Amazon is the biggest online retailer in Europe, and today it took the next step in making that effort more localized. The company has launched a dedicated portal for Sweden at Amazon.se -- giving Swedish shoppers, third-party merchants and itself a local URL -- and a local logistics system, and a local marketing push -- for buying and selling goods and services online.
Sweden, as Europe's 10th biggest economy by GDP, is a key market for Amazon and its growth strategy.
But the news comes at a time when large tech companies, and Amazon in particular, continue to be scrutinized in Europe over issues of competition and tax payments -- or more specifically, the lack of tax payments. On the former, the European Commission earlier this year opened an investigation into antitrust practices of the company. And on the latter point, Amazon is currently contesting a €250 million tax bill from the EU that goes back several years to when the company was much smaller, but potentially has wider implications for how Amazon is taxed today.
Amazon said that the local storefront will launch with 150 million+ products in 30 categories -- examples of the popular Swedish brands that it will feature include Electrolux, Lagerhaus, OBH Nordica, Ellos, BRIO, Bonnierförlagen and Ifö -- and it will provide free delivery on eligible orders above SEK229 ($26) that are fulfilled by Amazon.
Merchants come from Sweden itself but -- as with other Amazon marketplaces -- from outside of it, too. One estimate puts the number of actual Swedish retailers on the .se site at only around 100. That's also resulted in some problematic translations of the product descriptions.
It becomes Amazon's 17th local portal, alongside Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States.
Amazon had already been doing a lot of retail business in Sweden.
It has long had a system in Europe where shoppers from individual countries where it didn't offer direct operations were redirected to those closest to them. Amazon URLs localized to Denmark, Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Poland, for example, all default to Amazon's German site (Amazon.de) but see the text and some specialized content presented in each respective language. (And this is also where Amazon.se pointed until today.)
But this latest move is about doubling down on the potential of the country, both as a place to tap merchants and shoppers, and compete potentially more aggressively against homegrown merchants like Ikea and H&M.
“We are thrilled to launch Amazon.se and to be able to offer Swedish customers a selection of more than 150 million products, including tens of thousands of products from local Swedish businesses,” said Alex Ootes, vice president, European Expansion for Amazon, in a statement “Today is only the start of Amazon.se. We will continue to work hard to earn the trust of Swedish customers by growing our product range, ensuring low prices, and providing a convenient and trusted shopping experience.”
Considering that Sweden is Europe's 10th-biggest economy in terms of GDP, it's perhaps a surprise that it took so long. Amazon, however, has been known for taking a slow approach to global rollouts of certain products (the Kindle, for example, took years to break out of its home market of the U.S.).
All that is not to say that Amazon hasn't been operating other direct businesses in the country. It has an extensive set up in Sweden for its AWS cloud business, and just earlier this month it turned on its first European wind farm to produce clean energy, which was built in Sweden to power its Swedish AWS data centers.
For local merchants, it will give them another more direct online marketplace to sell goods to local customers who already know their brands, but have until now been getting most of their business through Amazon in other countries.
"The opportunities on Amazon are enormous. Amazon has grown to become our most important channel for exports, and within the first months of working with Amazon we were cash flow positive," said Pierre Magnusson, head of e-commerce at N!CK’S, a Swedish healthy snack business, in a statement. "N!CK'S continues to grow and has become one of the best-selling brands within our category, and we are still seeing 50% year-on-year growth in the EU Amazon stores alone.”
Elisabet Sandström, CEO of Miss Mary of Sweden AB, a manufacturer of high-quality lingerie, added: “Amazon is an important channel for our expansion in Europe and the U.S., and we now look forward to selling through the Swedish Store when Amazon opens in our home country. Our sales on Amazon have increased steadily by over 50% per year, and Amazon is our fastest growing channel. Germany is currently Miss Mary’s largest customer base, and when we entered Amazon.de we noticed an immediate sales increase. We now appreciate the opportunity to reach new Swedish customers and make them happy.”