CoolStuff built its brand abroad

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The Swedish e-commerce company CoolStuff has its sights on its sixth international market. Getting there has been challenging, especially the process of joining the brand which has been one of the biggest.

Kajsa Knapp and her husband Christian Omander studied economics in Halmstad in 2004. E-commerce was in its infancy and they felt it was an exciting area. They started CoolStuff.com, a website that sells cool gadgets.

“We are looking for products that have a wow factor, products we can be the first to sell,” Kajsa Knapp reports.

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Expansion to several different countries

It has gone upwards since its inception with an estimated turnover of SEK 160 million next year. Sweden has been joined by Norway, Denmark, Germany and Finland. This autumn, the company has taken the big leap in launching a website in English. Many other e-merchants choose to quickly invest in English, which opens up the entire world, but Kajsa and Christian have had a plan from the start.

“We started with Denmark because it is so close to us here in the Öresund Region. Then we have taken the other Nordic countries, simply because it is easier to open up in countries whose cultural ways are more like Sweden’s. Now, when we open up to the United States and Britain, we are entering the world’s most competitive e-commerce market.

Another reason why these markets have been chosen is because CoolStuff wants to be able to gather all the staff in one place. At the office in Malmö there are Danes who take care of the Danish site, and Norwegians who handle coolstuff.no. International expansion is not only about translating texts. Customer service, deliveries and regulations differ from one country to another.

“We sell the same goods, but it is important that each country is treated almost as a separate company. That’s also why we have been waiting until now to become global.”

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The brand is an important part

When expanding abroad with a company, many issues related to brand and trademark protection are encountered. Bringing a name like CoolStuff to other countries requires knowledge of intellectual property rights. It is important to think about its intellectual property rights strategy and to get support from the parties on the market.

The Patent and Registration Office have a great deal of expertise in trademark registration and more. At PRV you can search the Swedish trademark application and see if the brand is unique. There are also law firms and agents dealing with these issues.

“We have had lawyers who for years have tried to help us with these questions and sometimes it has been extremely difficult. It’s important to protect your brand, partly because nobody can copy it and partly because it makes it easier to apply for new domains abroad.”

Kajsa says that the brand itself has not been so important when launching CoolStuff in new countries, but with the global commitment, she believes that the brand can be significant in itself.

Now we hit the big drum and hope it will be written in English-language blogs and newspaper sites. Then the brand will become even more important.

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Challenges with the brand

CoolStuff’s challenges with the brand have consisted primarily of two parts. The first is to protect the name, a process has been different in each individual market.

“We tried to protect the brand in Europe for a number of years, and initially had to be pleased with just protecting the logo. Now, however, we have finally managed to protect the brand in the EU. When we bought the coolstuff.com domain, trademark protection was included in the United States. Now we are protecting the name in China – each market has its own variants for the right protection.

The second challenge has been to buy the domains for each market. It would turn out that very few national “CoolStuff” domains were available.

“We have spent several years buying domains from others, which has at times been expensive, and sometimes not so much. Some of these should clearly have been bought earlier, but I still think it’s pretty healthy that we thought in a small scale in the beginning. However, an important advice is to check out the conditions for the national domains, depending on what name you have. If they are not available, it may be an expensive deal to buy them redeeming.

Last year, CoolStuff shipped out over 300,000 packages to the customers in their markets. With the international website coming online this autumn, that figure has the potential to grow exponentially. And, Kajsa concludes, there is yet another advantage with an international website.

Via coolstuff.com, we will be able to see where most international customers come from – whether it’s Belgian, Dutch or Italian – and it gives an indiciation of what the next national market will be.

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