CloudCart is a Bulgarian-based cloud commerce company founded in 2016 by two brothers - Petar Iliev and Nikolay Iliev, who collectively have more than 30+ years of experience in the digital space.
Since its launch, CloudCart has managed to attract some notable investors like NV3, ITA Group Bulgaria (System Integration in Europe), the founder of Sportal Media Group - Stilian Shishkov and Elevator Ventures (Raiffeisen Bank International).
This large backing and the exponential growth of the company have allowed it to solidify its Bulgarian operation and set its sights on international expansion, with it currently operating in six international markets - North Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Romania with more soon to come.
In today’s interview we will be speaking with Nikolay Iliev, CEO and Peter Lozanov, the freshly appointed CMO of the company. We will be discussing topics regarding the new direction of the company’s evolution and the vital changes within the team and their market approach.
In recent months, New Vision 3 supported this organisational transition and stood behind the founders of CloudCart with important advice and access to people from our network that helped the company take the right steps forward.
Q: Let’s start with a simple question - how did you two end up working together? We know Peter Lozanov in a very different role as the CEO of several businesses, including the startup studio BattlePass, can you tell us more about that transition?
Nikolay Iliev: We’ve known each other personally and professionally for quite a while now. CloudCart has used the services and expertise of Peter before and we were delighted with what he could bring to the table.
Our most recent encounter with him was during the planning of our first ever Bulgarian eCommerce conference - CloudCart Genesis. He was essential in attracting new partners and big names to the table not only to sponsor the event, but to actually get on board with our new Partners First philosophy.
This brought to our attention his astounding ability to bring people together and so we sought to acquire his skillset not as a consultant but rather as our new CMO. We are happy to have him on board.
Peter has 15+ years of experience in Marketing and Technology founding and managing different types of businesses. His first company is a communications agency - Symbol Media Group, later on he co-founded an event management business - FlyEvents and an employer branding agency - EmployerBooster. During his career he worked with numerous companies such as VMware, Visteon, Paysafe, GlobalFoundries, HP to name a few. He co-founded the travel startup 15toGO, the media tech company Selmade.id, and the first startup studio in Bulgaria BattlePass Studio.
Q: What was the reason to decide and search for a new CMO, is it related to your growth performance?
Nikolay: In a way it is and it isn’t. While our previous approach did yield good results, we knew that this new direction would require a CMO who is experienced in performance growth, with an agile creative background and extensive knowledge of running a Digital Agency. This perspective would give him an up-to-date understanding regarding the hardships of our potential partners and thus help bring us closer to our end-goal - creating a helpful product and ecosystem.
Making such a big C-level change in the company in the midst of international expansion was not an easy call to make, however, we believe it was the right one given the tenure of our new CMO Petar Lozanov.
In this age of rapid change, we understand that we need a team of experts who have their pulse on the market’s collective heartbeat.
We also wanted to find a person whose personality and energy is contagious, someone who can inspire and at the same time provoke with his thinking and way of going about his goals.
I sincerely believe that Peter has managed to get the entire company behind his back and shift its focus simultaneously towards the right horizons. This is a change which we believe is going to be quite healthy for us as a company and a community of people.
Q: What should a new CMO do when stepping up, what is your plan?
Peter Lozanov: My goal as CloudCart’s CMO is to provide and nurture the company’s communication and mission cohesion to a whole new level.
While the company has been growing prior to my arrival, my appointment at this position has come at a time where focus of action and company effort is a key aspect of sustainable growth and increased performance.
I believe changes should start from the very heart of the company before going forward with external communications. That's why the first step was to deep dive into the team's internal communications and dynamics and to try to boost the team spirit and motivation.
We started with a slogan - Less ME, More WE. The next step was to establish a bi-weekly meeting (we called it CCCatch-up or simply the Ketchup meetup) and a set of internal meetings between different company divisions.
These were combined with the co-creation process of our new corporate Mission, Vision, and Values (we will announce them very soon). Everything was focused around the big event that we managed to organise in less than 45 days - the CloudCard Genesis - a team effort that made us stronger and way more united.
The company atmosphere just changed collectively as we all felt it was about time we became honest with one another and actually started talking to each other.
This shift has been the driving force and the engine of our policy changes and the whole mentality of open communication not only with the company’s clients, but also within our ranks.
My goal is also to remove what was keeping us down and to promote a healthier internal and external environment for everyone proud to work at CloudCart.
I feel at liberty to describe CloudCart as a rocket ship preparing to launch into space and we need all systems to be GO before we exit the orbit. Things simply can’t go wrong when you are in Space.
Q: What are the main lessons you can take from the past few months?
Peter: It's important to act fast when someone is not the right fit for the company. If you don't - better do it later than never :)
The whole team should understand the reasoning behind the tough decisions.
Changing a person is never enough, you have to change the whole bad legacy and that's the hardest task. If you want to do it properly - do it out loud, create a blast, something that won't stay unnoticed.
Q: What’s the difference between your previous strategy and your current approach? What is the actual change that you are announcing?
Peter: First of all, let’s describe it not simply as a strategy change, but a whole new mindset that we want to establish within our team, between our partners, and anyone working with us. We want everyone to “get infected” with our passion for creating value for both merchants and partners in our network.
