Tips to conquer an Italian market

Italy is a priority market for fashion and ready-to-wear brands, hence the dedicated Italy workshop that took place during the 2018 Traffic trade show. Here we give you an overview and top tips from Anne-Laure Druguet, Director of Projects at the Fédération Française de Prêt à Porter Féminin, and Claudio Milani, CEO of Webhelp Payment Services in Italy and Greece.

"Italy is France's number 1 customer, followed by Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the United States," says Anne-Laure Druguet, Director of Projects at the Fédération Française de Prêt à Porter Féminin, who specialises in helping French brands export.

In fact, the nature of the Italian market appears to make it an unmissable opportunity for France's ready-to-wear brands:

  • €66 billion annually, with a positive trend
  • 10.5% of France's exports in terms of value (up 7.1% on 2016)
  • In 2016, Italian women spent 10 billion euros on clothes, with the Italian menswear sales volume approaching 7 billion euros.
  • Distribution: mainly through franchises, chain stores and the retail sector (47%), followed chiefly by multi-brand stores (24%), department stores (13%), and online sales (5%).
  • There are big differences between Italy's regions, with the North being a more buoyant market.

1 – Make sure you have the right agent in Italy

Our assessment above focuses more on quantity, but Claudio Milani, CEO of Webhelp Payment Services in Italy and Greece, was more interested in talking about quality: “There are a huge number of stores in Italy, even in small towns and villages. With the odd exception, you can't “sell on your own” in Italy; you have to go through one or more agents, at regional or national level. Contrastingly, committing to a retail network appears to be a risky business."

But should your agent be single-brand or multi-brand? Claudio Milani says, "A small or medium-sized company would be ill-advised to take on a single-brand agent."

And Anne-Laure Druguet adds, "It's important you have the right fit with your agent and ensure you have the same objectives and development potential. You must also make sure you pin down your methods, such as reporting frequency, and agree a mutually binding commitment in writing.”

The Federation offers French brands help with drawing up agent contracts.

Claudio Milani hammers home the point with a quip: "You know who our best allies are? Agents. And our worst enemies? Agents." Hence his advice: “Find the best possible fit between your brand, your products and your agent”.

2 – Choose the safest payment methods and conditions

Like any market, the Italian market has its own particular payment methods, conditions and practices.

Webhelp Payment Services takes care of customer collection management and trade receivable management and acts as an insurance intermediary in various countries, including Italy. This means that Webhelp Payment Services enables you to personalise your payment methods and conditions individually to each of your clients.

To find out more, and in particular for details of the payment methods and conditions best suited to the Italian market and the best way to protect yourself from non-payment, feel free to get in touch with Claudio Milani.

3 – Devise a strategy tailored to the Italian market

As Claudio Milani says, “It's not enough to set yourself financial objectives in penetrating the Italian market. You have to devise, challenge and then implement your own specific strategy”.

This strategy must be consistent with your brand identity and culture. "But beware of imposing your own rules: think globally but act locally," adds Claudio Milani.

4 – Find the balance between sales and finance

Claudio Milani's last piece of advice: “If you focus solely on increasing sales, you'll expose yourself to a lot of risks. And if you put too much emphasis on financial security, you're in danger of missing some great opportunities. You have to strike the right balance to be successful!"

 

For more information, go to our website.

 


Webhelp group agrees to acquire Sellbytel in transformational transaction

Acquisition strengthens Webhelp’s position in the European CRM BPO Market

 


Webhelp Group
, a leading global BPO and customer experience company, today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of Sellbytel Group. Sellbytel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC).

By joining forces with Sellbytel, Webhelp expands its geographic footprint in Europe, and adds an extensive list of international brands and value-added services to its portfolio. Following this acquisition, Webhelp Group forecasts a turnover of €1,3 billion for the end of 2018, supported by a team of 50.000 people, serving over 500 clients, in 35 countries.

Sellbytel’s Barcelona office provides best in class multilingual operations with around 4,000 people working in more than 20 languages.  This expertise has been extended to Kuala Lumpur and Puerto Rico as multilingual hubs serving the APAC region and the Americas.

In addition to its complementary geographical footprint and multilingual expertise, Sellbytel enhances Webhelp’s service portfolio in several strategic areas such as end-to-end solutions in B2B Sales and Support activities, as well as an innovative work-from-home model which currently employs over 500 people working for various clients.

