E-commerce shipping: How to crack the Swiss market

13 september, 2017

The Swiss spend more money online than nearly any other nationality – CHF 2,400 a year per person, at last count. It’s not just Switzerland’s affluence that make it a land of opportunity for online retailers: its location means it is well connected for international shipping; Swiss Post was voted the world’s best national postal carrier in 2017; English is widely spoken and the nation shares languages with three of its neighbours (Italy, France and Germany).

So, what factors should online retailers consider when trying to choose the right solutions for shipping to Switzerland? Here, Asendia Germany Sales Manager Kai Schotten reveals the best e-commerce shipping options for newcomers and shares some unique insights into the company’s home country, one of the world’s most affluent and exciting e-commerce markets…

Cross border deliveries surge

The Swiss market is a big opportunity for overseas and European online retailers. A large part of online shopping is cross border. The items that Swiss shoppers buy most often are clothing, travel tickets, computers and accessories. Cross-border purchasing has doubled since 2012 and the market is still growing. The Swiss have a very high purchasing power, a good payment culture, and the country has a very low rate of VAT at 8 per cent.

Approximately 75 per cent of the Swiss population (8.3 million) live in urban areas and all Swiss prefer the delivery network of Swiss Post. Crucially, there is little or no language barrier for online retailers looking to ship to Switzerland. English is widely spoken. About 66 per cent of the Swiss speak German, 24 per cent speak French, 9 per cent speak Italian and just 1 per cent speak Romansh. But it’s essential to consider Swiss shoppers’ preferences when weighing up the solutions your business should use in Switzerland.

Delivery preferences

Most people in Switzerland are still prepared to wait for delivery. In 2016, nearly 40 per cent of cross-border deliveries into Switzerland were Priority (E + 1) and 60 per cent were Economy (E+2). Priority is growing but I don’t think we will ever reach the point where priority deliveries are the majority. About 90 per cent of Swiss customers prefer home delivery and 9.9 percent prefer Click & Collect.

Asendia offers a wide range of fully tracked delivery services and a local returns management. Because orders are fulfilled by our parent company, Swiss Post, customers get the peace of mind that deliveries are covered by the national postal operator. Swiss Post’s infrastructure and knowledge of the market and postal network are unrivalled, and it is known for its reliability and quality all over Switzerland.

Delivery options

Using Premium Goods by PostPac, weighing up to 30kg can be sent via Economy or Priority Service with a wide range of delivery options. These include home delivery (with or without a signature required), delivery to an office address, or PickPost, which allows recipients to collect parcels from a number of different PickPost points. Asendia can provide other services, such as evening and Saturday delivery.

Of course, there’s a physical border between Europe and Switzerland, so an effective customs clearance solution is paramount. There are two main options: you make a single customs clearance for each package and the consumer pays the VAT and customs clearance on receipt of the parcel; or you get commercial customs clearance, meaning the sender pays VAT and customs.

Clearly, your customer is more likely to come back if you pay the VAT and customs clearance. We offer DDP clearance solutions in which all VAT and customs are charged to the sender, meaning recipients do not get hit by extra charges when they receive their goods. It is important to speak to your logistics partner at an early stage and Asendia can work with you to identify the right solution for your needs and help minimise the costs.

Payment preferences

The kind of payment options you offer can help build trust further. Payment preferences in Switzerland vary depending on the primary language spoken by the recipient, with French and Italian speaking buyers preferring to pay for goods bought online in advance with their credit cards. However, most Swiss buyers prefer to pay once invoiced following receipt of goods or with paypal; this option is most important to German speaking buyers, so 66 per cent of the population.

If you are an established retailer elsewhere in Europe or further afield, switch your website to a multilingual .ch domain so you have the local look and feel. Offer prices in Swiss francs. Consider distributing catalogues and other multichannel communications to promote your web shop and to strengthen your brand profile. Think about Swiss delivery preferences and consider potential customs clearance issues. Cover all these things and press the go button. It could be extremely lucrative.

Read more about e-commerce opportunities in Switzerland here.

Kai Schotten

Sales Manager, Asendia Germany