It is not “change” just for the sake of, but rather a whole different outlook on the role of the company in the local and global eCommerce industry.
We’ve already opened several markets outside of Bulgaria as well as establishing within those markets strong localized infrastructures to aid the expansion of partners and merchants towards international markets.
Notable international partners are Posta Shqiptare, the Albanian Ministry of Entrepreneurship and the North Macedonian eCommerce community. We are the only Bulgarian company to be certified and approved by the Greek Government to provide vital subsidized online store creation and maintenance services - we are very proud of this fact.
We believe that this is a fundamental shift in the way we are doing business, not only for us as a company, but also for our merchants and partners.
In the spirit of this change towards mutual growth, we are opening up our platform for technological contributions from vetted partners, while also providing quite a polished product for anyone looking to make headway into the eCommerce world. CloudCart is essentially becoming THE technological partner for all eCommerce in Europe.
To be frank with you, we are looking at some amazing things happening in the near future and while we are nervous, at the same time we are quite excited considering the amount of talented and competent partners we already have in our ecosystem of experts.
Q: You are announcing a new product in your portfolio - CloudCart Marketing Suite, can you tell us more about that?
Nikolay: Yes, we are adding a whole new functionality to our platform. CloudCart’s Marketing Suite aims to provide merchants with all of the necessary marketing tools required for running a profitable online store.
It is a powerful tool which gives our users the ability to gather data, segment their audiences, provide custom discounts based on user history and engagement, create landing pages and SEO optimize their stores to an exceedingly high degree.
We view the Marketing Suite as a solution to several long standing problems for merchants - the difficulty of setting up and maintaining a data driven omnichannel marketing that only super big merchants could afford.
We’ve customized our tools so they can work hand-in-hand with the marketing expertise our partners can provide, and the self-driven solutions which our merchants are looking for.
Peter: To delve deeper into details - we are looking at three pillars vital to the smooth and optimal operation of an online store - analyzing, segmenting and communicating.
The tool-set provided in our Marketing Suite gives merchants the ability to receive precise data regarding the behaviour of their users. They get to not only understand how they are acting on-site, but also where they are coming from, how many devices they are using and if they are staying on a page or not (as well as lots more information).
Using this data of engagement and activity, our merchants can handily segment their users into several audiences based on preferences or any other parameters they’d prefer.
This gives them the ability to engage these audiences which they now understand far better, and cater to their needs far more efficiently and accurately.
Data and audience segmentation are useful, however, communicating your story to your users will further increase the retention rate and reduce time lag between first engagement and final purchase.
Using applications like Mailchimp, BumpCart, Viber, Facebook and Instagram integrations, a merchant is able to adjust or create a great, functional funnel.
This is our new omnichannel approach which we’ve found from experience to be far better than multichannel communication which is a part of our greater effort to totally automize all of our features.
Our communication channels for marketing are integrated into one seamless package which provides a great, flowing functionality and efficient communication between all engagement channels available for a merchant.
Q: That definitely sounds impressive, but also challenging. Aren't you afraid that this is a whole new product, a whole new market for you?
Nikolay: We believe that this was the necessary step for us since the majority of our customers are small and mid-sized companies that typically can not afford that kind of solution due to the high setup and maintenance costs. We wanted to give them an enterprise-grade solution that can be used as a built-in tool, right in the admin panel which they are used to.
Peter: We understand that this might be a big challenge for us - to properly communicate the Marketing Suite, a new product that essentially can grab the attention from our core business. But this is also a great opportunity to position ourselves in a very favourable spot as the company that not only provides the infrastructure for online sales, but also the instruments that eCommerce businesses need to market their product and sell more.
We also believe that this change will make the market a lot more favorable for “the small guy” since he will have access to the same expertise as the already established eCommerce giants. We are providing all of the necessary tools so all businesses can grow at their own pace, while also making them more competitive in the global market, not just local.
Q: What are your next goals, what do you want to achieve in 2023?
Nikolay: We have plenty to do. Our work on our platform is not finished as we always strive to perfect what we already have.
Our collective goals are to further establish our company in foreign markets while still keeping a strong bond with our native and local merchants. We are certainly heading towards further Central Europe expansion with cross-border opportunities for Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Albanian, Kosovan, Serbian and North Macedonian partners and merchants.
We will be focusing on strengthening our foreign partnerships and establishing new ones in markets we’ve already secured a market share in. Of course,
we are setting our sights to expand our network from six countries (currently) to more than 24.
We are also planning to work heavily towards our new initiative CloudcArt, in which we are a beneficiary for new up-and-coming artists. We will be building and maintaining brand new websites for all artists who decide to join us, totally for free.
What’d be your unique selling point (USP) moving forward as you expand into the European market?
Peter: We have a true connection with our merchants that find in CloudCart a trustworthy friend with a human touch and support for their business. We try to stay as close to them as possible and to be "LOCALLY RELEVANT". That's something that the competition can not claim.
Our key focus in the following months is to grow rapidly in the neighboring markets, especially Romania and Greece where we see huge opportunities for our model.