Divante, an e-business agency that supports other companies in optimizing their online sales, will enter the Dutch market. It already built an ecommerce site for Dutch company Loods5.nl and is now working on a whole new website for a Dutch online retailer. We interviewed Tom Karwatka, CEO of Divante, and discovered how they think about Dutch ecommerce…
Could you tell us in a few words what Divante does exactly?
“Divante is an e-business agency that supports other companies in optimizing their online sales. Previously, our focus was mainly on ecommerce. However, now most of our projects are about providing omnichannel services – combining the mobile platform, ecommerce, CRM and POS for the ultimate user experience.”
Why did you decide to expand to the Netherlands?
“Though it may seem that the cause of our expansion is obviously bigger profit, it isn’t our main driver. (Not the main one at least.) We focus on hiring the best people. Our company is currently employing 150 great specialists, with a 60% annual growth rate. Therefore, to keep them motivated we’re always looking for the most interesting projects. We picked the most thriving markets, which will give us access to the most fascinating ecommerce projects. And the Dutch market is definitely meeting our expectations.
How would you describe the online retail industry in the Netherlands with regards to the websites? On average, are they professionally made for example?
“We were looking for open-minded and very ambitious partners with great communication skills. The Dutch are born innovators and that’s what we love about them! Due to working for many clients around the world, I can say that out of all Europeans the Dutch are very similar to the Americans. Except when it comes to the taste. Then the Dutch are much better. They are very open to new ideas, which helps to create great projects, both among corporations and startups. And Dutch clients are more aware of the ecommerce market. They know what they want and how to work with the IT team.”
Do Dutch online stores look very different from, let’s say, ecommerce websites from your home country Poland?
“We have a very similar taste, especially when it comes to minimalistic, simple and functional solutions. We focus a lot on the new technologies and try to implement them rapidly. For example, most of websites in Poland and the Netherlands are made with the goal to also work on mobiles, in line with the responsive web design. It’s no surprise many Polish companies are planning to expand into the Netherlands. On the other hand, Dutch companies that have already entered the Polish ecommerce market are doing great. ING and UPC, which we also have the pleasure working for, are great examples of such companies.”
What is something foreign retailers should be aware of if they want to run an online store in the Netherlands?
“Holland is a top 3 ecommerce market in Europe. Therefore, consumers have very high expectations regarding user experience. My advice is to invest in user testing and optimizing the customer journey. Continuous analysis and A/B testing is a must if you want to stay on par with your competition.”
“Today’s most common practice is connecting all the channels, and only being present in all of them makes you ready to operate at a full scale. This practice however, increases the costs of entering the market. Other obstacles include building the Dutch version of your page and providing your local customers with sufficient customer care, showrooms or pop-up stores.”
What can Dutch online retailers learn from foreign ecommerce players?
“From the Germans: operating effectiveness. Even the biggest German companies care about costs. It isn’t uncommon that they may ask for a refund on their travel tickets during their first visit. That’s why it’s not a coincidence that Rocket Internet’s strategy is “copy, scale and improve”. It’s the core of German companies.”
“From the Poles: creativity. We are great at dealing with hopeless situations and solving them. This helps us to adapt quickly to rising global trends. Right now Poland has one of the highest adaptation rate of near field communication; through your smartphone or social media. We like to try new things.”
“From the Americans: marketing. From our experience with Americans we see they are great at marketing and sales. They try to sell you something constantly, even if they’re unaware of that. Their customer orientation is a key driver in the ecommerce industry. Companies such as Amazon or Zappos set global benchmarks regarding customer care. Amazon has now also started investing in Poland, both in logistics – to better serve this part of Europe – and technology (they acquired a speech synthesis and recognition company).”
“I would say the Dutch are a combination of all three characteristics, which is why they will remain an eCommerce leader in Europe for many years to come.”
What are your thoughts on Magento?
“Magento is a platform that guarantees business security through its enhanced ecosystem. No other ecommerce platform has been able to create such an active and professional community. The term ‘coopetition‘ summarizes perfectly how IT firms operate with Magento. We compete and cooperate.”
“The biggest question we encounter from our clients is whether to pick Magento or SAP hybris. We recommend Magento since we value Time to Market, cost efficiency and elasticity. Hybris is a great platform for omnichannel implementations, however, Magento outperforms all competitors when it comes to dynamic development.”
What could be the ‘next best thing’ in the ecommerce sphere?
“We always try to keep up with latest trends and we create an inspirational presentation for our clients every year. Nowadays most technological trends have some sort of impact on retail. Retail currently leads at implementing the newest technological trends, whether talking about the Internet of Things, 3D printing, Machine Learning or Big Data. They all have a huge impact on retail. This is extremely exciting. But for the sales departments however, this may become an obstacle, since they tend to be very traditional in their approach.”
In terms of marketing and usability: what’s hot now? What should online retailers implement on their website?
“Clients currently look for comfort and simplicity in their experience, no matter the sales channel. In many cases the bottleneck here is mobile. Many retailers didn’t invest in mobile apps yet, and even if they did, they‘re still learning how to add a customer value. It’s good to take a step back and analyze the behavior of current customers, their needs and preferences and, based on conclusions, build an application that will guarantee customer loyalty. Like in any industry, customer loyalty is a key.”
“Last year we created an app that shows users current discounts and special offers in a shopping center they are in. In order to guarantee top quality content we have constantly researched and analyzed everything, like all the promotional deals happening in hundreds of brands around many shopping centers. This simple yet helpful app is extremely addicting, more than 80% of first time downloaders become permanent users. With regards to the retail industry there are still endless possibilities, even the simplest ideas are yet to come. The best place to start is consumer behavior; the endless source of inspiration.”