#LengowDay: Cross border mistakes to avoid

Lengow Ecommerce Day ParisAt the Lengow Ecommerce Day in Paris on Tuesday this week, Anne-Laure Constanza, Founder and CEO of Envie de Fraises shared her experiences of cross border trade.

Envie de Fraises sell fashion for pregnant ladies, just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t have a little French chic and Anne-Laure spotted a gap in the market to supply fashionable clothing to a (I hesitate to say niche as lots of people get pregnant) audience.

Envie de Fraises websiteCross border trade was of course high on the list to grow the company and where better to start than the massive German market? There’s no point targeting smaller countries when one of the biggest countries in Europe with a historical early adoption of the Internet is sitting right next door.

“Big mistake” says Anne-Laure, “Big, big mistake”.

What Envie de Fraises hadn’t taken into account was the massive cultural differences between Germany and France, the differences in design, German woman prefer different fashion to French ladies and they have different expectations for returns. You can’t even reply to Germans using the same style of language as the French, even how you start your email and address them is different.

Anne-Laure spoke of the lessons learnt and attacked the UK differently. B2B partnerships rather than B2C sales have worked well and one of the first partnerships has been with Mothercare in the UK, although of course they also have an English language website.

It’s not always enough to stick exactly the same products in a different territory and expect success, for the UK Anne-Laure says they have more print fabrics whilst in France solid colours are more the norm. For Germany (where Envie de Fraises are now seeing success) they prefer less vibrant colours so greens are available rather than the brighter colours French customers love.

We often hear that cross border trade is simply about sticking your catalogue up on a marketplace or website overseas and translating the text. The reality is that whilst this will work, there is a lot more that can be done. If you really want success from cross border trade, understanding cultural differences can make just as much difference as buying a .fr or .de domain and getting a bit of translation done.