As part of Webhelp, Sellbytel will be able to build upon its strong expertise as a CRM BPO provider and will have access to a large variety of additional capabilities, an extensive geographical footprint adding nearshore capabilities for its clients, as well as expertise in areas like AI, analytics, omnichannel platforms, and specialized services provided by subsidiaries of Webhelp such as Telecats, Netino, and Webhelp Payment Services.

Olivier Duha and Frederic Jousset, Webhelp’s cofounders said, “This acquisition is not only a major step to strengthen our position in Europe, it is also a fantastic opportunity to broaden our service portfolio and our geographical coverage. After 18 years of uninterrupted growth, Webhelp is building upon its position as a leader in the CRM BPO industry. The fit with Sellbytel’s management has been a major strength supporting this deal and definitely has us excited about building this future together.”  

Michael Raum, founder of Sellbytel added, “We are proud of what’s been accomplished over the last 25 years with our partners at Omnicom and are very excited about our future with Webhelp. Sellbytel management is excited to team up with one of the most successful companies in our sector. Our cultural fit and our shared vision are key elements for our future success.”

Sellbytel management will continue to be strongly involved in the future growth of the company and will provide continuity for the company’s clients while also being able to provide a more comprehensive range of services. Webhelp and Sellbytel expect to derive significant synergies from the transaction thanks to the enhanced expertise and capabilities of the combined group, through cross-pollination of services, and access to new regions and nearshoring models.

Moving forward, Webhelp’s strategy is to continue to grow both organically and through acquisition over the coming years, both in terms of geographical expansion and the addition of new capabilities.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018, subject to approval of the relevant regulatory authorities.

 

ABOUT SELLBYTEL

Sellbytel Group is a provider of outsourced sales, service and support with operations in 28 centers across Spain, Germany, Portugal, Puerto Rico and Malaysia. More information can be found at www.sellbytel.com.


International b2b e-commerce: mistakes to avoid

Increasing numbers of B2B businesses both large and small are setting their sights on trading internationally through an e-commerce platform. To give yourself the best chance of making a decent fist of it, Axel Mouquet, CEO of Webhelp Payment Services, proffers his advice and explains which mistakes to avoid.

At Webhelp Payment Services, we know all about trading internationally: we collect 80% of our payments (€1 billion a year) outside France on behalf of b2b vendors. And we cover 35 countries via 11 regional subsidiaries.

As a payment institution, at Webhelp Payment Services we help our clients to devise and manage their B2B payment strategy. Our shared objective is to improve the customer experience and develop a secure business.

To this end, we offer risk management, transaction management and non-payment management services, working internationally with brands such as Conrad, Aniel, IPH, Procsea, Conforama, Le Duff and Rungis International Market.

From day-to-day practice and our observation of the market, we have identified 5 avoidable mistakes:

  1. The 'everywhere-at-once, all-at-once' strategy. The temptation is to launch in several countries at the same time instead of introducing a gradual rollout (which is more advisable as we shall see later). In this faulty model, the starting point is often the home-country e-commerce website or the reference website, which is then cloned and rolled out simultaneously in the different languages and countries. Typically, this is done by employing translators to translate the existing content. But you can bet your bottom dollar (or euro) that it won't work!
  2. A succession of 'cut-and-paste' openings. In this variation on the faulty model above, the plan is to proceed country by country, simply 'cutting and pasting' from one site to the next. But here too you'll be heading for trouble, as B2B conventions vary hugely from country to country. You have to understand and follow not only the law but also business practice, decision-making cycles and order-validation circuits for example. It's therefore a no-brainer: you must redesign the site – and the customer experience – for each country or region.
  3. Staking everything on adwords. This is perhaps the costliest strategy: the company invests a fortune on buying adwords in the hope that this will capture demand. Of course, you must not neglect or forget about digital marketing, but human contact is important too! In B2B commerce, building a relationship of trust – between professionals – is crucial, especially when your business is starting out. You have to devise a sales force deployment strategy on the ground or operating in the local language. And later you will have to regularly tweak your mix of digital and on-the-ground presence.
  4. Over-centralising your business. Is your company based in Paris, Lyon or Bordeaux? Then it's there that all of your international operations will be based. We cannot say it often enough: in B2B you must ensure you have a physical presence local to your customers. And your customers will want to check that this presence is on offer, even if it is just a sales or logistics service. In B2B, digital commerce will never do away with borders completely!
  5. Having the same payment conditions everywhere. To speed things up when rolling out your B2B e-commerce platform internationally, it is tempting to standardise your payment conditions. But experience shows that even within Europe there are major differences here, and some of them may even put you at risk. There are differences between payment conditions, respecting payment deadlines, legal aspects of the market, etc., and you also have to take into account local competition, prices and products and services on offer. And in B2B, assessing customer credit risk is crucial. Webhelp offers a range of specific international commerce solutions.

