It is the user who decides on the success of your products.

Case Study 1stDibs

Localization for the European market

  • Market analysis
  • International UX testing
  • Online survey
  • Analysis of the order process
On a laptop you can see the home page of 1stDibs. In the upper area a current auction is advertised with the words Simply incredible and the picture of a designer lamp

1stDibs is an online marketplace for luxury items such as high-end furniture, home decor, art and jewelry. The platform collaborates with a worldwide network of over 4,000 dealers, who are thoroughly vetted to ensure the quality of the offer.

Purchases are processed directly through the platform and customers benefit from the 1stDibs customer service and buyer protection.

Europe – a key market

The 1stDibs online marketplace is available worldwide, but until recently only in English. A large part of the products offered come from American sellers. In addition to the USA, however, Europe is also an important sales market for exclusive luxury items. Therefore, 1stDibs had the goal of offering localized websites for some important European markets.

Localization goes beyond linguistic translation and includes cultural specifics, which were explored in this project:

  • Which translation strategy is the right one? Is machine translation accepted?
  • What expectations do customers have of an online marketplace?
  • What information do they need to feel confident about buying?
  • How is communication with foreign-language sellers handled?
  • What special features are relevant when shipping from abroad?
  • How should prices be communicated? What role do taxes and customs duties play?
  • Which payment methods are relevant?

Market analysis und testing

The project began with a qualitative market analysis. For the three markets Germany, France and the UK, we examined key competitors with regard to various questions. How is translation handled? How are products and sellers presented? How are prices and shipping conditions communicated? Based on examples and best practices, we were able to make initial recommendations.

1stDibs then developed prototypes of their localized websites for the German and French markets, which were evaluated in usability tests. This showed, for example, that the machine translation of product descriptions is useful, but can lead to problems in other places. In addition, the labeling of taxes and customs duties was not yet satisfactory.

The image shows the product detail page of a diamond necklace. Among other things, you can see a close-up of the necklace as well as the price, the buy button and information about the delivery.
Prototype of the German website.

Online survey

To deepen our knowledge of the basic preferences of local target groups, we conducted a quantitative online survey among 1stDibs users in both Germany and France.

Questions included:

  • What other online stores and marketplaces are used?
  • What has kept people from buying so far?
  • What can 1stDibs improve to motivate people to buy?
  • Do people tend to buy globally or locally? Why?
  • Which payment methods are preferred?
  • Which language is preferred for communication?

One important finding from the usability tests was confirmed: Import duties and taxes are a major pain point that often discourages purchases.

A chart shows the results for the question What has stopped you from buying from 1stDibs so far? The second most frequent answer with 53.8% was Customs and import fees
Results from the German online survey.

Real order

To conclude the project, we took the real-life perspective of the shoppers. To do this, we placed real orders with 1stDibs and analyzed the process from an expert's perspective - from product selection to delivery. Special focus was put on the problem of customs duties on international purchases.

We compared the order of a product from another EU country with a product from the USA. This allowed us to understand exactly which problems and uncertainties occur in the process and where 1stDibs can take countermeasures.

The entirety of the findings from this multi-stage project gave 1stDibs a comprehensive overview of the needs and problems of the local target groups. This knowledge was used in the further localization process to provide the best possible experience for each market.

DHL's website displays the delivery status of the order with a request to pay import duties and taxes in advance.
Import taxes had to be paid when ordering from the USA.

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