Belgium

Puck Smaal

Product Owner Belgie & Senior Key Account Manager, Awin Netherlands

Last year taught us that everything interconnects in some way; that every link in the distribution chain is important and that each channel brings its own value. Offline versus online? Post-pandemic, that distinction should no longer be made as they evidently combine to support and complement each other. Belgium saw this first hand with the lockdown, and we hope retailers can take positive learnings from what unfolded.

Wim Willems
General Manager, FamilyCard

11.6m

Population

Euro (€)

Currency

90%

Internet penetration rate

20%

Ecommerce penetration rate
(% of total retail)

70%

Mobile penetration rate

$4.2b

Total ad spend (USD)

$1.3b

Digital ad spend (USD)

$52m

(AUD $357 million)

Affiliate ad spend estimate (USD)

10%

Projected ad spend growth 2021

295
Advertisers
1,421
Publishers
Share of sales by device
Share of sales by publisher type
31%
Loyalty & Cashback
28%
Content
19%
Coupon Code
9%
Sub Networks
7%
Social
6%
Comparison
4%
Search
2%
Display

The first lockdown caught retailers off guard as no one had accounted for changing their operational processes and plans. Awin has always been a constructive and very flexible partner for DreamLand, but it truly excelled itself in helping us manage those initial changes. The network was proactive in monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the advertising landscape. These insights enabled us to develop a concrete action plan that has delivered strong results for our publishers and the wider business. By the time the second lockdown was introduced in November, we knew how to respond. 

Steven De Win
Paid Media Manager, DreamLand

Examining Belgium

Buoyed by 12 months of exponential growth during 2019, a period where one in every 10 sales occurred online, ecommerce retailers would have been right to expect a breakthrough year from Belgium in 2020. 

Strict lockdowns in Q1 brought positives and negatives, but progress nonetheless through hastily arranged improvements to websites, order processes and logistics. COVID-19 generally brought good news to Belgium’s ecommerce industry, resulting in higher sales, a rush of new customers and the impetus to prepare for the future.

Most of last year’s side effects came via self-imposed measures designed to safeguard businesses from defaulters. Constant updates to delivery times, major changes in credit ratings and tighter checks for loans were omnipresent in categories like Travel, Automotive, and Home Improvement, where high-ticket sales tend to reside. 

COVID-19 generally brought good news to Belgium’s ecommerce industry, resulting in higher sales, a rush of new customers and the impetus to prepare for the future.

Belgium’s unique laws on sales events also prevented retailers from adopting a lookalike response to what was happening across other markets. The annual ‘Solden’ periods in January and July remain the only times that discounts on out-of-season products can be described as ‘sales.’ Last year was slightly different, however, as the government took the historic decision of postponing July’s event to August, giving smaller businesses an even longer timeframe to capitalize on a fruitful summer before the likes of Amazon chimed in.

Looking at the situation at a category level, Home & Garden, Clothing, and Sports all displayed rapid signs of improvement at the start of Belgium’s national lockdown in mid-March. Interestingly, each of these segments share common ground – namely, their recent investments in comparison shopping services (CSS) and in-app tracking. The fact that both pursuits are known to deliver a competitive advantage shouldn’t be lost on those wondering how to take their programs to the next level.

Despite 13 new retailers entering the Belgian market every day, the lion’s share of its revenue continues to head to foreign advertisers like Bol.com, Coolblue, Amazon.fr and Zalando. Local players Vanden Borre and Vente-Exclusive.com are the only outliers in a pack dominated by European powerhouses, but one story in 2020 gave reason to believe that bigger isn’t always better.

The sudden closure of Colruyt Group’s all-purpose ecommerce store Collishop in September was met with raised eyebrows, especially when a press release attributed its decline to customers opting for ‘specialist’ retailers over shops that can supposedly do it all. While the Group also raised that “huge international platforms” are finding it easier to adapt to consumers’ evolving needs, the story indicates a growing opportunity for small and mid-sized companies that have found their niche.

Despite 13 new retailers entering the Belgian market every day, the lion’s share of its revenue continues to head to foreign advertisers.

