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28 April 2020

9 e-commerce practices that I haven't seen in Belgium yet

With a total revenue of more than 8 billion euros in 2019, e-commerce in Belgium has never performed so well. This figure has witnessed a double-digit growth since at least 2015, the year The House of Marketing introduced the E-commerce Barometer. And we can expect a further growth in the coming years, not only because the share of online versus offline is expected to increase but also because there are still many opportunities ahead from cross-border e-commerce.

So, given that Belgian webshops can still look forward to a bright future, I wanted to take a look at practices seen abroad that could help our Belgian webshops differentiate themselves in a creative way and thrive in a competitive landscape currently dominated by some big players. May these 9 examples inspire you for your e-commerce strategy.

Win the hearts of the conscious buyers

1. Deliver items as big as beds by bike like Kiezbett: 
Kiezbett is a Berlin-based startup that designs and produces sustainable furniture. They want to be as sustainable as possible, from sourcing to last-mile delivery. Aren’t bikes the eco-friendliest transportation option? Yes. Aren’t beds way too big and heavy to be transported by bike? Yes but… Kiezbett has found a creative way to still deliver them by bike, although each bed weighs about 60kg. In Germany, since bicycle messengers are allowed to carry packages up to 24kg, the company has decided to simply divide the bed into three separate packages.

And the cherry on the cake? They have teamed up with RePack, a Finnish company that supplies reusable packaging as a solution to the ever-growing problem of packaging waste.
In Germany, Kiezbett beds are delivered by bike messengers using reusable RePack bags

2. Promote green delivery like Sainsbury’s: 
Green delivery can take different forms, such as using carbon-efficient transportation means, waiting until the delivery truck is at capacity before distributing or simply clustering deliveries together. Sainsbury’s, an UK-based food retailer, clusters its customers by location. Shoppers can opt for greener and cheaper delivery slots which are slots where there are already deliveries scheduled in the same area. A good way to communicate a “green” attitude while also optimizing delivery costs.

Sainsbury’s green delivery slots

3. Be radically transparent like Everlane: 
Everlane is a clothing company that opted for the direct-to-consumer model, selling both online and via a few stores in the United States. Everlane communicates on “ethical factories” and “radical transparency”. Very intrigued, I quickly went to their website. Firstly, for each piece of clothing, they communicate quite extensively about the factory that produced it, by showing pictures and videos of the factory and testimonials of the people working there. Secondly, again for each piece of clothing, they break down the price into material, labor, transportation. Quickly, you notice that Everlane’s price represents a 100% markup (and more) but the company also highlights that a traditional retailer would probably charge a few times more.

Everlane’s transparent pricing communication

If you are hungry for more sustainability in e-commerce, read my colleague Anne-Fleur’s post here

Offer flexible payment methods

4. Offer a “Try before you buy” policy like ThirdLove: 
Have you ever seen or heard of a physical clothing store that would charge you before you get to try a garment? Personally, I haven’t, while almost all online stores do. One of the exceptions in the online sphere is ThirdLove, an online company that sells bras. The company encourages consumers to “wear it, wash it, live in the bra for 30 days”. If you’re satisfied, you’ll be charged. If not, return it and only shipping costs will be charged. No strings attached.

5. Integrate a credit option at checkout with Affirm:
In Belgium, the most common payment methods for e-commerce are credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, e-wallets and prepaid cards. But in many neighboring countries, merchants offer consumer credit options allowing shoppers the option to pay over time. Why would retailers do that? Forrester studies have shown, especially for large ticket items, that consumer credit can not only make the difference between a conversion or an abandoned cart but can also increase the average order value by 15%.
Affirm gives US buyers the option to pay over time at checkout

Reduce returns or, at least, make the most of them

6. Streamline returns and turn them into sales with Returnly: Returnly, a San Francisco-based company handles post-purchase payments. In short, it helps brands re-engage with customers who are returning products online, to help them buy again with a return credit. It typically happens before the customer has even returned the item, in an attempt to build loyalty and trust.

7. Help shoppers make more informed purchasing choices like ASOS' “See My Fit”: 
UK-based fast fashion retailer ASOS has been testing a feature to show how the same outfit looks on people of different sizes and morphologies, using AR technology to automate the process. By doing so, they give consumers more confidence in purchasing the products they like.

ASOS' “See My Fit” helps customers make more informed purchasing choices by showing better how products look on models with similar body types as the individual customers
8. Provide a great experience even if (especially if) you sell highly technical products like Boards & More:
If you couldn’t identify your company with the above examples because you think your products are not appealing enough or are too technical, here is a case that might interest you. Boards & More is an Austria-based kitesurfing and paddle boarding wholesaler. The company mainly sells spare parts that all look similar and may not even have a name that is understandable (“Bladder Leading Edge”, “Bladder Middle Strut” just to mention the first two I came across).

However, they have found a way to make the shopping experience pleasant while reducing the number of people buying the wrong parts. Instead of showing the spare parts, they show the end product first, avoiding at the same time any misunderstanding.
Boards&More making the shopping of spare parts much more pleasant
Boards & More

9. Adjust clothes to the size of your customer before shipping them out with Taylor:
The fashion industry has the most returns and many companies have been testing all kinds of tricks to reduce the environmental and financial impacts of such returns. Based on the observation that the number one reason for return is the fit (62%), Taylor offers an integrated tailor service to any online clothing store, resulting in a garment that should perfectly fit the buyer as soon as he/she receives it. Check how it works in the picture below.

Oh, and by the way, Taylor doesn’t actually exist. It is one of the business ideas that my husband and I had back in 2015, when we participated in a hackathon in California.

Taylor helps fashion online retailers reduce returns by integrating a tailoring service to their shops
Way of working of Taylor

If you're looking for additional ways to ramp up your online visibility and boost your e-sales, take a look at our Acceleration Sprint on e-commerce. This initiative is only valid during the COVID-19 crisis: