Are you familiar with Bolzano (German: Bozen), the capital city of South Tyrol in Italy? It’s an idyllic corner of the world – with a beautiful old town brimming with inviting shops; of course, all of which were also affected by the coronavirus crisis. But even before to the pandemic, merchants from Bolzano joined forces to stand up to the competition from the online industry. The businesses can now be found online, bundled together in a digital marketplace. They used our free Downtown software for this purpose. The Bolzano-based web agency teamblau was responsible for promoting and implementing this very first project of its kind.
teamblau answers questions about the project
In the following interview, teamblau tells us how the project’s history, what exactly it involves, and what is planned for the future:
Using Downtown, you have developed a digital marketplace for the city of Bolzano, Italy. How exactly did this project come about?
Several years ago, the shops, restaurants, and service providers of the historic old town of Bolzano formed a marketing group called BZHEARTBEAT. During the Corona lockdown, we offered this group of merchants and companies a series of webinars on ecommerce because we wanted to equip their businesses with the necessary online skills to help them get through this critical time.
At the same time Shopware presented us with the Downtown project - we reacted quickly and offered this initiative to the BZHEARTBEAT group. The idea was received enthusiastically, and the project was launched was implemented without any hesitation.
To what extent was the city of Bolzano itself involved in the project?
Since the members of BZHEARTBEAT represent a wide variety of businesses from the retail, gastronomy and service sectors in Bolzano, a broad spectrum of the community is also directly or indirectly involved. At the beginning there was no direct exchange with the municipal bodies themselves - now that word of the project has spread, the political representatives have become aware of it and have offered to network the initiative step by step with the city itself in a long term perspective.
What was the response from merchants and how were you able to convince them of the concept?
Downtown offers a very simple and convenient way to present your business and offer products, vouchers, or services online. This is the perfect way to take your first steps into ecommerce, especially for merchants without their own online shop. Practically anyone can manage their own shop on BZHERATBEAT, i.e. Downtown, even without technical knowledge – this is due to the usability of the platform and the straightforward process of adding your own data.
How many merchants are now involved in the project?
At the time of launch, around 60 merchants and companies from all over the city will go online. Some with products and vouchers, some only with showcase products, some only with a business profile and direct link to their own existing online shop.
How long did it take to complete the Downtown project for Bolzano?
The basic implementation of the platform progressed relatively quickly – it took around 1.5 months from the first contact to going online, plus the final stage of development, including the initial entry of basic transaction data. We implemented a very high level of personalization and turned Downtown into a BZHEARTBEAT-branded image portal. In the process, we made a number of individual adjustments, such as a mega menu navigation, story blog with testimonials, logo overview of all member stores, projects & events page, and more.
How are purchases, payment and shipping handled in the local marketplace?
We used the partner network of Shopware for these areas. For payment we rely on Mollie Payments, which is terrific and simple solution for online payments. For shipping, the merchants have access to Sendcloud, a smart online solution for logistics, and like Mollie, can be connected directly to Shopware. These services make it very easy, fast, and uncomplicated for the marketplace participants to get started in online commerce.
Which functions would you like to implement in the future?
It is planned to expand the basic marketplace BZHEARTBEAT to a full-fledged marketplace by 2022. For this purpose, the individual merchants and companies will be equipped with their own Shopware instance in the medium term and will thus be able to operate much more extensively. The new API approach of Shopware 6 is very helpful to us. BZHEARTBEAT should become Bolzano's answer to the growing influence of Amazon.
Thank you very much for the interview - we wish you continued success with this project!
Downtown is a project from Shopware, which has been supported as a pro bono initiative by numerous digital enthusiasts and online commerce experts. The goal of the project is the creation of a functional platform that can quickly support local trade. The software has been developed as an open source project on GitHub and is freely available for use by anyone and everyone.