Government Fin Shop introduces highly accessible, customer-friendly webshop
Business & Decision created a dynamic webshop with an integrated auction module for the Belgian Federal Public Service Finance - Fin Shop
The challenge for Business & Decision was to turn the static website of one Fin Shop branch into a dynamic, accessible and customer-friendly webshop with an integrated auction module, consolidating the three geographically separated Fin Shop branches of the Belgian Federal Public Service Finance (FPSF). A full demo that showed how Business & Decision pictured this webshop quickly convinced the FPSF that they would be the right partners to realize this e-commerce project.
The Fin Shop concept
The first Fin Shop branch was launched in Brussels in 2009 by the Belgian FFPSF with the purpose of reselling any furniture, vehicles, and other movable goods procured by confiscation, decommissioned by government organizations, or found in postal packages that remained unclaimed after fifteen weeks. Next to organizing public sales to sell these, Fin Shop Brussels sold several goods, individually or in lots, at a fixed prize on its website, and, to a lesser extent, by auction through eBay. Its activities were limited to the Brussels Capital region and the Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant provinces. Individual agencies in Ghent, Antwerp, Mons and Liège were in charge of similar sales for the Flemish and Walloon provinces, but their digital capabilities were limited to announcing their public sales on a static government website, alongside public real estate sales.
Need for a new & improved website
In February 2017, two additional Fin Shop branches were opened in Bornem and Gembloux, offering the same services as the Brussels shop to the Flemish and Walloon provinces. “At about that time, we encountered a Drupal update issue with the Fin Shop Brussels website, so centralizing the digital services of all three branches in a single new website was an obvious decision to make,” explains Véronique Bocken, Communication Associate at the Communication and Change Management department of the General Administration of Patrimonial Documentation within the FPSF. “We decided to consolidate everything concerning real estate into the Finimmoweb website, whereas the original Fin Shop Brussels URL – finshop.belgium.be – was reclaimed to create a platform to sell the movable goods.”
Business & Decision stands out from the crowd
Business & Decision presented a full demo to show how they pictured this project in answer to the tender, offering a sharp contrast to the other applicants. “Their presentation distinctly exhibited their broad experience in e-commerce projects,” says Véronique Bocken. “As the Business & Decision representatives described other projects they had realized, we quickly understood that they would be able to overcome what we believed to be the major challenge in developing this website: integrating an online auctions module. The fact that they clearly offered the best value for money tipped the scale to their advantage to win the tender.”
In the start-up phase, Business & Decision organized several workshops to brainstorm on needs and possibilities, and to align the views of all the parties involved: Fin Shop Brussels, the administrator of the patrimonial services, the FPSF’s IT Services, and the operational coordination and communication services of the patrimonial documentation department’s general administration.
Defining and meeting the challenges
“As the website would serve three physically separated shops and warehouses, we started off from the idea that a customer would only be able to buy in one shop at a time,” says Véronique Bocken. “However, we soon realised that this was ‘customer unfriendly’ and, luckily, Business & Decision was quick to react. They skillfully guided us towards the centralized, customer-centered approach we were actually looking for.” Providing payment facilities by debit as well as credit card proved to be another trial, as this required agreements with both Worldline and PayPal, and the integration of these software packages in the Drupal e-commerce platform. “The Business & Decision team were also very helpful in defining the purchase and shipment flow, aligning with the postal services and fine-tuning the coordination between the three Fin Shops. Of course, as this website would target the entire country, we needed to make sure that the whole flow functioned perfectly bilingually. From the beginning, we saw the integration of an auction module as one of the major challenges. Anticipating that development of this functionality would require additional time and effort, we agreed on adding it post-launch, after ascertaining its flawless performance, ” adds Véronique Bocken.
Smooth, informed collaboration and speedy responses
Once the action points were defined, Business & Decision assembled a fixed team of two developers and two graphic designers, led by a project manager, and set up a formal interaction flow with the coordinators at the FPSF. “We highly appreciated Business & Decision’s interactivity and strong reactivity,” says Véronique Bocken. “By means of screenshots we were constantly kept up to date and given the opportunity to provide feedback. Their ticketing platform ‘Sifter’ provided a direct communication line with their dedicated project manager. He would distribute the tasks to the appropriate Business & Decision team members. Of course, contacting any team member by phone or face to face meetings remained an option for more urgent matters or anything demanding an immediate exchange of ideas. Typically, any issue would be solved within a day.” A test version allowed FPSF to test the entire website prior to launch, which, with the exception of the auction functionality, perfectly met the predetermined deadline.
Understanding and addressing actual needs
“We are very pleased with our collaboration with Business & Decision, and the results,” says Véronique Bocken. “Throughout the project, we really felt listened to. Business & Decision was able to put themselves in our shoes, to understand what we really needed, and, most importantly, to assign the right people to the task of finding a suitable technological solution to address these needs. We notice that most of our customers make purchases from all three Fin Shops and most of our auctions find a buyer. Our sales revenue, as well as the number of customers, is steadily increasing, even more so since we eliminated the shipment costs. Now that Business & Decision helped us to offer a complete overview of the items available at all of our Fin Shops, we are hoping to expand our customer base to the whole of Belgium.”
Manager of the Web & Mobile practice of Business & Decision in Belgium.
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