The cross-border success of Mepal

From archetypal Dutch smart storage brand to international player

When Eastern Netherlands-based Mepal launched its new brand identity in 2018, while also developing a mature omnichannel strategy and spreading its wings internationally, sales figures skyrocketed. Mepal develops and produces smart, sustainable products for kitchenware and carrying food and drink on-the-go. Gradually, the company is making inroads across Europe. The support of a reliable, sustainable logistics partner has proven essential to its progress.

The objective is that people buy it simply because it's from Mepal.
Rob de Bruijn - E-commerce Manager at Mepal

Almost every Dutch person has something from Mepal in their home. And yet few of them recognize the brand name. It’s a striking contradiction which the company would like to correct, sooner rather than later. 'We want to turn our product fans into brand fans,' explains Rob de Bruijn, E-commerce Manager at Mepal. 'That's why we now emphasize more what a product gives to you, rather than what it can do. So from functional to emotional. The objective is that people buy it simply because it's from Mepal.'

Explosive growth across all channels
An annual sales increase of 30%, 7,000 m2 of extra space added for assembly and storage, and record sales overall: the giant leaps since 2018 are the result of a successful rebranding and a well thought-out long-term strategy. Among other things, this household brand decided to cater for customers through multiple and aligned sales channels. This omnichannel strategy – Mepal sells through major retail chains, specialized sales channels, e-commerce partners and its own digital channels – proved to be a winning move. De Bruijn: ‘Online we have experienced a tremendous growth surge.’

Ready for e-commerce in Europe
Until recently, Mepal’s webshop orders were almost exclusively from customers in the Netherlands. But why couldn't they also sell abroad? Recent research showed that online shopping in Europe has increased significantly in recent years. In fact, 96%* of the European consumers surveyed occasionally bought something online, with as many as 53%** shopping across borders. 

Mepal recognized this international growth opportunity – and seized it with both hands. The company now sells directly to consumers in several countries, using a meticulous cross-border strategy. Mepal researches consumers’ needs in the particular market, analyzes how they interact with the brand, and creates demand by investing in SEO, SEA and social. Only when sales are going well in that country do they take the final step and build a separate website in the native language.

Every country has its own preferences
Mepal is enjoying considerable success in selling cross-border, especially to its German neighbors. 'Germany is now our biggest market,' says De Bruijn. 'Our products are a perfect fit there. Germans value quality and are willing to pay for it. Through our marketing, we know how to reach consumers properly, and after the launch of a German-language webshop in 2018, things have been going fast: the number of shipments doubled every year. By 2021, 100,000 packages were shipped there, and there is still some room for upward movement.'

Mepal webshops are also active in Belgium and Austria. To sell as much as possible across borders, the company takes into account the nuances of each market. For each country, it highlights different products – Germans appear to be fond of collecting sets – and tweaks the ordering processes, for example by adapting address fields and integrating the most common payment methods. In Belgium, Bancontact is the most popular, among Dutch buyers iDEAL is preferred. And in the German check-out, PayPal, Sofort and Klarna are all essential options.

Staying relevant for 70 years
While Mepal has recently achieved record sales, success is not new. The company has been making and selling smart, smart products to carry and store food and drinks since 1950, and knows how to respond well to consumer needs driven by societal changes. When Dutch workers began to be allocated more holiday time, and discovered camping in the late 1950s, Mepal’s 'unbreakable' camping dinnerware started selling out. And in the 1980s, when more mothers started working, their plastic lunch boxes and resealable drinking cups for children lunching at school were in high demand. These days, health, wellness and lifestyle fitness influencers are keen to show off their Ellipse lunch pots, filled with healthy salads or veggie yogurt.

Partly thanks to DHL Parcel, we are able to achieve our European growth ambitions.
Rob de Bruijn - E-commerce Manager at Mepal

Flexible shipping through automation
All this recent growth also brings challenges: Mepal is reaching the limits of its capacity and is struggling in several business units to keep up with the pace. However, shipping continues to be faultless – even when late delivery for online orders is a common problem for other companies. 

‘Partly thanks to DHL Parcel, we are able to achieve our European growth ambitions,’ says De Bruijn. ’Expanding into another country is never a problem thanks to their large international scope. Almost all of our packages leave the distribution center in Lochem and travel across the continent, yet for us the destination makes little difference. The shipping labels remain the same and roll out of the printer automatically. It saves a lot of administrative hassle.'

Smart production, climate-neutral delivery
Mepal and DHL Parcel are also a good match in terms of their views on sustainability. Mepal makes most of its products from recyclable materials, which are assembled by employees in community workshops in the Netherlands. In addition, customers can backorder parts to extend the life of their products.

DHL Parcel is also working hard to become more sustainable. The main goal? Climate-neutral shipping. On its journey towards shipping with zero CO2 emissions, DHL has introduced green delivery options, electric transport and sustainable facilities. De Bruijn: 'It is a real advantage that DHL Parcel does its utmost to transport our parcels in as green a way as possible. We like to make people and the environment happy and are convinced that every little bit helps.’

European e-commerce made easy
Mepal and DHL Parcel have been working together for a long time. De Bruijn: 'We like to establish long-term relationships with our partners. The convenient My DHL app, APIs and plug-ins offer great convenience to both our customers and ourselves. And DHL Parcel's digital tools are easy to link to our systems, automating the shipping process from start to finish and keeping us in control of each shipment. Exactly what you want as a webshop. If ever there is an issue, we can very quickly consult our permanent account manager who always puts forward solutions. This personal and approachable contact is really fantastic. For us, it's a no-brainer to continue working with DHL Parcel.’

Like Mepal, your company can benefit from DHL Parcel. Learn more about our cross-border solutions here.