How to start a Bol.com partner company in the Netherlands
A lot of entrepreneurs all over the world choose to start an affiliate company. International multinationals such as Amazon.com have proven to be a very effective and safe method of earning an income, whilst not being subject to some of the risks that starting an entirely new company can entail. In the Netherlands Bol.com has made quite a name for itself, by now also internationally. This Dutch equivalent of Amazon.com is constantly growing and evolving, meaning that foreign entrepreneurs can profit from becoming an official partner-seller. In this article we will outline the details regarding becoming a Bol.com partner, as well as provide you with all the necessary regulations that you will need to adhere to. If you would like personal advice, feel free to contact Intercompany Solutions for extra tips & tricks.
Relevant article: Starting an Amazon store in The Netherlands.
Why sell products via Bol.com in the Netherlands?
As opposed to starting your own webshop, becoming a Bol.com partner has quite some perks. You immediately reach 10 million potential customers, as Bol.com is the number one platform to-go in the Netherlands. You acquire an online store without any start-up costs, plus you only need to pay for the items you actually sell. This eliminates the whole necessity of an inventory, making this option practically risk-free. You are very free in choosing the specific products you like to sell. From experience we know that becoming an affiliate always works best, if you have any specific or prior knowledge about the products you want to sell. So take this into consideration, especially if you want to redirect clients via blog sites and affiliate sites.
Tips for creating referral websites to your webshop
If you are making special websites to redirect people to your Bol.com store, there are some tips and tricks to consider to make this a successful endeavor. One of the most important contributing factors is a good-looking website, since it will be your website that will pull potential customers to your store. We also cannot stress enough how important it is to write flawless articles and blogs. A lot of errors and typing mistakes can diminish a potential client’s interest. Make sure you offer a nice range of products, since a broader product assortment is beneficial for your conversion and turnover. Make sure that you write informative articles and referrals, often a comparison of some products you sell works very well. Also make sure that your items comply with Bol.com’s assortment policy and the laws and regulations.
Compliance with the Bol.com service standards
It is important to meet customer expectations by providing adequate service, since this ensures customers coming back to your webshop. That’s why Bol.com has several service standards with which all sellers need to comply. The aim is to form the best shopping platform in the Netherlands and Belgium together with Bol.com, that ensures a standard minimum quality and thus, makes every client feel safe and secure regarding their shopping on the platform. In order to be able to guarantee stellar service, a number of service standards apply to the Bol.com shopping platform.
What are the Bol.com service standards exactly, and how do these work?
In order to guarantee the overall quality of Bol.com as a website and platform, a number of service standards are applied which apply to the entire shopping platform. The main deal is, that the better you perform on these service standards, the better you can sell. And thus, the more sales you achieve and the more likely your assortment is to get the desired attention. These service standards apply to all sellers, and are measured via different routes. We will explain these standards in detail below.
1. On time delivery for a minimum of 93% of all ordered items
To ensure a high quality of service to its customers, the service standard 'Delivered on time' applies. This states that at least 93% of the ordered items must be delivered to the customer on time. This applies to both the assortment of Bol.com itself as well as your own. If three or more items have been delivered late during one week, and your weekly score is 93% or lower, you will receive a so-called strike for that week. The higher your score is, the better your chances of successfully selling items are. So it makes sense that you should always try to deliver within the promised due date. In your sales account you have a good view of your delivery performance and you can see where there is still a profit to be made for you to optimize the 'Delivered on time' score. This service standard is measured by two methods, namely deliveries measured by Bol.com or deliveries measured by the customer you are sending items to. We will outline both methods below.
Deliveries measured by Bol.com
If a delivery is carried out by Bol.com itself and can be followed by the platform, the on time delivery will be measured by Bol.com as well. In such cases, Bol.com will check whether the first delivery attempt falls within the promised delivery due date indicated by you. This applies to orders sent with Dutch postal service PostNL, DPD, DHL and Bpost. Is the customer not at home when the package is offered? Or did the customer change the delivery address? Then these situations will not affect your score. Keep in mind in your delivery promise, that the time at which the customer placed the order is leading. So when the customer orders an item at 15:57 where the delivery promise is 'ordered before 16:00, delivered tomorrow', the customer really assumes that he will have the item at home tomorrow. Even if you don't receive this order until 16:03.
