E-commerce: New Export Opportunities for Swiss Brands

When a Filipino family is invited to a friend’s house and wants to give a surprising gift, they ring the doorbell with a Toblerone in XL packaging. Joy erupts as Filipinos such as Australians, North Americans, Iranians, and nearly all Europeans are huge fans of the “world’s sweetest mountain range,” sold in more than 100 countries today. “Toblerone gets more than 96% of its turnover from exports,” explains Livia Kolmitz, spokeswoman for the manufacturing company Mondelez. Despite challenges, including exchange rate fluctuations, exports have reportedly developed satisfactorily over the past five to ten years.

Good export figures

Thanks to exports, Swiss manufacturers of branded goods are partly able to absorb economic fluctuations. For example, the members of the Swiss Branded Article Union Promarca increased their export turnover in 2017 by 6.8% compared to the previous financial year. “This figure confirms the popularity of our members’ products abroad,” says Promarca director Anastasia Li-Treyer. According to an internal member survey, exports related to e-commerce and traditional retail are seen as important growth opportunities. “For 30% of the members, export is even the most important growth engine.”

Europe, Asia and North America are traditionally the most important markets. Of the exporting members of Promarca, 100% exports to the European Union and 69% to other countries in Europe, 78% exports to Asia, 66% to North America, 41% to the Americas Latin America and the Caribbean, 31% to Oceania and 28% to Africa. According to the Federal Statistical Office, exports of consumer products amounted to 8.355 billion francs in 2016.

Also read: Damien Fournier: ‘Brands in panic due to Amazon arrival’

Innovative power and pioneering spirit

Two world famous Swiss brands do not belong to this segment. Trisa toothbrushes are used in more than 70 countries and Victorinox even supplies its various products to customers in 120 countries, starting with the legendary Swiss Army Knife. Both manufacturers are aware that the export strategy is only sustainable if they offer quality products.

“All our toothbrushes are scientifically developed and produced in Switzerland. We have the requirement to produce the best toothbrushes on this market,” explains Trisa’s spokesperson, Othmar Wüest, without modesty. Trisa’s key success factors are its technology innovation strategy, a sustainable corporate culture, enthusiastic employees and long-term partnerships with customers. “Efficient production and modern logistics are also basic prerequisites for our success in international markets.”

Every article is an advertising medium

The preconditions are comparable at Victorinox. “Our origins as a traditional Swiss brand must not only guarantee quality and reliability for consumers all over the world, but also innovative strength and a pioneering spirit,” says managing director Carl Elsener. It is clear that the Swiss army knife from Victorinox in particular enjoys such international fame with Roger Federer.

Whether kitchen knives, watches, travel bags or perfumes, every Victorinox product should reflect this spirit of the legendary Swiss army knife, claims Carl Elsener. Only the perseverance with which Victorinox pursues its long-term goals and an uncompromising commitment to brand values ​​can achieve sustainable export success. “But of course the product has to be good first, it has to work and be reliable.” For years, Victorinox managed to steadily increase its sales, solely through word of mouth, without investing much in advertising. In the summer of 2017, the 500 millionth pocket knife was sold. “Every knife, whether sold in Germany, Mexico or China, is valuable advertising material for us,” adds Carl Elsener.

Potential in emerging countries

Once a product is established in certain markets, the export drive of successful brand manufacturers is rarely extinguished quickly. For example, Trisa, which already exports 19 of the 20 toothbrushes it produces, sees huge potential for brands in fast-growing emerging countries in Asia and South America. Same with Victorinox.

Carl Elsener believes that China, India, Mexico, Korea and Brazil in particular will have many new customers for the Swiss Army Knife and other company products in the near future. “Japan, where the sale of our pocket knives is restricted by legal restrictions, is a challenge for us.”

This does not apply to airports, where Swiss chocolate clearly has an advantage. As a pioneer, the Toblerone brand positioned itself early in international airports and cleverly used the international duty-free market as the starting point for its successful expansion to all corners of the globe.

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