owners and strengthened internal capacities
Several of the project participating companies are led by aspiring female entrepreneurs who understand the importance of going digital. The program significantly expanded their skills and possibilities, promoting them as viable female business leaders. “We have already started using some of the tips and tricks for improving our business operations, which also led to better insights and results on our social media communication channels with prospective clients.” – adds Maja Chubrikj from “TrekkMe”, a program participant.
New employment prospects within the agricultural sector
After the completion of the program, the Macedonian E-Commerce Association connected agricultural producers with e-commerce platforms that continued with one-on-one meetings and marketing of the agricultural products on the e-commerce platforms. The supply with domestic agri-products was distributed across eleven local e-commerce web platforms, or a total of 31 new sales channels have been enabled (within various e-commerce web platforms) for selling the agri-products.
The increase in online sales could potentially open new employment opportunities in the agricultural sector. Boosted online sales may also lead to an increased demand for domestic agri-products and the development of new products, which positively impacts the economy. Multiple benefits are expected to grow in the future.
The “Agri E-Commerce” activity started in August 2021 and was completely completed as of March 2022. The initiative received a lot of great feedback from the public, the e-commerce web platforms, and the media. The project “Agri E-Commerce” can be easily replicated to other businesses in the agricultural sector in North Macedonia as well, thus creating a wider, systemic change in the agricultural sector. Additionally, stimulated by the growing interest in selling online, the Macedonian E-Commerce Association created a new project “Digital Skills for Growth” available for other industry sectors.