Deliveries measured by the customer
Some orders cannot be followed by Bol.com. This happens with products that have been sent by letter post or by another carrier. In such cases, the customer will receive a delivery confirmation by e-mail on the delivery deadline. Via this e-mail the customer can indicate if and when he has not yet received the order. This email will directly reach you as the seller, which means you will have to respond. Is the customer responding? Then this is seen as an item that has not been delivered on time. If you receive no response whatsoever, then the item is measured as delivered on time. To help you determine a realistic delivery promise, Bol.com publishes historical data weekly on the average delivery times of different carriers.
2. Maximum percentage of 2% cancellations
It can be very disappointing for a customer if their order is cancelled, and therefore the percentage of cancellations counts in the Bol.com service standards. If three or more items are cancelled during one week and the percentage of cancellations is therefore higher than 2%, you will receive a strike. Within the service standard 'Cancellations', two aspects are measured, namely cancellations by you as a seller and cancellations by the customer after the promised delivery date. We will outline both scenarios shortly below.
Cancellation made by you as a seller
If you wish to do so, you can cancel any order that you receive from a customer. However, please keep in mind that almost any customer will experience this negatively, since they obviously buy your products because they want to receive them. Thus, Bol.com wants to prevent cancellations made by sellers as much as possible in order to facilitate a stable and reliable shopping environment for all customers. That is why 'Cancellations' is one of the service standards every seller needs to adhere to.
Cancellation by the customer after the promised delivery date
Any customer will assume that their order will be delivered on the promised delivery time, so when this does not happen, a customer will inevitably be disappointed. The dissatisfaction increases, when a customer cancels an order that has not yet been delivered. That is why this also counts as a cancellation and will affect your overall score. Does the customer cancel the order before the promised delivery date? Then this cancellation will not count towards your score. Are you unable to deliver an order on time? Then cancel the order as soon as possible, making it possible for the customer to search for an alternative.
3. Always provide a Track & Trace number for all parcel shipments
If you send a parcel to a customer, the customer generally likes knowing where the parcel is at any given time. By providing a track & trace number with every order, you enable the possibility of clients being able to follow their order. Sometimes people aren’t home at the promised delivery time, which will make it easier for them to switch their activities and be home when the carrier delivers their products. Therefore, we advise to always add it to your packages. For letterbox post, a track & trace number is not mandatory, however it is highly desirable to provide these clients with the same service.
4. You need a customer rating of an 8 or higher
The customer's opinion is essentially the most important factor when doing business. Because a satisfied customer comes back faster, but will also be inclined sooner to post a positive review about you. Other potential customers look at these opinions, that your customers post for you. The rating for customers is a measure of a partner's quality and customers take this into account in their purchase consideration, in addition to the delivery time and selling price. With a good rating, customers are much more likely to choose to buy an item from you. In your Bol.com sales account, you can see your average ratings. You will also find tips and advice about how to maintain and improve your rating. For a good performance on the service standard 'Rating figure' we use an 8 as the lowest limit. If you have an 8 or higher as an average during the past three months, this means that your customers are really satisfied.
5. Telephone accessibility for 90% of all call attempts by Bol.com
In some cases, Bol.com will try to reach you if they need certain information from you. This can be about handling orders, customer questions or complaints and such subjects. In order to be able to serve the customer as quickly as possible, it is important that you respond to at least 90% of the call attempts during office hours, Monday to Friday, from 9:00 to 17:00. If you structurally don’t pick up the telephone, this will result in a lower rate for you as a seller.
6. Questions from customers
In order to provide customers with the best possible service, it is important to inform them as fully as possible about anything you sell. This means providing information such as product characteristics, or the current status of their order. Because this can prevent questions from the customers that you might have to answer, if you don’t provide them with sufficient information beforehand. This can cause a lot of extra work, which is why it’s important to provide detailed information about your services. You would also do this, if you had made a unique webshop. A personal dynamic standard is used for the number of customer questions you receive, regarding the total number of orders. This information is based on the items you sell and can be found on the 'Performance' page in your future Bol.com sales account. The expected percentage of customer questions based on your sales is your personal 'dynamic standard'.
If you exceed this standard, you will receive an email from us in able for you to make a change. At this time, this service standard does not include calculating your future performance score. It is always very important to help the customer as soon as you can. Ideally also satisfactory, providing that you:
- Respond to customer questions within 24 hours
- You can always be reached by telephone on working days between 9:00 and 17:00
Do you receive a lot of customer questions? Then look at which questions could have been prevented by providing sufficient information, and how you can prevent such questions in your information provision to subsequent customers.
