January 2017 – present (October 2020 IPO, stake reduced)
1,380 end 2016 – 2,300 in 2020
Improving the customer experience helped drive Allegro to one of the world’s top 10 e-commerce businesses
In under four years of MidEuropa’s and its consortium partners’ ownership, Allegro was transformed from a good business into a great one by bringing together digital upgrades, operational improvements and a highly motivated team to grow revenue and profits by over 100% and headcount by two-thirds as the business became one of the world’s top 10 e-commerce businesses.
Patience is not a virtue in today’s retail world, where customers have come to expect instant gratification and with ease. This means successful consumer businesses must offer the right product mix with competitive pricing and prompt delivery – and MidEuropa knows this well, having helped to grow a number of businesses in the consumer space.
The firm was part of a consortium which acquired Polish online marketplace Allegro in 2017 from Naspers, a listed South African company. MidEuropa’s local angle and relevant experience enabled it to build a strong relationship with management in 2016 on the back of its regional reputation and network. Eventually, a $3.25bn/€2.75bn acquisition was agreed in January 2017 by MidEuropa, Cinven and Permira.
Allegro already had a strong position as the largest non-food retailer in Poland with an admirable 90% brand recognition rate, but the investors and management set out to improve the company further. The key to this was supporting a combination of strategies, namely accelerating organic growth, operational improvements, and digital enhancement.
Operational improvements to boost UX
In today’s world, customers expect products to be delivered quickly, and so a key priority was improving despatch and delivery times. To address this, Allegro made a significant investment in its logistics capabilities and in 2018 launched Allegro Smart!, a free delivery subscription service, and between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, improved by eight percentage points in the number of parcels delivered within two days.
A strong focus was also placed on investing in the experience of and convenience for Allegro’s customers, merchants and buyers alike. Improvements in this space included optimising the take-rate mix as fees shifted from listing towards success (to incentivise B2C and C2C sellers), and offering a broader assortment of goods to enhance the value proposition. Merchants were supported through digital channels, namely automated tools and analytics to provide valuable data, which in turn helped them to provide a better and more tailored offering to end-customers.
Further efficiency was driven through developing a platform ecosystem which included logistics, payments, consumer and merchant finance, loyalty programmes, customer support and buyer protection programmes. These developments were supported through investment in technology, which also helped to increase traffic, conversion, transaction frequency and basket size.
Select strategic acquisitions helped accelerate the company’s growth in certain areas. For example, in 2019 Allegro purchased online ticketing platform eBilet, and in 2020 it acquired Polish fintech start-up FinAi, which ultimately enabled the company to launch Allegro Pay. In 2021 the company also acquired Opennet as part of its focus on fulfilment capabilities, allowing Allegro to inhouse its last-mile software.
The value creation plan helped Allegro make remarkable progress in its areas of focus: broader offering assortment (c.200 million products available on the platform), pricing management (80%+ products at lowest price in the market), delivery (free deliveries with Allegro Smart!, network of c.25,000 pick-up points across Poland, investment into lockers network), merchants (c.125,000 merchants on the platform) and user experience (c.20 million clients visit Allegro monthly – equivalent to 80% of all Internet users in Poland). The success has been widely recognised, with Allegro being awarded the Star of Customer Service Award each year since its 2017 buyout.
With the support of its investors, Allegro was transformed into a global top 10 e-commerce platform and the leading and most recognised internet brand in Poland, with a strong capability to build beyond the CEE region. The company became one of the largest internet and e-commerce IPOs in Europe and the largest initial public offering on the Warsaw Stock Exchange when it listed in October 2020 at a share price of PLN 43, corresponding to an implied market capitalisation of PLN 44bn (€9.8bn).
Between the acquisition in January 2017 and flotation in October 2020, Allegro’s gross merchandise value (GMV) grew by 99%, net revenue by 102% and adjusted EBITDA by 113% on a last-twelve- month basis. Additionally, employee numbers grew from 1,380 at the end of 2016 to nearly 2,300 at 30 June 2020, with this expected to reach 3,000 by the end of 2021. More than 40% of senior management positions are held by women.
This has been achieved alongside an admirable focus on ESG. Allegro joined the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest initiative that brings together businesses working for sustainable development, and hosts annual charity events, with the company contributing nearly PLN 500m in the fight against COVID in 2020.
MidEuropa, Cinven and Permira remain investors in the business, which continues its impressive growth trajectory.
*As of FY 2020. Includes PLN 325m delivery costs savings for buyers using the free Smart! package, PLN 155m Merchant Support Program, PLN 6.9m donations (direct support to 40 hospitals, 77 employee initiatives, donations to buy 2 COVID laboratories and 24 respirators), and PLN 3.3m for employees sanitary protection and work-from-home support