Not more than a couple of years ago, Fashionchick was still a small Dutch start-up. A local publisher with big ambitions. About three years ago, it set out to conquer the world and today Fashionchick has firmly established itself in four major markets: Germany, France, America and the UK.
What have they learned? Always carry lipstick. Oh, and also a couple of things about performance marketing. Read on and find out how they wooed the French in the first part of this series on 'A Publisher's Guide to Expansion' by Head of Fashionchick International Catharina Zientz.
Entering a New Market
Before we delve into the savoir-faire of all things French I need to tell you a little bit about our business model and how we approach our international expansion. Within the digital age, Fashionchick helps shopping stay what it was always meant to be: a social activity to be enjoyed (primarily) by women. Our shopping pages bring together clothing, shoes and accessories from the finest and most original online stores.
Before entering a new market, we conduct a thorough socio-economic analysis and collect relevant industry data. Amongst other things, we look at the size of our target group and the fashion expenditure before comparing it with other countries. After having decided on a country, it takes about two months to set everything up. During this time a native speaker populates the site with relevant content, starts building relations with the local affiliates, networks and agencies and, finally, launches the site.
We use the same technical solution in all our markets. You could call it "the little black dress" of technical solutions. All our platforms rely on it. A few tweaks here and there, add the right accessories, and you are ready to go.
Performance Marketing in the French Market
France was one of our first international expansions. It is the second biggest economy in Europe and the reputation of the French for fashion made it a very interesting market. A major share of the households are connected to the internet and online retail sales exceeded 50 billion euro last year. Even though the e-commerce market nowadays is much more mature than when we started, it continues to grow. Currently it counts 32 million e-consumers.
Performance Marketing in France is well established and almost all major retailers offer an affiliate program. Most of our partners have mobile-friendly sites and 30% of smart phone users have made an online purchase via their mobiles last year. France is ready for m-commerce. Compared to our other markets, we do however see that France is sometimes a bit of a laggard when it comes to sales attribution or network support. We, as a content publisher, did feel the need for better tracking solutions and data sharing - especially when competing against the big Remarketing and e-mail marketing players in France.
Personal Contact and Trust
French consumers have a strong tendency to place a high value on everything made in France and in many industries local retailers tend to dominate. For a foreign company looking to gain traction in the market, this can be a challenge. Brand awareness and reputation are particularly important to help build consumer trust. Trust in the website is one of the most important decision-making factors for the online shopper in France, second only to price and followed closely by delivery options. French consumers often prefer to pick up their deliveries for free at designated Kiala points, like bakeries or tobacco shops, over the paid home-delivery.
France is a fairly big country and the cultural differences between the different regions should not be underestimated. It is not only the weather that changes when you go from Paris to the North or the beautiful Cote d’Azur; it is also purchasing behaviour. For us, employing someone with this local knowledge was vital. Even within online businesses a local presence, or at least very frequent visits to France, are recommended and we have seen that regularly meeting with business partners made a positive difference.
Going Mad for the Summer Sale
One of the peculiar parts of the French market is the strict regulation of summer and winter sales periods: the big Soldes. As a publisher we always see an increased interest in advertising during this time and, because the period is fixed, it enables us to properly plan content and promotions in advance. Prices for traffic are however also higher with everyone competing for the increased user activity. During the time leading up to the Soldes advertisers spend a little less and users do not convert as well.
Before I say au revoir, I would like to invite you to share your own experiences, so please leave a comment below.