Borrowing a business idea or model, tweaking it, and applying it to a different context is a well-practiced strategy and one that has new life now in the age of tech companies and internet businesses. Sound business models are certainly not the only element that is needed for success in business, but it is indeed essential and usually one of the first things that need to be in place. They are frameworks that translate the idea for product or service creation into a feasible, revenue-generating enterprise. Some are better than others and the best ones are those that are the tightest in terms of input, overhead, and ROI, in very simple terms. Often, borrowing a proven and successful business plan but adapting it to a new context or market is the route that is taken. Spartoo, the French e-commerce site, has done that with Zappos and they are worth taking a close look at as their case offers lessons for other businesses borrowing to help out their cause, especially when trying their hand in new markets.

Spartoo is a site that has had success across the board from their “borrowed” business model, their own tweaks, online marketing efforts, and international expansion. Spartoo.com launched in 2006 and now stands as # 119 in Internet Retailer’s Top 400 Europe selling over 1.5 million pairs of shoes in 20 different EU countries.

Spartoo followed the customer-service lead of Zappos prioritizing service and providing free delivery and return, minimizing the inherent worries associated with the online purchasing of items you cannot try on. The deviation, however, came when the company decided to tweak the business model and instead focus on lower, competitive pricing, whereas Zappos offers great service so they did not have to go so low on price. The point is the model was borrowed and changed into a different all-round offering for a new market. With a successful plan in place, marketers then pick it up from there ensuring promotional efforts online and otherwise provide the visibility needed. SEO, high search engine rankings and social media engagement is key here.

(Gloca)Localization a Priority
Selection, service, price, and free returns anchor Spartoo’s business and success (€100 million in 2011 revenue), but a large part can also be credited to their international efforts. Spartoo has 12 local-language sites and has catered their content to each which has brought them great returns. According to Internet Retailer piece by Tamara Thiesse, the company’s international growth is roughly 200% over the last several years – that is considerable. Further, the company is raising money to the tune of €100 million for its plans to cater their marketing efforts to each specific country they operate in. As quoted by Tamara Thiesse, Boris Saragaglia, head of Spartoo, states:

We recruit new brands and develop the business with the people from each of the countries in which we operate. This helps us get the right staff and, most importantly, to have a strong understanding of the country in terms of products we offer delivery choices and retail culture.”

This is pretty heavy evidence of the importance of catering both operations and marketing efforts to the local culture of your target audience – and underlying theme of my international posts.