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Links: digital future

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“With digitalisation, I think trends in customer needs are changing in terms of how they search for products, the service they seek, how they experience the products… With further development of virtual reality and augmented reality, the ability of customers to experience products without touching them will cause a dramatic shift in the market place,” says Vlatko Skarica Managing Director at Links, consumer electronics company based in Zagreb, Croatia. Links is a national leader in computer goods retailing with 12 stores across the country and a strong online presence.

The company assembles bespoke desktops for an established customer base mainly made up of gamers but also sells computer electronics from phones to tablets, monitors, laptops and game consoles. Despite being so immersed in the digital space, the company still had to invest heavily in digitalisation efforts in the course of 2020, in a process that was actually accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic: “Online demand surged by 70% literally overnight on March 19th and we didn’t have enough stock as our supply chain broke down.” So the team came up with an ambitious digital transformation plan that would improve external and internal processes, preserve jobs and avoid downsizing. But they also found other creative solutions in parallel: “We tried to boost stocks, but then, where do you store them? Well, since stores were shut, we used our floor space to stock the products, so the business kept running, employees kept coming in and the whole thing kept rolling.”

The digitalisation plan, meanwhile, involved revamping the website, improving the ecommerce solutions and digitalising the archives, starting with one module at a time. “The system needed an upgrade with the increased traffic. For example, electronic signatures on tablets, invoicing by email, storing everything in the cloud to replace paper…” explains Vlatko. “It takes time to implement but we’re getting there.”

Funding to achieve this came through an EU-guaranteed loan from Zagrebačka banka, member of UniCredit Group, backed by the EIF, under the Investment Plan for Europe. The additional resources served as working capital and enabled the digitalisation efforts. “It has given us a distinctive competitive advantage, sustained the increase in transactions and improved our key performance indicators,” Vlatko adds. But the company has more ambition for growth and expansion. “Our goal is to expand our sales channels (new megastore opening in Zagreb in 2021) and our product portfolio. We also want to explore further digital solutions as our customers’ needs keep shifting. Our aim is to keep giving them the same level of personalised support.”

Company: Links (Croatia)

Type of business: ecommerce

EIF financing: InnovFin SMEG COVID-19 measures; EFSI

Financial purpose: Digitalisation

For further information abiout EIF intermediaries in Croatia, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/hr

 

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