‘Amazon BE is a wake-up call for Belgian e-commerce’

Amazon’s arrival is no surprise – it’s the final Belgian chapter for Jeff Bezos’ ecosystem. The question was never if, but when we would be next – and it’s our turn right now. This clandestine Amazon announcement forces Belgian entrepreneurs to make an important e-commerce decision – one that could decide what the digital marketplace landscape will look like.

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Where is Belgium today? Behind, unfortunately. Even though Belgians spend more on digital marketplaces every year, our e-commerce still has a long way to go. Specifically, the Belgian businesses that are nowhere to be found online have a long way to go. The country even seems to be missing the boat entirely when it comes to marketplace presence.

It all seems quite contradictory. Belgium’s pavements are overflowing with bol.com packages and every secret shortcut or main road is inundated with parcel delivery drivers on a daily basis. How on earth could Belgium be behind?

Belgium, e-commerce and marketplaces: a delicate affair

Belgian companies have been quite hesitant when it comes to the world of opportunities that e-commerce offers. While our Dutch, French and German neighbours were making big digital moves – nationally and internationally – we kept our e-commerce to the surface. Belgian businesses choose to invest in a webshop or local initiatives. We’re not entirely familiar with selling on marketplaces yet, let alone marketing our national products to our neighbouring countries through the internet — even when the opposite is happening already.

“Let’s make Belgium the first country without e-commerce,” is what the PS chairman and one of the nation’s top politicians said last year. Well…

Okay, so we’re not the biggest marketplace trendsetters in Europe. Is that a bad thing? Well, it is a bit inconvenient when the modern consumer is moving to the digital world. Research shows that 80% of consumers across the globe say their shopping behaviour has changed since the pandemic and 60% feel completely comfortable ordering products online.

Online shoppers don’t start their search on Google anymore and are increasingly turning to digital marketplaces. In Germany, Spain and England, over 50% of consumers start their search on a marketplace.

Amazon’s arrival is the latest wake-up call. The American e-commerce giant is the final call – one that offers a great deal of digital wealth and one that Belgium doesn’t want to miss.

Worst-case scenario: Amazon BE – without BE

Amazon.com.be offers Belgian entrepreneurs a chance to move to a well-known marketplace in large numbers. If they don’t make that move, they could fall behind again – and Belgian companies will merely be extras on the Amazon.com.be filmset.

Rain in Paris, Amsterdam or Berlin = raindrops in Brussels

Right now, Flemish Amazon users rely on the Amazon platform of our northern neighbours, and the Walloon buyers are using its French counterpart. Now that Amazon is taking steps to create Amazon BE, including a fulfilment centre in Belgium and deals with couriers active in the country, companies in our neighbouring countries will be able to deliver to Belgian addresses more quickly and at a lower price. So, you can count on international players to move on Amazon.com.be from day one.

If companies wait too long before they make a move, they may be too far behind already. By the time they act, foreign brands will already be at the top of the Amazon search results with their optimised product pages and will have collected enough positive reviews to secure that first spot and the accompanying Belgian e-commerce. Quel dommage, non?

The era of marketplaces and marketplace marketing?

But making an account on Amazon is only part of the solution. When it comes to marketplace marketing, foreign competitors are a lot more advanced. Amazon offers the opportunity to strengthen your brand’s position. It’s a platform that needs to be considered in brand strategy and should be an extension of your website, considering the ‘new’ customer journey starts on a marketplace these days.

We think SEO is a given – so is marketplace optimisation, you’ll just be doing it for your presence on bol.com, Amazon, etc. There’s a certain parallel: climbing to the top of the search results to be the first choice. And you can bet that other European countries know this all too well.

Belgian companies have their work cut out for them: they need to position their brands on marketplaces such as Amazon and bol.com, or they could risk resellers calling the shots with their products and doing their own thing with brand representation. Marketplaces offer heaps of marketing and advertising possibilities for visibility and engagement.

Want to know more about selling and advertising on Amazon?

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What will Amazon be capable of?

The main question: what can we expect the impact of Amazon to be? The American giant doesn’t need to expect the red carpet being rolled out. Belgian brands aren’t exactly itching to sell or advertise on Amazon, as they manage high-quality webshops and bol.com is currently the digital consumer’s best friend.

Amazon, on the other hand, is a strong brand, has international fame and only needed a mere two years in the Netherlands to get to the same level as bol.com. But more importantly, Amazon finds itself at the core of a strong ecosystem that runs on sound marketing. Think of Amazon Prime, Prime Days, Amazon Music and even film studio Amazon Studios.

The (Belgian) e-commerce clock is ticking

Amazon’s arrival in Belgium is a wonderful opportunity for Belgian brands – both B2B and B2C – to build a strong base for Belgian e-commerce. The potential as a platform, the national customer base and the elaborate shipping possibilities appeal to the imagination and are opportunities to be grasped – even if you aren’t selling.

How? By building a professional representation of Belgian brands on Amazon.com.be, backed by clear brand and marketing strategies and sound advertisements. If Belgian companies don’t jump on this opportunity, they can expect worst-case scenarios in which their national brands take on modest roles on the digital stage, while their foreign competitors take the lead.

Fortunately, nobody is on their own. At iO, we have enough marketplace expertise to kickstart any brand on marketplaces such as bol.com and Amazon. That, and our knowledge of marketplace marketing, advertising, brand registration and more, all help us emphasize the BE in Amazon BE.

What are we waiting for?

Tim Baelus | iO
About the author
Tim Baelus
Digital Marketeer - iO

Tim is a forward-thinking marketer. At home among the digital ads, as well as the latest tools in the Google universe, Tim happily plays the role of connector between customer and technology. Thanks to his analytical mindset, he always thinks two steps ahead. Lately, a third step has come to involve digital marketplaces - full of potential begging realisation.

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