7. A response time of 90% of customer questions handled within 24 hours
Responding quickly to customer questions has a positive effect on customer satisfaction. For this reason, Bol.com measures your response time. The platform expects every partner to handle 90% of customer questions within 24 hours. If you have not given an initial response within 24 hours in one week out of ten or more new customer questions, you will be sent an email about this, so that you can improve your response time. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that you receive a customer question twice. For example, because the customer service of bol.com forwards a follow-up question to you. Bol.com expects you to provide an answer to all duplicate customer questions, so that the response time to all these customer questions is well measured.
8. NPS after customer contact of 10 or higher
The NPS (Net Promotor Score) after customer contact is a recommendation score that indicates how satisfied customers are with the service, in response to their customer question answered by you. When you close a customer question, the 'NPS after customer contact survey' can be sent to the customer 24 hours later. Amongst other elements, customers answer a recommendation question and they do this by giving a grade on a scale of 0 to 10. The higher this figure, the more satisfied and loyal customers are in general. The NPS is then calculated by deducting the percentage of 'detractors' (customers who give a 0 to 6) from the percentage of 'promoters' (customers who give a 9 or 10). This results in an NPS score between -100 and +100. For a good performance on the service standard 'NPS after customer contact', Bol.com uses an NPS after customer contact of 10 as the lowest limit. At this time, this service standard does not count in calculating your overall performance score.
9. Returns and how to handle these
Even when you have a solid webshop and great products, returns are essentially inevitable. There will always be some customers who won’t be satisfied, so it’s important to provide clear and concise information about the products you offer in order to prevent as many returns as you can. Everyone benefits from preventing returns; it is good for customer satisfaction and it saves you time and money. Insights into the amount of returns and the expected return percentage can help you keep a grip on your returns. Bol.com calls your personal 'dynamic standard' the expected return percentage based on your sales. If you exceed this standard, Bol.com will inform you about this by e-mail, so that you can adjust to it. Do you get a lot of returns? Then use the return reasons in the sales account to find out how to prevent returns in the future.
How are all these service standards calculated?
Every week the Bol.com platform checks whether you have met the three most important standards: 'Delivered on time', 'Cancellations' and 'Response time'. This is due to the fact that these service standards are most important for customer satisfaction. You get a strike for the 'Delivered on time' service standard when the weekly score is less than 93% for 3 or more late items. There is an absolute lower limit in numbers; if you do not meet the service standard for only 1 or 2 late items per week, then this will not be counted towards your overall score.
To ensure you have as much insight as possible into your own performance, your scores are updated daily in your Bol.com sales account. This way you always have an up-to-date overview of your seller performance, so that you always know where there is still profit to be made. However, these scores are not immediately definitive because they won't be until after a week and a half, on Wednesdays. This is because scores such as 'Delivered on time' are not immediately known.
Choosing a carrier for transportation
Bol.com spends a lot of effort in customer satisfaction and thus, the carrier you choose will greatly impact your performance as a partner. It is known that the delivery process has a lot of influence on customer satisfaction. You are of course free to decide for yourself, which carrier you have your orders shipped through. However, Bol.com cannot track parcels sent through a party other than the delivery services affiliated with bol.com – PostNL, DPD, DHL or Bpost – and also letter mail. In the interest of the customer, Bol.com thinks it is important to have insight into the 'Delivered on time' score. That is why the delivery confirmation has been introduced. This method has been extensively investigated and proved representative. At the article level, differences sometimes arise, but these deviations are as often positive as negative. As long as all the results are counted, a realistic picture of reality is created and therefore no corrections are made.
Intercompany Solutions can assist you with setting up a Dutch webshop
Becoming a Bol.com partner is a safe way to make money overseas, due to the small amount of risk you take. As you can see, however, becoming a Bol.com partner does require research and hard work. You will have to meet the service standards continuously, in order for customers to find you and come back to your webshop. We also strongly advise to research the types of products you want to sell. Knowing what you sell makes it easier to actually sell items, as you can provide customers with plenty of information about the products. Make sure you invest time in customer relations and always keep your webshop up-to-date, and you should be able to successfully make money via Bol.com this way. If you have any questions regarding setting up a Dutch webshop, whether it’s via Bol.com or directly, please feel free to contact our team anytime for more extensive information about the subject.