The “Grande Exposition du Fabriqué en France” at the Élysée Palace and Maison & Objet have recently taken place: here, there were opportunities for Made in France craftsmen to display their unique know-how and their commercial approach adapted to digital innovations and cross-border e-commerce.
Craftsmen are not afraid to export.
Craftsmen have got talent and they aren’t reluctant about making this known beyond the national borders! Take the example of Fluïd: this glassware producer, based in the island of Belle-Île-en-Mer in the south of Brittany, received the remarkable prize Stars et Métiers for its export operations last year. The team, consisting of six collaborators, manages the artisanal production of unique pieces and participates in exports.
Thus, with more than 30% of their turnover already coming from exports, Fluïd’s glass objects are found thousands of kilometres away, even as far as Hong-Kong. The glassware producer made exporting its crux and this was the right decision. And to take things even further, Fluïd is going digital with the creation of a multilingual e-commerce site, its SEO for several countries and the launch of international social medias. Many developing actions that the company has not been able to deploy so far, owing to lack of time.
But digital and cross-border sales remain complex for craftsmen…
For artisans, the problem is always more or less the same, and it does not only concern digital matters but business in the broad sense. As Jean-Pierre Lebureau – Meilleur Ouvrier de France for metal decoration – explains, craftsmen do not have the time to do everything: in general, they are directly involved in the design and manufacturing of their handmade products as well as their sales, accounting, HR management, supply chain, promotion, trade fairs, etc. Therefore, e-commerce represents an additional activity to which craftsmen often struggle to allocate adequate time and skills.
And the choice of being helped by a web agency turns out to be a tough obstacle course, largely due to the technical complexity of the project, as perceived by craftsmen. Because it’s not only a question of choosing between Prestashop or Shopify to create an online store, they must also choose how to manage the SEO, which keywords to invest in for Ads or promotions, which languages should the texts be translated into, which cross-border payment system to use, etc.
These are complex technical subjects which frequently lead to one of these two results: either the overinvestment in a website which is too advanced, and therefore too expensive, for the craftsmen’s need, that is to sell; or the inaction because of the high price to pay, that sometime leads even to the total rejection of the project.
… And marketplaces are often deemed inadequate.
Besides the problems of owning an e-commerce website, marketplaces dedicated to artisanal products can be a solution. They offer the advantage of an online store with already a large and qualified traffic, often an international exposure, suitable payment and logistics solutions. And yes, they’re for artisans, too!
Although some people have realised that a marketplace is like being on a high-street premium head display, which also helps develop sales on its own online store, these are only a minority. In the sector, there are generally two preconceptions that must be dissipated: firstly, thinking that “handmade” products, though unique, are not suitable for these marketplaces; and secondly, the belief that a business cannot sell on marketplaces without having a big brand.
In reality, these platforms have evolved a fair bit: initially used to sell unsold and discontinued items, marketplaces are now deploying a “long tail” strategy. This strategy proved that the best offer to attract traffic and increase sales has to be as large as possible. Both newly-launched brands and unique items have their place in this “long tail” to sell in their country as well as cross-border.
But between Etsy, Amazon Handmade, Empreintes, eBay, etc. how do you choose which is the best marketplace for your business around the world? And to properly deploy your products on such international marketplaces, what are the dos & don’ts? Listing multilingual products and managing sales thereafter can become expensive not only in terms of marketplace commissions but also in terms of time.
What solution is there for artisans? Delegation of online sales with commissions on turnover.
Craftsmen are faced with a competitive situation where they must find a solution quickly to exploit the Internet: not only to promote their differences from industrial products but also to deploy e-commerce and sell around the world.
To overcome their struggles, artisans need a more appropriate and reassuring solution, while sharing the risks in a balanced way with Web providers. The delegation of online sales to a Web partner can be such a solution: with a business model based on performance, the remuneration by online sales commissions is very adapted to craftsmen businesses as indicated by Eric Lemaitre and Nathan Gotteland.
Such business model suits Web providers that have a more pronounced long-term commercial taste, while allowing artisans to seize new opportunities in cross-border online trade. There is no shortage of positive results: crystal craftsman Valery Klein reached 50% of his turnover with Amazon in 2019.
Let’s finish with the initial example of Fluïd glassware: if it was able to exceed 30% of turnover in exports without the Internet, the launch of an online store and a marketplace that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, internationally will at least double this figure within the first year, provided it is deployed correctly!