In summary, our advice is not to spread your resources too thin and to tailor your offer to each locality. To become an international business you will have to identify the key success factors for each country and focus your efforts on them.

And here are 5 examples of approaches that work well, where we have helped our customers grow their B2B business internationally.

  1. Introduce a gradual, tailored rollout. The idea is to be realistic, starting with the country or region that appears to present the fewest operational difficulties and learning all the lessons you can before expanding elsewhere. On each occasion, you must take the time to understand the specific characteristics of the local demand. You should implement a carefully thought-out, localised approach incorporating co-design and co-construction.
  2. Use the marketplace model. The marketplace model has certainly proved its worth in B2C and now represents a tremendous opportunity in B2B since all the tools and methods are already available. This strategy enables you to construct your offer locally, minimising the risks, investment and any logistical problems involved. And you also have the option of signing up dependable salespeople with a good reputation who are already in place. At Webhelp, we think this model is becoming the go-to approach and that you should consider it very carefully. In other words, you'll have to have very good reasons not to adopt a marketplace-based approach!
  3. Make sure you have localised payment strategies. This is where Webhelp Payment Services comes in: devising, implementing and managing the complete payment circuit, with the option of including credit insurance, constructing a secure business model for the country in question and taking into account specific customer risks. In this respect we are able to provide tailor-made solutions on the basis of conventional or pooled distribution of profits/risks.
  4. Build locally with international partners. Your success is conditional upon knowing the ins and outs of B2B practices in the country or region concerned. Giving yourself the ability to identify and work with international partners gives you a decisive advantage. Especially if your growth objectives – organic or external – are ambitious.
  5. Develop a local sales force. As we have seen, B2B is not all about digital technology. You should consider gradually introducing sales forces on the ground.

References (in French)
B2B marketplace: the experiences of Aniel, Procsea and Metro
The B2B marketplace spring: modelling the impact of B2B marketplace strategies
[ITW] B2B marketplaces: the 4 main models and major trends
[CR 12.10] What strategies for your B2B marketplace?


Webhelp Payment Services wins Mirakl Partner Awards

Webhelp Payment Services has been awarded « ISV Partner of the Year » at the Marketplace&Platform Summit by Mirakl, which took place this June 7th in Paris.

This award is shared with our German client, Conrad Electronics, and their amazing B2B Marketplace Project.

We have produced this video to share our great adventure.

A very special thank you to our partner Mirakl and our client Conrad Electronics!

 

For more informations about our solutions dedicated to B2B marketplaces, click here


The event The agenda The Speakers

Advantages of outsourcing

Business process outsourcing (BPO), usually known simply as outsourcing, is the most effective way to stay in control of your company's support functions. Here are eight reasons why your business should be outsourcing.

Reduce your costs
With process automation and resource sharing, most BPO solutions will help you bring down your operating costs.

Get a clearer idea of costs
In many cases it is hard to clearly identify the costs associated with carrying out individual processes because they are incurred at different levels within your organisation. BPO solutions enable you not only to identify your costs accurately but also result in variable costs that adapt automatically to your business activity, as opposed to fixed costs which are very hard to change (such as your payroll and systems depreciation).

Improve quality
With highly specialised teams on board, you can keep pace with changes in the law and get access to innovative systems and skills that are not available in-house.

Greater flexibility
Managing fluctuations is delegated to companies able to balance the workload of several clients, with different cycles.

Reorganise your company
By outsourcing certain functions to BPO partners, you can refocus your organisation and reorganise it to meet your needs.

Little or no investment required
Your financial situation can quickly improve because you will have direct access to advanced systems and processes without any investment on your part.

Changes to processes
You can instantly improve the way a particular function operates without having to implement long training workshops, call on consultants or make senior management support investments.

Benefit from someone else's expertise
When you outsource to a partner, you benefit from their expertise because the task you are passing on to them forms part of their core business, their specialty. This means they can offer you an effective, professional service in line with the latest legal, economic and technological developments in the sector.

