Senior Client & Innovation Director
2019 will bring a new ecosystem challenge for Dutch brands: voice. The first baby steps of voice’s development in the Netherlands emerged in 2018, as Google rolled out Dutch-language capabilities for their voice assistant, and consumers increasingly use voice commands to control apps like Spotify on their phones.
2019 will be the year that we see the average Dutch citizen truly embrace voice devices and services. In turn, we will soon be able to see voice’s true impact on consumption patterns – as well as determine which brands are poised to “win” this new ecosystem by developing the most valuable voice services.
Already, brands such as Albert Heijn, PostNL, Unilever, and ING have been rolling out their first voice apps in 2018. Of course, a brand’s mere presence on voice platforms isn’t enough. A key focus for brands must be how to become top of mind at the time of voice invocation. For example, when people ask their voice assistant, “Hey Google, ask [Brand X] what to do about the ketchup stain I have on my shirt,” how can you ensure your brand will be the brand queried? As with any successful new innovation, it’s not the technology itself that will determine who wins voice commerce. Rather, the victors will be those brands that demonstrate the best understanding of how and why people benefit from this new phenomenon in their daily lives.
Kantar Millward Brown
The truth is that most Dutch people can’t cook and hate spending hours in the kitchen. For years, this was good news for manufacturers of shelf stable food ingredients and pre-packaged meal solutions. Today, however, these brands are under pressure.
Why? First, there is the trend of “assisted” scratch cooking through delivery boxes like Hello Fresh, as well as through fresh-food cooking bundles at supermarkets like Albert Heijn. People believe that cooking with pure natural ingredients will help them live more healthily – and further believe that these bundled offerings can turn them into fast, skilled home chefs.
Another big reason why consumers are turning away from classic solutions kits from Knorr and Honig is that consumers have lost trust in legacy food manufacturers. Ask the average shopper about products from these legacy brands and she’ll say they are “processed in factories” – which in her mind, means they’re bad for you. Food manufacturers struggle to explain that their ingredients are natural – only dried – and that the added substances used as E numbers are often natural as well (after all, a tomato is full of many of these same E number substances).
What should brands do? Transparency is key. There may be a time when Dutch shoppers grow weary of the meal box trend; those fresh kits can be more time-consuming to prepare than they seem. Shoppers will then re-examine the brands they know best. When that happens, brands should be ready with innovative offerings and evocative, transparent messaging about how they turn natural ingredients into truly convenient meals.
Kantar Millward Brown
We live in a time in which people more and more prefer experiences over possessing material goods. In light of his, brands should think of ways how to make possession smarter – more flexible, less burdensome, and less permanent.
In 2014, two Dutch students from Delft University of Technology successfully showcased this “new possession” thinking when they founded Swapfiets (literally, “Swap-bicycle”). Swapfiets pioneered a new way to “possess” a bicycle. Since then, tens of thousands of Swapfiets bikes, with their distinctive blue front-tires, have become an undeniable part of Dutch cityscapes. Swapfiets’ brilliant idea? Make bicycle possession smarter. For a monthly subscription, you get a well-working bike (in the color of your choice) that is yours for the time being. If something breaks, you can easily request a sameday repair, or you can swap your bike for a new one through the user-friendly smartphone app.
The upside is that Swapfiets’ usually young customers never need to worry about the expense and maintenance hassles that used to come with owning a bike. Swapfiets ownership means that users will never end up in possession of wrecked or hobbled vehicles.
In short, Swapfiets has done for Dutch bikes what Spotify has done for music: you pay for access to a great service from month to month, rather than for permanent ownership of a static product. Bike possession in the Netherlands will never be the same. And who knows? Maybe soon we’ll be seeing those iconic blue tires all over Europe.
Reg van Steen
Senior Client Director
To say the Dutch retail banking sector is concentrated is an understatement. Almost every Dutch person banks with at least one of the four high street banks: ING, Rabobank, ABN AMRO, and SNS Bank. Moreover, churn rates (i.e., the yearly rate at which customers defect from a bank to its competitors) are less than one percent.
Does this mean that the retail banking sector is set in concrete? Not quite. In the past decade, Triodos and ASN – two banks with a pure ESG (environmental, social, and governance) positioning – have made inroads among certain groups of citizens. Meanwhile, two mobile-oriented challenger brands, Knab and Bunq, are currently trying to disrupt retail banking. However, in an industry where trust is of the essence, it takes a long time to build a strong brand with sufficient massmarket appeal.
That being said, in certain financial categories upstart brands have already succeeded in obtaining substantial market share. Today, BinckBank and DEGIRO have come to dominate the Execution Only market for retail investors. And in the savings market, brands like Leaseplan Bank, NIBC Direct, and Moneyou have been similarly disruptive.
Moneyou is actually an ABN AMRO brand, which just goes to show that high-street banks are not sitting on their hands, either. High street banks will surely build more competitive brands in the coming years – as will scrappy startups. The Dutch retail banking market may be concentrated, but it’s far from boring.
The Netherlands’ history has always been intimately connected to the sea. So it makes sense that Dutch companies have taken the lead in corporate efforts to combat ocean pollution, with a particular focus on reducing ocean plastics in particular.
In 2014, G-Star RAW, in collaboration with Pharrell Williams, was one of the first global fashion brands to address the problem of plastic waste entering the world’s oceans and producing “garbage soup” in areas like the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Together with Parley For The Oceans and Bionic Yarn, G-Star RAW launched their Raw For The Oceans collection, with most items constructed from fibers made out of recycled plastic. In many ways, G-Star RAW’s efforts to slow plastics’ entry into to the environment was ahead of the curve; it wasn’t until 2016, for instance, that a Dutch ban on free plastic bags went into effect in stores nationwide.
Today, more and more Dutch companies are joining the plastics fight – and for good reason. To name one example, The Ocean Cleanup, founded in 2012 by 18 year old Boyan Slat, aims to rid the world’s oceans of plastic waste; it’s backed by leading Dutch brands like Akzo Nobel, Brabantia, DSM, and TU Delft. The worldwide fight to save the environment can often feel vast and overwhelming, but by focusing in on one evocative manifestation – here, the fight against “plastic garbage soup” – Dutch brands can stand out while doing more than a bit of good.