How to break into the Swiss e-Commerce market

30 August, 2018
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Entering any new market is a challenge and the Swiss e-Commerce market is no different. If you have your sights set on Swiss consumers then you will need to have the patience and preparation to ensure that you create the right opportunity to break into the Swiss e-Commerce market and give your brand the chance to thrive there.

Why Switzerland?

Switzerland has a population of more than 8 million and, as potential e-Commerce consumers, the locals have a lot of appeal for overseas businesses. The Swiss have some of the highest spending power in the world and the highest per capita income in Europe so this is a potentially lucrative market with a lot to offer new brands. Average annual online spend is €2,149 per consumer and the market as a whole was worth €7.4 billion in 2017. For overseas brands looking to target Switzerland there are three key factors that make the country so appealing.

  1. Swiss consumers are keen to buy from foreign brands. Switzerland is rated in the top 3 in Europe for online cross border purchases and more than 60% of online purchases are from foreign brands.
  2. Switzerland is a technologically developed country. It’s easy to reach consumers in Switzerland because internet penetration is high. Unsurprisingly, local consumers regularly use the internet for shopping purposes – nine out of ten of the 95% of the population regularly using the internet has made an online purchase at least once.
  3. Logistics networks are mature. For e-Commerce retailers looking to ship into Switzerland, the country has a mature and well-established logistics network that is open to accommodating imports from overseas. VAT rates are low and there are exceptions to customs duties that can be used to ensure that costs don’t escalate (for example, duties below CHF 5 aren’t charged by the customs authority).

How to successfully break into the Swiss e-Commerce market

  • Trust is a crucial component for Swiss consumers. Brands that successfully break into the Swiss e-Commerce market excel at building trust, from reliable shipping through to an engaging web presence and accurate pricing.
  • It’s important to bear in mind the local payment preferences. Surprisingly, payment by invoice is still a common preference for consumers in Switzerland. While credit cards and PayPal are growing in popularity, those retailers looking to be successful here will also need to bear in mind the necessity of being able to offer a flexible range of payment options.
  • Mobile e-Commerce is on the rise. In 2014, only 15% of online sales came from mobile e-Commerce. However, this figure had almost doubled a year later and a recent report identified that more than half of online retailers saw between 10% and 30% of their sales coming from smart phones. So, brands looking to be successful must accommodate the trend for mobile e-Commerce, from optimised websites to mobile payments.
  • Swiss consumers appreciate transparency. If you’re offering products to local customers then you will need to be transparent about the pricing, from the cost of the goods themselves to the delivery. This may require translation of web pages into local languages, such as French and German.
  • The importance of returns. Swiss consumers don’t have an automatic right of return by law but many have now come to expect this as a result of dealing with foreign retailers who automatically offer it. Returns can be difficult to cope with if return rates are high – sectors such as fashion can see return rates of up to 40%. While they will certainly appreciate it, Swiss customers don’t expect free returns but a clear and easy to read returns policy is still a necessity.
  • Strong logistics will make or break your brand. There are additional issues for Swiss consumers to cope with, including shipping distance and local customs duties and clearance. So, it’s crucial to work with an experienced logistics provider able to offer a range of services and customs clearance solutions.

It always pays to be prepared when you’re looking at a new market – if you’re keen to break into Swiss e-Commerce then make sure you take the time to get to know your customers and the local environment first.

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