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Cross-category Trends

1. Unlocking Consumer Choice

Dutch consumer confidence has hovered near all-time highs in 2018, and citizens enjoy some of the healthiest average incomes in Europe. However, the Netherlands has yet to see commensurate growth in retail spending. Recent recessions have underscored that the world is unpredictable, and that saving is prudent. What’s more, even wealthy Dutch people often approach consumption with an eye toward prudence over flash.  Brands can respond by hastening the development of a new type of consumerism – based on value for money, strong ethics, and appreciation of craft and process. Dutch consumers are conscientious and sophisticated: although they don’t want do waste their money on disposable thrills, they are willing to pay a premium in support of brands that speak to a purpose beyond making money. They are open to building relationships with brands that share their perspectives on labor rights, animal welfare, and environmental protection, among other cornerstones of purpose.

2. Changing Ownership

It’s a truism that Dutch consumers are increasingly opting to spend their money on experiences rather than material goods. And while that’s certainly a trend – and one that has benefitted Dutch brands like Booking.com – what’s equally interesting are the ways that people are redefining ownership of the products they do decide to buy. For example, a subscription plan with the popular Dutch bike brand Swapfiets doesn’t simply give one possession of a single bike in a preferred color – it also allows users to swipe that bike out for another one whenever they experience a flat tire or maintenance issue. In addition, as cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam commit to developing circular economies, more Dutch will turn to brands for help in sharing, reselling, and recycling their existing possessions to given them a second life.

3. Ecommerce thrives, while retail pivots to experience

Ecommerce continues to grow, with Dutch shoppers spending €22.5 billion online in 2017. Meanwhile, physical stores are redesigning to reduce many of the pain points traditionally associated with retail. Thanks to “tap to go” technology and mobile payment platforms from brands like ING and ABN AMRO, shoppers can now skip checkout-counters altogether at some Dutch stores. With the extra space gained from greater automation, retailers from bank branches to supermarkets are introducing features like cafés, to-go counters, consultation centers, and product demonstration stages to transform stores into sites of human connection and exploration.

4. New Youth, New Rules

Generation Z consumers in the Netherlands have a very different view toward advertising and brand content than their elders. According to Kantar Millward Brown AdReaction Connecting Generations, some 70 percent of Dutch Gen Z Consumers surveyed say they “skip ads whenever they can” – a number far higher than their generational predecessors.  These youngest consumers also use a variety of other strategies to avoid ads, from installing ad blockers to paying for ad-free versions to physically avoiding advertisements. Those advertisements that Gen Z Dutch consumers do enjoy tend to feature humor or expressions of creativity. Additionally, they show a higher affinity for branded content, especially in video form.

5. Mastering the Premium-Accessible Mix

There’s increasingly no room for middling products or services in Dutch consumers’ lives; instead, brands that manage to outperform expectations both in the premium and budget spaces are being showered with love and loyalty. On the upscale side of the cost curve, a brand like Albert Heijn has remained popular while selling higher-priced groceries than its competitors – because it has established a credible track record of introducing the best gourmet food to the Netherlands; because it has invested in healthy, purposeful wellness initiatives like vegan takeaway counters; and because it has built an aspirational branded content ecosystem of recipes and lifestyle advice. At the same time, however, budget offerings from brands Jumbo, HEMA, and Telfort have won loyalty by over-delivering on price, product, experience and design. Consumers expect thoughtfulness, personality, and excellence at high and low price points.  

6. Online thrives, but so does traditional media

The Netherlands is indisputably a plugged-in society, with 95.1 percent of the Dutch population age 13+ online. (Compare this, for instance, to the 81 percent of the Germany population age 10+ who are online). The average Dutch person spends 2.94 hours daily online on their PC or laptop, plus 1.81 hours browsing on mobile. At the same time, traditional media is still highly relevant: the average Dutch person spends 2.22 hours daily watching TV, and 1.81 hours listening to the radio. Add in time spent reading print news, and there’s a nearly equal online / offline media split in the Netherlands. Social media and messaging is also popular, with approximately 70 percent of Dutch people using Facebook and Whatsapp across all platforms.