In an interview with Avenga, Tim Arlt, the COO of Händlerbund, talks about the digital future of e-commerce and the HB Marketplace.
Tim Arlt has spent more than 10 years evolving e-commerce. As COO of Händlerbund he oversees the development of services that help professionalizing online shops. More than 200 employees support him from their Leipzig headquarters. Apart from being a member of board of the umbrella organization for e-commerce in Brussels, he also co-founded and serves as CEO for Marketplace GmbH since 2018.
Avenga and Händlerbund are partners in developing digital solutions for e-commerce, like the Avenga product wao.io that increases conversion rate through page speed optimization. In our interview, Arlt speaks about the challenges of online trade and being the driving force behind the B2B trading platform HB Marketplace.
Miriam Birkett (MB): Mr Arlt, Händlerbund started in 2008 as a legal service for online shop owners. Nowadays you don’t only care for more than 80,000 websites, but actively work on the digital transformation of the industry. How much has e-commerce in its challenges for online shop owners and their customers changed since the founding of Händlerbund?
Tim Arlt (TA): “Händlerbund studies and our own experience show that the problem of warning letters in e-commerce are constantly evolving. Digitalization has resulted in greater transparency, but it also made online shop owners more vulnerable. Anyone who allows the slightest inattention in the presentation of their products on their website risks a warning letter. This has not changed for ten years. However, with the growing online trade, the pressure of competition and with ever new regulations, such as the GDPR, the complexity has increased.”
MB: You mainly look after small and medium-sized online shops. How can they keep up with the competition from market leaders like Amazon and remain competitive?
TA: “We notice that customers still appreciate individual advice and excellent customer service. This is a decisive advantage of smaller online shops over anonymous corporations. What’s more, there is nothing in e-commerce that does not exist. The range of niche products is incredibly wide and very exciting.”
Customers still appreciate individual advice and excellent customer service. This is a decisive advantage of smaller online shops over anonymous corporations.
MB: With the HB Marketplace you have now expanded your business field and launched a B2B trading platform. What does HB Marketplace mean for the digital transformation of Händlerbund?
TA: Our members regularly ask us for recommendations for e-commerce vendors. Whether packaging material, shop software or digital agencies – with HB Marketplace we are creating a B2B marketplace that bundles these offers as a one-stop shop and simplifies the procurement process of online shop owners. We are thus able to map our existing 360° e-commerce network with the HB Marketplace as a digital platform.
MB: What challenges did you face – both technologically and in terms of addressing customers – when you designed the HB Marketplace?
TA: The HB Marketplace has grown beyond an actual online marketplace. In addition to everyday products, there are plugins, templates, event tickets and e-books and soon there will be an HB bonus program for members. We have created a holistic B2B platform with enormous potential. The technical challenge now is to offer a multi-login and to simplify the billing process so that everything is available with a single login. The communicative hurdle is to present this wide range and show the users the possibilities.
MB: Händerblund keeps surprising the e-commerce industry with fresh ideas. What do you think will be the next big step in its digital transformation?
TA: We are constantly evolving our services and are strongly oriented towards the needs of our members. In addition to the expansion of the HB Marketplace, we will soon introduce an innovative, intelligent software, which, working as a SmartGuard, is able to automatically check online presences for errors and, thanks to automation, additionally increases protection against warning letters.
MB: Mr Arlt, thank you very much for the interview!
→ Read our interview with Stefan Butzlaff on Swiss Life’s digital strategy in Germany