The final article in this publisher expansion series by Head of Fashionchick International, Catharina Zientz, focuses on the Dutch market – the birthplace of the company. So while the Netherlands was not an international expansion, they have managed to reach over one million fashion-loving consumers, and learn a thing or two.
With 17 million inhabitants located in a relatively small geographic area, the Netherlands is a very manageable market. Most e-commerce start-ups are located in the Randstad, the conurbation of several major cities in the West of the country. Amsterdam is especially active as a start-up capital and with more than 50% of the population being foreign – extremely international. In combination with the Dutch tradition of trading, this creates the ideal breeding ground for successful international growth.
Tech-savy consumers and mature e-commerce market
Online shopping is very popular in the Netherlands. In the past year, 60% of the population have bought something online and this percentage is expected to increase. The Dutch pride themselves in being early adopters and social media usage is very high. This means new trends are picked up quickly.
Dutch consumers are technically capable and demand a high level of sophistication from online businesses. Performance marketing is therefore also well developed. Almost all merchants offer affiliate programs, their data feeds are of high quality and there are plenty of knowledgeable network and service providers supporting this vibrant industry. The many local events bring the Dutch performance marketing community together and most people in the industry know each other well.
Big local players
The Dutch market is unique in that it tends to be dominated by a large variety of big local retailers rather than international companies. For example, the Dutch consumer buys his books from Bol.com instead of Amazon and sells his second-hand furniture on Marktplaats.
We believe this may be because big American companies typically go after the larger European markets first and that this is creating a vacuum for local competitors. We have however seen an increasing number of retailers from the UK and Germany enter the market in the last couple of years. These new entrants often wanted to expand into other markets after successfully positioning themselves in their local markets. This spurred Dutch retailers into action as they tried to keep up with the increased competition. For Fashionchick, this meant increased advertising demand and closer ties to our partners as we helped them cement their position in the Dutch market.
Most online-shops in the Netherland offer free shipping and/or returns, which is probably linked to the small geographical size of the country. This is probably also the reason why most shops can offer delivery in 24 hours. The Dutch have a tradition of using coupons and vouchers and we have seen that voucher code promotions can be a strong motivator for the Dutch consumer, generating additional sales for our partners.
No e-commerce company operating in the Netherlands can afford to ignore iDeal – the most popular payment method in the country. iDeal offers consumers a convenient online payment solution using online banking. More than half of all online purchase have been paid with this method in the first half of 2014. As a publisher we work exclusively with partners who offer this method of payment, because we have seen such a strong correlation with the conversion rate of the individual merchant.
In the Netherlands we have a home-market advantage. Having launched the Fashionchick concept six years ago, we have been one of the first to market and are now able to profit from several years of hard work, networking and marketing. This shows again how important it is to have personal contact with your partners to build lasting relationships – even if it is just to visit them regularly.