The entire country is smaller than Hawaii, but the promise it holds is immense. Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is one of the most densely populated European countries. Culturally, Belgium is a heterogeneous country. There is a tiny population of German speakers at the north of the country. French speakers (called Walloons) make up 33% of the population, and the Flemish-Dutch (or Flemings) take up more than 50% of the population. Most people are bilingual and can communicate in both French and Flemish. Belgium is a melting pot of cultures; around 10% of the total population are foreign-born residents. As such, it makes complete sense that Amazon has opened up Amazon Belgium. Let’s dig in and find out more about this brand new EU marketplace.
A Glimpse at the EU Marketplaces
In a recent report released by RetailX on the European Marketplaces landscape, Ian Jindal, CEO of RetailX, marveled at the steady and continuous growth of the European marketplaces. Since 2020, the industry has doubled in revenue to 200bn Euros, and is looking forward to hitting close to 5tn Euros in 2027.
Third party online marketplaces are the largest and fastest growing retail channel worldwide. The grocery, household, and pet categories dominate demand, but other categories are catching up. Jindal believes that “the growth has been driven by one simple factor: convenience.”
Amazon Belgium launched on October 18. It’s Amazon’s 10th active marketplace in Europe, and the 21st marketplace worldwide. The expansion to Belgium heralds Amazon’s aggressive expansion program: it launched Amazon in The Netherlands in March 2020, Amazon Sweden in October 2020, and Poland in March 2021. However, Amazon faced a challenge with Amazon Belgium – the country is divided among several different languages.
How will Amazon Belgium provide convenience to the Belgium people in Dutch, French, and English all at the same time?
The eCommerce Landscape in Belgium
Amazon Belgium faces stiff competition. Bol.com is the biggest online shop with total revenue in 2020 amounting to 4.3bn Euros. Its recent acquisition by Ahold Delhaize hopes to usher in even more growth. The forecast is that bol.com will hit the 5bn Euro mark very soon. Bol.com is a Dutch marketplace, with over 11mn active users, 41,000 resellers, and over 23mn different items. Currently, over 55% of Dutch and Belgian people shop at bol.com, so Amazon Belgium has its work cut out for it.
However, Amazon does have presence among the Belgian people. According to this article, Belgians shop on Amazon France, Amazon US, and Amazon Germany too. So, the Belgians finally have a marketplace to call their own…but the ironic thing is that the marketplace is amazon.com.be, because amazon.be is the website of an insurance firm!
How will Amazon Belgium continue providing convenience, with the aim of providing exclusive marketplace options to the Belgian people, considering the population has such an international flavor?
The Nuances in the Languages of Belgium
Here are some interesting facts:
- Around 6.5mn of the population speaks Dutch that’s specific to Belgium – otherwise known as “Belgian-Dutch” or “Flemish.” There are some differences from the Dutch spoken in the Netherlands, particularly in pronunciation, idiomatic expressions, and some vocabulary, but if you’re from Holland you should get by in Flanders without too much difficulty.
- Around 4.5mn of the population speaks French. Similarly, the French in Belgium differs a little in pronunciation and vocabulary. Parisians, Toulousains, and Marseillains will have to adjust their ears a little to the different accent and expressions, but they’ll get used to it in no time.
- Only 75,000 of the population speaks German. The province of Liege (bordering Germany) was incorporated into Belgian territory after WWI, so the German in Belgium is very similar to the German spoken over the border.
- If you head up to the arrondissement of Arelerland, people speak Luxembourgish. It’s not recognized at the national level, but it’s considered as a minority language by the French Community of Belgium.
This explains why the Belgians hopped over to Amazon in France, Germany, US, and the Netherlands to shop. This country sits at the intersection between the Romantic European countries and the Germanic European countries. How will Amazon Belgium navigate this fascinating world?
It’s a worthy venture. For such a small country, Belgium is densely populated with over 11.5mn residents. Also, Brussels houses the head offices of NATO and the European Union. It’s a sophisticated country with incredible potential for the e-Commerce market.
How to Maneuver Your Keywords in This New EU Marketplace
We released a blog about the differences between the Spanish and Mexican markets. Both cultures speak Spanish, but with such differences, our translators run keyword research for Spain and separate research for Mexico. The keywords just aren’t the same.
It’s a similar instance with Amazon Belgium. The keywords you’d use for Amazon Netherlands are not the same for the Flemish market, nor are the keywords for Amazon France the same for the Walloons. However, that’s where a big challenge lies. Since Amazon Belgium is a new entry into the Amazon EU Marketplace, no keywords exist just yet. Pioneer sellers will have to make do with the keywords they’d normally use on Amazon Netherlands, France, or Germany, until the market has matured enough to warrant its own keyword research.
That poses another problem. Belgium has 4 different languages, as we established earlier in this article. Which language should a listing be in?
“What I would do is translate a listing into Dutch or French,” advises Jana. “Then use the other language’s keywords in the back end.”
It’s solid advice. This is the same tactic sellers need to use in the USA, where as of 2021, 17% of the population is Hispanic. Your listing should be in English, but it’s important to put Spanish keywords in the back end so the algorithm continues to rank for Spanish search terms, which a large percentage of the population – 53 million people in the US alone (not counting Central America) – use these keywords to search for products.
Is Amazon Belgium Ripe for the Picking?
Amazon Belgium’s challenge now is to continue providing convenience and value to the Belgians. The idea of having a marketplace dedicated to the specific needs of the Belgians is an innovative one, but there are so many different factors that need to be considered for the platform to show real success.
Good thing Amazon Belgium has implemented “Brands of Belgium,” where they shine the spotlight on Belgian sellers and products. Furthermore, the platform launched Amazon Prime with a 30 day free trial and a low annual fee of 25 Euros per year (as opposed the 95 Euros per year in the UK!).
The focus is trained on making Amazon Belgium a success:
After months of preparation, we are really proud to open the virtual doors to the all-new Amazon.com.be. From today, we’ll serve our customers in Belgium better with a local, multi-language shopping experience, as well as Prime membership, and delight them with a vast selection of international and local Belgian brands just in time for the holiday season.
– Eva Faict, Country Manager, Amazon.com.be