June 28, 2022
Imagine being able to sell your products providing an excellent e-commerce process with a unique real-store experience. Getting the most out of advanced tools without losing the personal touch. How can you make it? Live shopping is the answer.
One of the tools revolutionizing e-commerce and at the same time aiming to help offline businesses thrive (or sometimes even survive) is ELISA - Easy Live Sales, founded in 2021 by Nikolai Aas Pedersen and Christian Degn Vester. ELISA has come a long way from an MVP of a comment-selling robot on Facebook to a comprehensive live shopping system changing the way we see buyer’s and seller’s experiences.
In the interview below Nikolai, Elisa's founder, is sharing their success story and details of the journey to serving about 700 companies and placing 2mln orders yearly. You’ll also find out what challenges the e-commerce industry faces right now and why live shopping is the future.
Joanna Staromiejska: You started ELISA almost two years ago, during difficult Covid-19 times. How did you come up with your business idea?
Yes, our story begins in March 2020 when all cafes and restaurants got closed due to Covid restrictions. My mom has a cafe and before the pandemic, she had never offered takeaway. So together with my brother, I wanted to convert her business model and enable online selling.Nikolai Aas Pedersen Founder and Product Developer
Our first product was the “reservations and order management” tool on Facebook. We used to offer only two daily dishes per day so that costs could be tightly controlled. The process seemed pretty straightforward: we release the menu of the day and people leave comments to order.
In practice, the whole process was demanding and more time-consuming than we had imagined. Keeping track of all the reservations and sending confirmations to customers took ages and caused frustration. Also, I started noticing more and more brick-and-mortar stores getting closed and being left with nothing - no help, no solutions. It was especially challenging for the fashion industry in small towns or villages across Denmark. As fashion is highly seasonable and each item has an “expiry date”, leaving them piling up on the shelves for months meant losing sales opportunities forever.
JS: What did you decide to do next? How has your idea evolved?
Nikolai: I started my research by asking other shops if they would want to automate their process of selling something online, maybe even live. Some of them were already doing this but struggled with managing orders manually. It took them even 5 days to match the comment with the product, process payment, then send it which is not the best customer experience. There was a huge huge need for automation.
I came up with the idea of a “comment-selling robot” and developed the first version of the software in a few weeks. It was designed to help business owners, free of charge, who had been affected by the pandemic-related problems. The idea proved to work smoothly during a 2-month testing period which made us think of expanding the scope of the robot’s potential.
JS: In February 2021, the robot became more human and received a name: ELISA - “Easy Live Sales”. How does it work now?
Nikolai: ELISA is a complete solution for setting up and running live shopping campaigns. Our platform fits businesses of any size and business needs. It guides both retailers and users through every step of the sales process.
JS: How does it work from the technical point of view?
Nikolai: ELISA is a tool that can be embedded in any website that allows users to buy products directly from the video being live-streamed. It adds a chat functionality, basket & payments to the video that is covered by the initial website, e.g. Facebook Watch. ELISA uses an engine that integrates with various e-commerce engines like Woocommerce, Shopify, Magento.
Source: ELISA's youtube channel
JS: What’s unique about your solution?
Nikolai: Simplicity. It provides easy onboarding, you can get started easy fast. As a business owner, you just need to connect your Facebook account to ELISA and choose the page you want to interact with - it only takes a few seconds. Then you can add your products and write a message to customers. To start your first live shopping, you need to choose the integrations that fit your business, create a campaign and grab your smartphone. Voila!
It’s a real game-changer for smaller businesses. Imagine a store that goes live once a week - they can make a week's turnover in 1,5 hours. Although eCommerce platforms are also our clients, it was much easier for them to join live shopping, they just add a plugin.
Source: ELISA website
JS: Why are live sales on social media such a good idea? Do you think that this is the direction the whole industry will be moving in?
Nikolai: Yes, definitely. It’s something that e-commerce is craving. E-commerce has been the same for the last fifteen years; flat images, very often of bad quality, sometimes video showcasing products but that’s all.
Live shopping is a fresh approach. A nice link between cold e-commerce and warm real store experience. It’s a mix of personal touch, imperfection of physical shopping experience, and interaction between the seller and buyer. For businesses, it offers visibility and presence wherever their consumers are. Live sales trigger lots of interactions and this is something that Facebook’s algorithms support and thus expand the reach of videos.
JS: What are the current trends for e-commerce?
Nikolai: Besides live shopping - influencer marketing. If you manage to find the right people to promote your brand and your values, it’s gold. There’s a lot of potential in influencers.
JS: What’s the most challenging about running a business in the e-commerce industry right now?
Nikolai: Recruitment is hard for a SaaS company, especially getting tech talent on board. Our goal is to become a Europe-wide known brand so there’s a language barrier issue. We faced it already - we imagined that going to the Netherlands and speaking only English should be fine. However, after visiting a few shops there, it turned out English is not that common and we need to adjust our product and personalize it to local needs.
Also, since we’re working on the aspect of e-commerce that’s brand new, we don’t only sell ELISA but the concept of live shopping as a very efficient selling tool which is a pretty challenging thing to do.
Nikolai: One thing is the sales numbers - about 700 companies are active right now. We ran more than 10,000 live shows last year. More than 2mln orders were placed through our platform in 2021. What is also really important for us is the impact that we make on small shops.
I have lots of stories of shops doubling their revenue by going live once a week. I’m proud to make this software meaningful - it was the intent behind ELISA in the first place and I’m happy we can make it happen.
JS: What are the next steps for development? What are your plans for the future?
Nikolai: There are many new integrations on the way to support physical stores. We plan to have new payment providers and a new freight system for each country. If some e-commerce platform has 100 customers and one of them uses ELISA, we would like to integrate with the rest of them too. Our biggest competition is time - we're still young so every little improvement or feature makes a big difference.