Sunday, November 4, 2007

Heaven Fresh UK: Expanding into Europe

Opening offices in the UK and Germany is part of our ambition to expand the Heaven Fresh distribution and sales network all over Europe.  The German office has been distributing products to the neighboring countries for quite some time now.  To do a test run, we translated the UK web site in French and ran an advertisement campaign on Google both for France and Ireland.  The frequency, the size and the number of online orders as well as the customer inquiries are usually good indicators of the size and the readiness of a potential new market,  at least from the perspective of a micro-multinational.

As soon as the Ireland advertisement campaign was launched, we started getting orders and the customer inquiries from Ireland. Because of the business friendly regulations of the European Union (EU),  shipping products to other EU countries from our UK warehouse is just as easy as sending the shipments within UK.  Although the results of the ad campaign in Ireland were very persuasive, the outcome from the French campaign was not very encouraging. We were getting very targeted visitors from France but did not get many orders or customer inquiries. Our little experiment led me to believe that French customers are not very comfortable buying from a web site with strong UK markings, including the URL, phone number, address and currency (Sterling instead of Euro).  It is just my personal theory about French consumers' mind set as it is very hard for me to believe that our product features and the prices are not attractive for the French customers.

As a result of our test campaigns in Ireland and France, we launched a new Heaven Fresh web site for Ireland (http://www.heavenfresh.ie) just a couple of days ago. The prices on the Irish site are listed in Euros, and to confirm or refute my own theory about France, we will also advertise this new site in France to compare the outcome with the UK centric Heaven Fresh site with listings in Pound Sterling.

Our plan is to continue our experimentations for various European countries and make bigger moves to setup sales and distribution centers based on the magnitude of the online sales. The whole idea is to minimize the risk by expanding our European distribution network in a step by step and methodical fashion.

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