Savicki: How failure in the UK paved way for success abroad
Written by: Olga Pijanowska
Savicki is a Polish luxury jewellery brand selling across nine international markets with a string of successful international launches in countries including the Czech Republic under its belt.
In an interview with CEO Tomasz Osman as part of our Succeed Abroad series, he tells us that it was the almost “total” failure of its UK launch that paved the way for success in other markets.
"I'm most proud of the fact that we drew significant lessons from our initial failure in the English market. We didn't give up and instead, we opened up the Czech market.” - Tomasz Osman.
Learnings from the UK
While Brexit definitely didn’t help, Tomasz says two key things surprised the team about UK shoppers which meant that, ultimately, its online store's preparation didn't align with how the Western market makes purchases.
For example, Savicki has permanent collections where most products are displayed in a list format, as customers in its home market of Poland are used to. The first “clash” they experienced was that they did not have the product configurations and customisation that customers expected in a shopping experience in the UK.
The second clash was that they didn't directly realise how significant the cost differences were between entering the Western market and the Polish market. For instance, cost per click (CPC) on Google Ads was 2 PLN for one click in Poland, but in the British market, it was 20 PLN.
Finally, Brexit then further limited the company because suddenly they couldn't ship goods within four hours and had to deal with new customs procedures.
Ultimately, they decided to cut their losses and abandon the market although the online store is still available there.
“We had to accept that it didn't work out,” he says. “But our ambition was still there.”
In 2020 Savicki accelerated its expansion into the Czech Republic, making the decision to focus on a more “natural” direction with a market that has more similar cultural experiences to Poland.
“We approached it differently because, after all the failures in England, we were already aware of them. It's not like we entered the English market blindly; we knew how the English market functioned, we had a rough idea of the advertising costs, but we were perhaps too confident about our brand.”
“I didn't know that cultural differences would be so significant.”
A blueprint for expansion
In the CR they faced different challenges such as language barriers, so they hired a local team in the Czech Republic. They didn't have any reputation or recognition there and without offline presence they only had online sales, with no reviews or information about the brand on the internet.
However, they started investing in advertising and gradually built their reputation through reviews. The Czech Republic showed the team that they could start building sales organically and it was developing well in terms of profitability.
They spent a year in the Czech Republic, observed the positive growth, and then implemented in Slovakia. Both markets are now served by the same Czech-Slovak team, and Tomasz says the team’s more cautious, organic approach is paying off.
After focusing mainly on those markets in 2020-2021, the team expanded further in 2022, opening Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. This year, the team has opened Greece and Croatia. Tomasz says Romania is showing great potential and after a year, it's already exceeding the Czech market's turnover, which is at a good level.
“International sales now account for over 33% of our total turnover, which is promising. The mistakes we made in the beginning were necessary for us to accelerate today,” he says.
Next up? Savicki plans to translate its webshop into Spanish to target a broader global audience and unlock growth in new markets across the world. He says today the team takes nothing for granted when it comes to figuring out the best way to reach customers.
“Sometimes the channels can surprise us, and we have to explore new ways of reaching our customers. In every market, besides the common channels, we need to look for local channels to reach customers.”
Interestingly and unlike so many other e-commerce brands, for the luxury and often once-in-a-lifetime items that Savicki sells, fast shipping is not something that customers prioritise but it’s still something the team is optimising.
“With lower basket value products, like fashion items, there are enormous expectations for fast delivery,” he says. “Customers expect their orders to arrive the next day. However, in the luxury segment like ours, where products are made to individual orders, we have a 14-day delivery window, so shipping is not an issue for us.”
The company is currently building a sizable product warehouse in Poland and most products, even those that require individual production, are already in stock.
“Even our foreign markets benefit from our warehouses in Poland, and we deliver most products within 48 hours. We always prioritise customer comfort and logistics, and we practically handle the shipping for every foreign market using air freight.”
How to learn from failure
However much brands prepare for entry into a new market it is always something of a leap of faith and there is often more to learn from what goes wrong than what goes right.
In Savicki’s case, failure in the UK galvanised the team into being even more ambitious yet balancing this with a more cautious approach. By challenging their assumptions about what it takes to grow a new brand in a new market they were able to build a successful blueprint that the team is now implementing to unlock market after market and accelerate international growth.
Thank you, Tomasz for being so open about Savicki’s path to international expansion and for sharing your learnings with our community.
This is the latest story in our series where 50+ top e-commerce professionals share their learnings on market expansion tactics, localisation and technology across markets with our learning community. Check out the full collection for more tips.