Sanoma exec on internationalising a pureplay, ecommerce brand

  • Technical concept
  • Set-up phase
  • Don’t forget

This was the message of Antoine Hendrikx, business unit manager of Storefronts at Sanoma Digital, to the audience at the Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin, Germany about Sanoma’s investment into Fashionchick, some five years ago, building the brand, expanding it across borders and adding additional stores on the platform.

Hendrikx was speaking about internationalising a pureplay, ecommerce brand.

Technical concept

It is important to invest in the platform on which the business is built, before thinking about expansion. “Do not duplicate a second rate product,” Hendrikx said. “In our urge for growth and for speed we went into countries while the product was still inferior. You have to get that right first, and then build on it.” Furthermore, companies should keep to a standard. “There are plenty of small things you can tweak for local markets, but e-commerce remains e-commerce no matter where you are.”

Set-up phase

It is about minimising launch costs (i.e. the cost of failure should be low). Here, Hendrikx said, the company learnt some lessons and with “the benefit of hindsight” his advice is to find partners, develop relationships and to expand to where you have partners.

Don’t forget

Here Hendrikx listed several points, among them:

  • Partnerships, he emphasised again, is key. 
  • Continually test and evaluate
  • In the first six to 12 months, look at KPIs such as direct traffic before you worry about the bottom line

Brand is important (and here partnerships can help with building it too – Hendrikx mentioned they were looking for international partners for Germany, Belgium and the UK, for example). Ecommerce is about trust, and trust comes through a brand. You see conversion rates jumping when you are a brand. Here established media brands can play a role, for example through established magazine media brands and/or TV with existing audience relationships.

A final point was that it is important to find balance between three main components: content, community and commerce. “You have to find the sweet spot between the three to find long-term success.”

Report by Cobus Heyl. Also read an earlier Q&A with Hendrikx here for more on Fashionchick and other brands launched on the platform.

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