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E-commerce in the Netherlands: welcome to a small country with real clout. English proficiency is high, but don’t take success for granted. You’ll need to adapt your approach to build lasting appeal. Here’s how to go about it.

Like many mature economies, e-commerce is the norm in the Netherlands.

30% of consumers shop online at least once a week – and they spent 23.7 billion euros in 2018. No wonder: the Dutch enjoy one of the fastest internet connections in the world. Which all adds up to make the Netherlands very attractive to international brands.

As an added bonus, the Dutch also take the number one spot for English proficiency in the latest EFI report. So if you need to launch quickly, starting off in English isn’t a problem.

That being said, it’s probably not enough for long-term success. A quick look at the top e-commerce sites shows they’re in Dutch – and adapted to local cultural preferences. Amazon is lagging behind in sixth place.

How can you get ahead of the game? Take a deep dive with us into e-commerce in the Netherlands.

WHERE TO SELL

BOL.COM

The market leader, bol.com sells over 15 million items across a host of categories. Like Amazon, it sells directly to consumers, but also offers a platform for third-party sellers. Beware: if you want to list your products here, your company must be registered in Belgium or Holland.

ZALANDO

Like many Europeans, the Dutch are fans of this Berlin-based fashion marketplace. Setting up a Zalando store is fairly straightforward – over 200 brands have already done it. Check out our tips for marketing your products on Zalando here.

AMAZON

Amazon may not be top dog, but don’t forget about it either. 37% of Dutch consumers shop here and 48% of under-31s. Amazon.nl only sells books. For anything else, you’ll be redirected to a localized version of amazon.de.

Coolblue, Wehkamp and Albert Heijn are also popular. But they offer affiliate programmes, rather than operating as true marketplaces.

There’s no denying Dutch shoppers prefer local e-commerce sites. But cross-border e-commerce is on the up. Five million shoppers bought from foreign sites last year – 3.7% of total online spending. Most of this money goes to China (31%), Germany (17%) and the UK (15%). So if a slice of your current customers are coming from the Netherlands, it’s worth expanding into the country properly.

Dutch shoppers also love branded products. Own-brand equivalents take second place. This means direct-to-consumer sites are worth considering – especially for niche or premium goods. For example, 40% of shoppers would buy fashion directly from a manufacturer.

TALK ABOUT SERVICE

PAYMENT METHODS

Dutch consumers love iDEAL. It offers direct online transfers and is supported by every Dutch consumer bank. iDEAL’s market share is 59% – the next most popular payment method (credit cards) is only on 10%. The takeaway is clear: make iDEAL your priority.

DELIVERING VALUE

In the Netherlands, free delivery is always best. Especially for an older target audience. In fact, a third of Dutch shoppers won’t pay for deliveries at all, compared to just 16% worldwide.

Shoppers in the Netherlands also want to know the exact delivery date when they make their order. This chimes with the emphasis in Dutch culture on linear time and scheduling. If your friends don’t drop in unannounced, why should the delivery driver?

They don’t want to wait for you long though. You can drive from one end of the country to the other in four hours, so speed is expected. And the Netherlands’ central location gives it easy access to logistics centres in Germany and Belgium.

FREE RETURNS

43% of Dutch shoppers rate free returns as the most important service factor. This should definitely be a feature of your e-commerce strategy in the Netherlands.

MOBILE SHOPPING

Desktop dominates, but mobile is catching up quickly. Mobile is particularly popular with younger consumers, with shoppers under 31 twice as likely to buy from their phones. Resist the temptation to stick with desktop and concentrate on mobile-friendly content.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As Europe’s sixth-largest economy, the Netherlands is an obvious choice for brands wanting to expand. High English proficiency, compact size and cultural similarities with its neighbours make it feel like an easy move.

However, the Dutch have their own distinct preferences. And like audiences around the world, they prefer brands to speak to them in their own language. To make a success of e-commerce in the Netherlands, avoid a cookie-cutter approach. Take time to understand what’s important to your audience. And don’t send your delivery driver round unannounced.

Need help getting up and running in the Netherlands? We’d love to help. Check out our market research service and get in touch.

Photo by Arjit Anand on Unsplash