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Role of agents, reps, distributors and showrooms in today’s fashion market

In an interview for the ‘Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin’, Dominique Chatelin, CEO of Webhelp Payment Services said, “Fashion agents, reps, distributors and showrooms remain indispensable intermediaries. They're very important partners for brands and for us. It's essential for brands to attract and convince good fashion agents since, in the case of the best fashion agents, they are the ones who choose the brands they represent. A fashion agent's quality and reliability are fundamental. Fashion agents, reps and distributors possess a thorough understanding of the market. That's key, since selling remains a local act." But who are these fashion agents, where do they fit in the industry today, and what is the best way to communicate with them?

Where do fashion agents fit in the industry today?

Twenty years ago, fashion agents, reps, distributors and showrooms played a crucial role in the development of any brand for export because they were much more familiar with the market and clients than the brands. Regardless of these brands' local reputation, they needed the support of their local sales partners to make the connection with clients.

However, the situation of fashion agents has changed considerably since then. About 10 years ago, brands started thinking they could get by without local sales partners and save the cost of their commission (around 10 to 15%) by directly managing their development and relationship with clients abroad. However, this transformation significantly increased their fixed costs, thereby reducing their margins. With uncomfortably high fixed costs and the problems they were experiencing with sales, it was not long before the brands began working with fashion agents again.

Today, fashion agents represent and sell brands while providing additional, locally based services. They foster the retailer-brand relationship by dealing with the concerns on both sides and coming up with mutually acceptable solutions. But they are also constantly on the alert, mindful of avoiding the mistakes of the past.

These days, the biggest challenge to any fashion agent's long-term future is understanding how online promotion works. If this channel makes it possible to by-pass the agent, the question is whether we still need agents at all. With online sales to stores, brands could theoretically do without an fashion agent, but with online sales to customers it is also theoretically possible to do without retailers.

Is the digitalisation of the sector set to do away with some of the players in the fashion industry?

Fashion agents, reps, and distributors are the ones who know the market and different players best. It would therefore be more logical to work with them to develop online stores and tap in to this channel (which these days is pretty much essential) rather than cutting them out of the loop for economic reasons.

Doing away with the players who have enabled a market to grow and who still play an important role in it is sure to cause collateral damage. Without their local sales partners, brands are in danger of losing their grip on the market reality and their know-how and of being influenced by their internal logic rather than focusing on the market.

If you do without your most useful partners at a time when you are growing and dominating the market, once your business stabilises you are in danger of running into problems that may even bring about a decline.

Today, the brands that are doing well are the ones who have understood that the benefits should be shared out among all the contributing partners. Even a well-known brand cannot do without the local players on the market.

Local sales partners add value! how to optimise it and bring across that message more effectively

  1. You should always take into account the local sales partner's opinion on the items and collections that work or will work best. They have a thorough understanding of the market and are often better than the brands at picking out the best-sellers. Conventions can vary hugely from country to country.
  2. You also have to be careful with deliveries and make sure they are on time, to prevent complaints or order cancellations. What's more, the earlier the goods come in, the longer the sale period and therefore ultimately the greater the sales potential.
  3. One important point is to arrange a sales meeting with each agent, reps and distributor at least once a year. This is an opportunity to brainstorm with them, throw around ideas, find out what they think face to face and maintain a close relationship with them.
  4. End-customer demand has to get back to the brand to give the brand the opportunity to improve its collections accordingly. Sometimes, sales don't hit their targets because the brand has not received on-the-ground feedback on actual demand in the market.
  5. One essential thing to do is to work with the agent to assemble a client portfolio that draws on their experience and understanding of their market with respect to both brands and retailers.
  6. You should help agents exhibit at the fashion shows relevant to their market.
  7. The same collection for the same season may come across differently in different parts of the world. Preferences can sometimes even vary between north and south within the same country, especially in Europe, so you have to be flexible. And it is the local sales partners who are familiar with these differences; you therefore need to ask for and listen to their advice on these kinds of variations, which can make all the difference when it comes to sales.

Today, agents, reps, distributors and showrooms remain essential players in the fashion market. Their role has changed in the last 20 years but their knowledge of the market and local clients remains vital when it comes to optimising international sales. These days, logic dictates that you should continue to work with these partners who have a thorough understanding of the market to enable you to remain completely in touch with end-customer demand.

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If you want to know more about our expertise in the fashion industry, click here.