Speaking of gaps in the market, revenue diversification might not seem like the next natural step for Belgium, where foreign purchases account for a respectable €1 in every €4 spent. Still, with the Netherlands contributing 34% of this foreign income, there is an underlying sense that local retailers have yet to find their feet in other territories. In the meantime, Dutch publishers should have no issues with connecting Belgian advertisers to an audience that may already have shopped there.

COVID-19 generally brought good news to Belgium’s ecommerce industry, resulting in higher sales, a rush of new customers and the impetus to prepare for the future.

Belgium’s unique laws on sales events also prevented retailers from adopting a lookalike response to what was happening across other markets. The annual ‘Solden’ periods in January and July remain the only times that discounts on out-of-season products can be described as ‘sales.’ Last year was slightly different, however, as the government took the historic decision of postponing July’s event to August, giving smaller businesses an even longer timeframe to capitalize on a fruitful summer before the likes of Amazon chimed in.

Looking at the situation at a category level, Home & Garden, Clothing, and Sports all displayed rapid signs of improvement at the start of Belgium’s national lockdown in mid-March. Interestingly, each of these segments share common ground – namely, their recent investments in comparison shopping services (CSS) and in-app tracking. The fact that both pursuits are known to deliver a competitive advantage shouldn’t be lost on those wondering how to take their programs to the next level.

Despite 13 new retailers entering the Belgian market every day, the lion’s share of its revenue continues to head to foreign advertisers like Bol.com, Coolblue, Amazon.fr and Zalando. Local players Vanden Borre and Vente-Exclusive.com are the only outliers in a pack dominated by European powerhouses, but one story in 2020 gave reason to believe that bigger isn’t always better.

The sudden closure of Colruyt Group’s all-purpose ecommerce store Collishop in September was met with raised eyebrows, especially when a press release attributed its decline to customers opting for ‘specialist’ retailers over shops that can supposedly do it all. While the Group also raised that “huge international platforms” are finding it easier to adapt to consumers’ evolving needs, the story indicates a growing opportunity for small and mid-sized companies that have found their niche.

Despite 13 new retailers entering the Belgian market every day, the lion’s share of its revenue continues to head to foreign advertisers.

Speaking of gaps in the market, revenue diversification might not seem like the next natural step for Belgium, where foreign purchases account for a respectable €1 in every €4 spent. Still, with the Netherlands contributing 34% of this foreign income, there is an underlying sense that local retailers have yet to find their feet in other territories. In the meantime, Dutch publishers should have no issues with connecting Belgian advertisers to an audience that may already have shopped there.

Awin Talks
Meet the market
Awin Talks host Rob Davinson speaks to Eric Lippens, online advertising consultant at Vraaghetdebelg and an expert on the Belgian online advertising industry. Recorded in January 2021.

In 2020, we learned quality beats quantity. COVID-19 saw us reducing our costs and removing several publishers from our program. Booking rates have improved since we applied this new strategy and we’re now generating better leads as a result. We’ve also been able to motivate publishers by rewarding quality within our commission model.

Macha Lavoye
Digital Marketing Officer, Cetelem
+234%
traffic from top tier partners YoY
+102%
revenue
+59%
Fnac program ROI

Fnac’s Belgian affiliate partnerships evolve to deliver vital 2020 growth

+234%
traffic from top tier
partners YoY
+102%
revenue
+59%
Fnac program ROI

In 2020, French retailer Fnac’s ambition was to further develop and foster its partnerships with both its biggest and mid-tier affiliate partners for more growth in Belgium.

This objective took on even greater importance following the pandemic and the closure of physical stores in the region (including Fnac’s) that prevented shoppers from buying in person.

Proactive account strategies and a more flexible commissioning structure enabled Fnac to better engage partners in 2020 and deliver a huge improvement in overall ROI.

User-generated content will make a big splash next year and be the trend to watch for in 2021. We noticed with influencers in particular that content developed by an audience can strengthen ties between a brand and its customers. These developments will make the influencer model all the more appealing, but it does involve changes in attribution models and the way advertisers promote products.

Arnaud Marchand
Traffic Manager, Decathlon
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