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'Crossborder e-commerce should also just be fun'

GoCustomized, maker of personalized cases for gadgets, gets the lion's share of its sales from abroad. Founder and ceo Michiel van de Plassche can basically recommend selling online across borders to anyone with a distinctive proposition. 'But if you don't like it, see a lot of bumps in the road, then maybe you shouldn't do it.'

Van de Plassche, a speaker at the CrossBorder e-commerce Event on September 6, vínts it fun. 'Doing business internationally is very interesting and educational, but you run into stumbling blocks. Then it's not just about business development or marketing, but also logistics or tax issues you didn't see coming.'

CrossBorder Top 30
As the leader of the CrossBorder Top 30, the list of the fastest-growing Dutch sellers across borders, he should know. GoCustomized saw its international web sales increase by no less than 1,248 percent in 2015. 'We had previously expanded into Belgium - you can think of that as a gift, don't have to do much - that year we completely localized our sites for the British, German and French markets. After that it went fast.'
Personalization
GoCustomized now displays ten countries with flags on its site, and it supplies a multitude of other countries. Van de Plassche took international sales into account, as evidenced also by the name, but it was not necessarily the intention when he set up his company in 2012: 'I came from L'Oréal, had gained marketing and management experience there. I saw personalization emerging as a trend, I wanted to do something with that. I thought about phones; everyone has one, day in and day out with them too, but they all look the same. Then I set up a webshop with glass personalized backgrounds for the iPhone 4. We had one webshop, in one country, and actually only one product that we had someone else make. Now we have about four hundred products, we sell to more and more countries (including recently the US, AvO) and we do the sourcing and printing all ourselves.'

Brand building
GoCustomized personalizes cases of more and more brands and more and more products, including nowadays bluetooth speakers and powerbanks. Van de Plassche: "We could have chosen to expand a few years ago. So we wouldn't have started selling personalized cases either, but therein lies our distinctive value. We can do that well and quickly; with our printing facility we can print an ordered product within 15 minutes and have it ready for shipment. Instead of expanding, we have opted for internationalization. Sure there are local providers everywhere. But a lot of competition is a lot of market, is my maxim. As a relatively small player, you have to be distinctive, not just on price. If you want to make a difference, you have to build a brand.'

Hoesjemaken.nl
Thanks to an acquisition, the Amsterdam-based company now operates a dual-brand strategy. Last fall, it acquired Hoesjemaken.nl, now active in six countries with local descriptive domain names such as Mypersonalisedcase.co.uk, Huellegestalten.de and Lacoquepersonnalisee.fr. 'We see that it works, that it does not cannibalize GoCusomized. We are now finding a group that we missed before.'

This is an article from Twinkle