Netherlands - Country Commercial Guide
Selling Factors and Techniques

Identifies common practices to be aware of when selling in this market, e.g., whether all sales material need to be in the local language.

Last published date: 2020-10-10

Overview

Success in the Dutch market requires a long-term commitment to market development and sales support, especially if U.S. companies want to overcome their geographic handicap in relation to their European competitors. Dutch importers often assume that U.S. suppliers process U.S. domestic orders before handling export sales and that U.S. suppliers may bypass a local distributor to deal directly with customers.

EU law implemented by national legislation governs exclusivity in agency and supply agreements, purchasing contracts, and contract terms. U.S. manufacturers and exporters are generally able to appoint representatives to determine the methods used to promote and sell their products. Such exclusive territories usually cover the entire country.

Legislation regulates sales practices that could unfairly advantage suppliers at the expense of competitors or end users by requiring companies to disclose certain types of inter-company commercial arrangements and by giving regulatory authorities powers of investigation and enforcement. Some vertical agreements between manufacturers and their resellers are exempt from this legislation.

Trade Promotion and Advertising

Digital advertising continues to outpace all other forms of advertising in the Netherlands. According to a report by Deloitte, companies spent nearly $2.5 billion on digital advertising in the Netherlands in 2019. This represents 60 percent of the total advertising spent in the country, and a thirteen percent increase from 2018. Global players such as Google and Facebook dominate the digital market, with a 70 percent market share. Traditional forms of advertising such as television, radio, and magazines have decreased steadily over the past 10 years. U.S. companies interested in advertising in the Netherlands should work closely with a reputable marketing agency, especially for more traditional forms of media, as Dutch consumers expect high-quality advertising that has been adapted to the local market.

Top Five Dutch Media Companies

  • RTL: Leading commercial television and radio operator, owned by Luxembourg-based RTL Group. Information on advertising can be found on the RTL Netherlands website.
  • Talpa Network: Commercial television and radio operator based in the Netherlands. The company also owns the largest Dutch news agency, ANP. Talpa does not provide information on advertising in English.
  • DPG Media: Belgium-based owner of three of the top national newspapers in the Netherlands. The company also owns and operates leading Dutch radio stations, magazines, and news websites. Information on advertising can be found on the DPG Media Netherlands website.
  • Mediahuis: Belgium-based owner of leading Dutch newspapers, including De Telegraaf, which has the highest circulation. The company also owns several print and online outlets. Information on advertising can be found on the Mediahuis website.
  • NPO: Dutch public broadcasting system, which operates national and regional television and radio channels, as well web channels. STER, an independent foundation is responsible for advertising on NPO. Advertising information is not available in English.

Trade Show Facilities

Contact the U.S. Commercial Service in the Netherlands for guidance on trade promotion and advertising in the Netherlands.

Pricing

The Netherlands is an extremely competitive market with high receptivity to U.S. products and services. When pricing a product for sale in the Netherlands, U.S. exporters should be aware of additional costs that can reduce profit margins below those in the United States. The standard VAT rate in the Netherlands is 21 percent. Some goods qualify for a lower 9 percent rate, such as medicine, food, periodicals, and books. Imported goods are subject to import duties. The costs of transportation, freight forwarding, and customs brokerage charges will further diminish profit margins, as will commissions to agents and distributors. Commissions and retail profit margins are generally higher in the Netherlands than in the United States.

Product pricing depends on a myriad of variables including channels of distribution, product, season, consumer receptivity, and economic climate. The U.S. Commercial Service can offer U.S. exporters advice on product pricing upon request.

Sales Service/Customer Support

Dutch consumers expect well-designed, high-quality products, with efficient after-sales service. An effective servicing system should be incorporated into distribution plans.

U.S. exporters should commit to investing extra time and money to develop a relationship with their local representative by visiting sales personnel or company technicians to help solve initial problems. Having local representatives regularly submit sales reports can help with analyzing sales results and identifying potential problems.

Local Professional Services

Contact the U.S. Commercial Service in the Netherlands for guidance on local professional service providers.

Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services

The Netherlands does not limit the sale or ownership of products or services to citizens or any other sub-set of the population.