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Vilkas webshop is a plug and play solution

Vilkas helps expand the selection for what’s available for online shoppers.Istock.com/ oneinchpunch

One-person businesses tend to be up to their eyes with work even without coding and hosting their own online store. Tampere-based Vilkas wants to give them a digital hand.

Back in the early days of digitalisation, setting up an online store used to be a chore. That didn’t stop Markku Korkiakoski, the now-CEO of Vilkas, from believing in their eventual rise and shine.

Too bad he was a little early in his predictions.

“We [himself and now-VP development Kalle Marjamäki] were a little disillusioned in the late ‘90s, thinking that hundreds of companies will be establishing their webstores within a couple of years,” he recalls. “That surely didn’t happen: instead, we found ourselves explaining to business owners what the Internet is.”

Plenty of things have changed since then, not only in the names and ownerships of companies Korkiakoski has been running (as well as the general awareness of the possibilities of the Internet), but also in digital technology. Vilkas brought a plug and play webshop solution to market in 2005, the same year the company’s current name was established.

The service means that any enterprise can open its own online store instantly just by creating an account and logging in.

“It’s a do-it-yourself platform that’s as easy to use and navigate as possible,” Korkiakoski explains. “With it, business owners don’t need the skills or the technology to create a global webshop from scratch.”

Targeting men with vans

Although ahead of their time, the basic pillars Korkiakoski and his partners defined in their strategy and vision two decades ago still apply – as do the basic features and functionalities expected from a webshop. Hence, Vilkas is able to serve all kinds of businesses, as long as they’ve got a product or a service to sell.

The range of stuff and services on Vilkas’ platform is a cross-section of Finnish enterprises, ranging from micro to stock companies. A typical customer, in Korkiakoski’s words, is “a man with a van”. Vilkas targets even the smallest of firms with its reasonable pricing and ongoing support. Whilst some online store platform providers aim to serve big corporations, Vilkas’ eyes are on the masses – and long-term relationships, maintained by constantly developing the service and making all aspects of online retail, including shipping and payments, as easy and straightforward as possible.

CEO Markku Korkiakoski Image: Vilkas

“Large retailers can offer resource-intensive projects, but they only ever last a specific period of time,” Korkiakoski notes. “Our approach enables us to develop our product continuously and helps us employ staff permanently.”

At the moment, Vilkas is a team of 20 people, divided into two teams. The growth is steady and sustainable in terms of both team members and new customers.

“Annually, we help open about 400 new webshops,” Korkiakoski counts. “As some always shut down, too, the net increase tends to be somewhere between 200 and 300.”

Internationalisation is a win-win for all

At the moment, Vilkas serves companies in Sweden, and in the future Norway and Denmark will have their own customised versions of the service. The localisation includes employing a native speaker to support clients in their own language as well as finding local partners for payments and shipping.

International operations benefit existing customers, too. With the growing network of service providers, Finnish companies can easily make their webstores more accessible to other Nordic markets without having to separately negotiate logistics contracts and integrate payment solutions.

The same goes for Swedish companies wanting to reach out to Finnish consumers.

In the future, Vilkas might be tapping markets further away from its back yard. Even if it doesn’t offer the service in all possible languages, it can provide any foreign company a route to the Nordic online sales environment.

“Online shopping has changed sales remarkably, as selling has gone from local to global,” Korkiakoski notes. “The SME sector is no exception.”

Vilkas’ international team is based in Tampere. Image: Vilkas
By: Anne Salomäki