What advice does Anton Johansson, CEO of Grebban, have for ecommerce and retail companies in 2024? We inquired, and here are his insights, along with a discussion on adopting a completely headless approach and his perspective on the future of B2C and B2B ecommerce.
Tell us a bit about Grebban and your collaboration with us at Norce as a Solution Partner.
I have known Niclas Heurlin, CEO and co-founder of Norce, for over 15 years so our collaboration goes way back. When Enferno, as Norce was called back in the days, was launching their partner program we jumped on board early on. Grebban was one of Norce's ﬁrst solution partners, and we became a partner due to our shared vision of how to build scalable ecommerce architectures. We love True SaaS, API-ﬁrst, Headless and we as an agency want full control over the customer experience and CMS solutions. So, it was immediately a successful partnership. So far, we have never lost a shared client, and they are all thriving.
Grebban was one of Europe’s ﬁrst agencies 100% focused on headless. Why did you decide to go all in on that route?
We were doing an internal exercise, what do we believe in and why? We asked ourselves questions like: How do we see the best ecommerce sites and architectures are being built, and how would we as developers and designers build them to get the best possible outcome? The answer was headless. Our whole tech team wanted to build sites in that way, so it was a good reference for us.
Grebban is working with some of Norce's most proliﬁc B2C clients like Royal Design, Hylte Jakt & Lantman, Sportson and more. What are your thoughts on B2C commerce in 2024, it’s been rough out there, so give us your view.
Retail and ecommerce have a hard time at the moment and it’s a “perfect storm” with a combination of macro, micro and trends. My view is that we should be more positive about B2C commerce in 2024 than last year. The economic turmoil isn’t over, but it’s stabilising and with a more predictable world, that will increase consumption.
I also think that a lot of people underestimate how much of the problems come from other ends than low consumption. We see a lot of issues around digital marketing, it’s so much harder today than just a couple of years ago, but also around pricing and bad customer experience. To be honest, a lot of the B2C ecommerce stories for the past 10 years have had a quite easy route with just paying more to Google and then calling it a success.
There is a lot of opportunity to grab within B2C commerce also in 2024. It’s just that you won’t be successful with the same playbook as previously (more money for Google) but rather invest in long-term things such as customer experience, customer loyalty, and a better customer oﬀering.
So, what about B2B? We have heard you started to work within B2B commerce as an agency?
B2B commerce is in the same state as B2C 10 years ago. So, it’s a greenﬁeld of opportunities.
We won’t be good at everything around B2B commerce, it’s such a diﬀerent playﬁeld. But we do see we have a great oﬀering for some use cases, so we are actively looking for clients within these areas.
Customer Experience / Design Driven B2B
B2B commerce where the customer and brand experience have really high demands. Examples include interior design and furniture, or products with a lot of storytelling.
B2B commerce where PIM is at the core. With online and physical catalogues, a lot of navigation and search etc.
B2B that acts like a B2C store
This is something we have delivered for many years. B2B stores that are open or half open that look and work like a B2C store. See for example Duab, they target small business owners, but their site is open to everyone.
Sometimes you act as the ecommerce design agency, but another agency takes care of the development side. Why and how does it work?
Yes, with for example Teknikmagasinet we did the pre-study and requirement gathering, procurement and then we found another tech agency doing that part while we continued with delivering visual identity, ecommerce design and more.
We love to deliver the tech part too, there aren’t many agencies in the world building better ecommerce architectures than we do. But we can’t scale if we do everything every time, we need to be able to collaborate and partner up to make sure we can deliver outstanding results no matter the resources. Sometimes we do everything, sometimes we do just one part. We are also the external project manager for some cases, the design agency for some cases and even only the expert/system architecture agency for some cases.
Since we are the market leader for ecommerce design, we do a lot of design work together with other tech agencies. It’s fun and rewarding for all parties involved to collaborate rather than compete!
One oﬀering you want to push for is the ecom ready site launch, with PIM-only. Can you explain more?
With Norstedts and Rabén & Sjögren we built their new sites with GrebCommerce and Norce. It was a fantastic project and a great example of how to start a digitalisation process with small resources. It’s not an ecommerce site, but it’s ecom ready if they want in the future. This is something I think more companies should consider going forward, especially in more traditional areas such as publishing. You don’t need to add the buy button to start your ecommerce journey, you can invest in the Norce PIM with a great site and applications, and making a roadmap that consists or not consists of more and more
ecommerce functionality. Grebban, GrebCommerce and Norce are the perfect solutions for a more long-term roadmap for digitalisation and an iterative path towards ecommerce.
Grebban has developed an accelerator for Norce called GrebCommerce. Can you explain what it is and how it works?
We don’t like to build the same thing over and over again, so we have generalised a lot of logic and code to be reusable. This is called GrebCommerce. It’s a product, an accelerator, that can be used with Norce Commerce to get an advanced system architecture and ecommerce solution. With it, our clients get a better solution for less money and in a shorter time frame.
It necessarily doesn’t mean our projects are smaller, but they are more focused on what’s unique for the speciﬁc client than on building general solutions, and deﬁnitely more on customer experience. Our goal is to change the budgets from general backend development to design and customer experience development, so the latter are in the majority. Why build the same integration over and over again? So, we generalise the integration so we can reuse it between clients.
With GrebCommerce, our clients get a better solution for less money and better eﬃciency in ongoing maintenance. We take a small fee for it, but it’s an extremely high price-to-value ratio. It’s of course possible to change agency and continue using GrebCommerce.
It’s also great for groups that have several brands but want to streamline backend operations. With GrebCommerce, you get the perfect combination of unique customer and brand experience where everything behind it just works despite diﬀerent strategies and organisations.
What’s your advice to ecommerce and retail companies for 2024?
Invest in your customer experience. It’s 2024, you need to build real relationships with your customers. Your brand and customer experience can’t be a catalogue online, it needs to be more of a multiplayer experience that gives you a reason for visiting monthly rather than yearly. It could be an ecommerce design, a loyalty program or even a chatbot. But be a brand that the customer connects with, not just a site.
Who should work with Norce and Grebban?
Companies that want a great long-term ecommerce solution with best-in-class proactive partners. It’s also by far the best combination if you have high design ambitions for your ecommerce site!
Any news from Grebban in 2024? What do we need to know?
Grebban has started to work with B2B commerce, as mentioned earlier, and we are also launching an oﬀering that we are calling “fractional creative team”. It’s like a design subscription or conversion rate optimisation subscription but where you get the whole creative team skills that Grebban can oﬀer in a wide range of possibilities. To compete in 2024, we think brands and retailers need more creative design solutions, and this is a cost-eﬃcient way to do that without the need to build out a large team.
Except that, we hope we can continue growing our shared clients with Norce and add many more!