For non-European webshops it is often faster and more efficient to store products in one location in Europe and to serve the rest of the continent from this location. Thanks to its central location, good connection to other European countries, fast customs clearance and various advantageous regulations, the Netherlands is a very suitable gateway to Europe for many non-European companies. The FS warehouse is strategically located near Schiphol and Rotterdam. Thanks to this location, products are quickly added to the stock at our location and we can deliver products throughout Europe within a few days.
To facilitate international business for our customers, we work together with partners on different continents. DCL Logistics, our partner specialized in e-fulfillment and retail logistics in the United States, published a blog aimed at their American network, in which our director Steven Kersbergen gave a number of tips for entering the European market. Read the article below.
Tips on Getting into the European Market—a DCL Logistics partner spotlight with Fulfillment Solutions
In today’s global marketplace, companies need to be able to ship anywhere in the world to meet customer demand. One of the ways DCL Logistics supports our clients is by partnering with international experts who provide simple solutions for scalability and international distribution.
DCL Logistics has a long-standing partnership with European 3PL, Fulfillment Solutions (FS), because they share a lot of similar values: a customer centric approach, operational quality/expertise, and dedication to innovation and technology. When a DCL client is interested in shipping to Europe, we have the operational infrastructure to support a seamless integration and get our clients’ products into the European market.
We spoke with Managing Director at FS, Steven Kersbergen to better understand the requirements needed for US companies to be successful in the European market.
Planning Your Distribution—Determining the Right European Sales Channels
There are three different ways to start distributing to European customers: direct-to-consumer, via online marketplaces, or through business retailers and partnerships.
Selling direct-to-consumer may not be the obvious first step when beginning your international distribution strategy, but it’s fairly easy to set up, due to increased global trade in the last decade. Steven says, “Companies can start shipping direct-to-consumer to European customers straight from the US. If traffic and demand seem to be high, you can decide to ship stock to FS in the Netherlands, to shorten the transit time to the customers.” By having your stock held in the FS warehouse, you’ll also save on shipping costs.
Marketplaces are a great sales channel because most sites often generate more traffic than just your own website. European online marketplaces operate largely the same as they do in the US. Steven explains, “We can dropship products from our warehouse, and we can help ensure our customers orders are being delivered in the right way to these fulfillment centers.”
What is different about marketplaces in Europe is that they are all region-specific, each country has their own preferred retailers or marketplaces, most of which still have higher traffic than Amazon. Steven says, “Even though Amazon is one of the biggest marketplaces all over Europe, it still differs from country to country. You’ve got different systems everywhere, for Germany, for Spain, for France, for Italy, for the UK—they all have different connections and integrations available. And there are marketplaces specific to each country or category too. If you’re looking at France there’s a marketplace called C-discount. In the UK and Germany Wayfair is doing well for furniture and home accessories. In the Netherlands we have Fonq and Bol.com. You have to be able to integrate with these different ecommerce sites, and we have that experience.”
The third way of distributing in Europe is to work with business partners, whether it’s retailers or distributors or agencies. “I think that’s similar to the US,” Steven says. “Finding the right business partners is important. We deliver products to the retail locations that our customers need.”
Setting Up Your Strategy—Getting Products to European Customers
Compared to the US market, Europe is a culturally divided area—each country has distinct differences that must be observed to gain traction. “The biggest challenge I see for US companies shipping to Europe is how they set up their webshop, we advise having your site translated into the languages of the regions you ship to or want to grow your customer base.” Steven explains, “Everybody in Europe is searching in their native language, even if they read and understand English, they are not searching in English. In Germany they are searching in German, in France they are searching in French.”
The same goes for selling on Amazon, you need to have the right search terms to ensure your product can be found in people’s native language. Promoting your product on Amazon differs from country to country. Once you have the right words and photos, the demand is similar in Europe to the US “Customers here want the same products. Plus online and ecommerce is very big in Europe—a lot of people are using it here,” Steven continues.
FS also helps customers navigate these cultural differences in terms of shipping and logistics. The Netherlands is a small country, but it’s situated right in the middle of a few very big markets: France, Germany and the UK all have capital cities within 500 km from the FS facilities.
Everything must be in all the different languages, from shipping information to packing slips. Steven says, “We try to make it as native as possible. We also do a lot of value added services since there are different plugs in the different countries—especially the UK has a different plug than the rest of the EU.” It requires flexibility and agility, to repack products with the right plugs if they are selling better in the UK than the rest of the EU. Steven adds, “That’s really where we try and help out, that’s our expertise.”
Relying on our Partnership—Working with Fulfillment Solutions
DCL and FS have very similar services. Both 3PLs provide their clients scalable solutions without sacrificing quality or accuracy. Steven recounts, “We started off with a mutual client, that’s how we were introduced to each other. I remember Dave Tu (DCL President) coming to visit and tour our facilities. That’s when we realized we have a very similar way of working.”
The two 3PLs have an integrated Distribution Management Systems (DMS) so the clients that are already using DCL’s eFactory can also use the FS warehouse in the Netherlands. “They can actually set it up through eFactory,” Steven explains. “This means that they can see activity in the warehouse in Fremont, Louisville, or Ontario but they can also see warehouse activity and move their stock to our facility in Amsterdam.”
Once integration is set up, FS can automatically receive orders to fulfill and ship throughout Europe. “It’s a great benefit for clients—they can be working with DCL and also work with us at the same time,” Steven says. “If a client has the right amount of traffic in the European market they want to have stock closer to your customers. We have two locations here in the Netherlands, both in the neighborhood of Amsterdam airport and Rotterdam seaport. One location is more the fulfillment part of our business—we have an automated system of robots that helps pick and pack, everything goes through there because it’s a very efficient system. And our second location is where we store most of the product volume, that’s the logistics part of our business.”
This is where the partnership comes in: if a customer decides their European sales are doing quite well, then we can move their stock to the FS facilities in the Netherlands so that they can deliver to customers faster and with greater cost savings—and add European regional expertise.
Follow this link to go directly to the blog on DCL’s website.