Three reasons why market in Iceland: there’s little foreign competition, most Icelanders speak English and customers value quality over price. Though a customer pool of around 336,00 people sounds small, it’s exactly why word about your products can spread fast. By digging in to cultural specifics and talking with locals about the Icelandic digital marketing scene we’ve written up the perfect SEO tips for Iceland.
Welcome to Wonder Island
With 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi) of area and approx. only 336,000 inhabitants, Iceland is Europe’s most sparsely populated country. It spreads across one major and other small islands, drawing the line between the Atlantic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea. The reason behind its sparse population is the extremely versatile and wild geographic landscape. Iceland has vast glacier areas, mountain ranges with volcanos and fjords surrounding its coasts.
The majority of the population is spread across the coast. The biggest concentration of people is in the country’s capital in the southwest Reykjavík with 123,000 people. If you plan to enter the Icelandic market, Reykjavík is definitely the place to find a business partner. Due to the versatile landscape, shipping to customers across Iceland might prove lengthier than usual. Think about whether you will team up with the local postal service or private carriers.
Apart from its insanely beautiful landscape which attracts more than 1,8 million tourists per year, Iceland is also the home of unique animal species. The Icelandic sheep and Icelandic horses, once the main sources of warm clothing and transportation, are respected national symbols and a popular tourist attraction.
In Which Language Do You Google?
Europe’s Nordic countries are famous for having the best English proficiency rates in the world and Iceland is no exception. The only official language is the local Icelandic language, but the majority of people speak English. In the service industry, the proficiency is around 98%. While talking with an Icelandic freelance designer and artist Auður Ösp, she explains just how popular English really is:
People usually search for something online in English. I would only google something in Icelandic if it’s a typical Icelandic thing, like the Icelandic sheep.
This is due to the lack of information in Icelandic on the web. There is an Icelandic Wikipedia version, but the amount of information on the English site is simply bigger. When I asked Auður if it’s enough to have an English website to target Icelanders she responded by saying:
No. If I am searching for goods or service available on Iceland, then I would not trust a website that is only in English.
There’s One Local Online Social Platform, Sort of
The most popular search engine is Google.is. Among social media, the standard bunch like Facebook, Youtube and Instagram apply, though Auður informed us that millennials prefer Snapchat. There are no local search engines, but Iceland has two websites where you can search for services, products and individuals. One is called Já.is and the other is Leit.is, which also serves as a broader news platform. Enter your business details in these two directories, so locals will find you faster.
Other popular websites include news platforms Visír.is and Mbl.is. The only site that would resemble a local social media platform is Bland.is. Auður Ösp told us the interesting history of the webpage:
The word “bland” means mixed things in Icelandic. But before it was called “Partnarland”. It was a page meant for new parents, where they would ask questions like: “Where do I find the cheapest baby carriage etc.”
Through the years the page evolved in to the country’s most popular second-hand online market.
Where Did All the Poles Go?
Through the years Iceland’s population has been steadily rising and the average age of the population is 36 years. But a population of 336,000 can hardly handle the massive influx of tourists the country experiences each year. Iceland’s population growth is also due to migrants in search of work.
10% of the population is now Polish. It’s funny how the dominant language among the lower working class has actually become Polish. You’ll hear it spoken among cleaning ladies and in hotel services.
Talking both with Þórður and Auður, I discovered that there’s a demand for workforce in almost any industry. If you have a need for a certain product to be made or service to be executed, make sure you order many weeks in advance.
It Looks Pretty, But Do You Dare to Enter?
Every sucessful local start-up that has managed to make it in Iceland, did so due to only one thing – they focused on outside markets.
Icelanders love to travel. And the most typical thing that they do abroad is that they buy clothes in larger quantities. The prices in Iceland are higher and shipping them to the country is also expensive due to tax and duty fees.
In the past year, Iceland’s market experienced two major changes – the incoming of Costco and H&M. Pople have gone crazy for the two stores as the retail giants can afford to keep prices lower than the local competition.
American Consumerism With an Environmental Twist
I think Icelanders are heavily infected with American consumer mentality. We speak really good English, we are quite materialistic and have excellent customer service.
Þórður wished to give an idea about customer habits in Iceland. While talking with both of our Icelandic sources an unexpected purchase decision factor surfaced on the horizon. Icelandic customers have always been very quality driven. But another important deciding factor while purchasing a product is also environmental friendliness. Auður explains:
Many people will rather buy something that is more expensive, if they know it lasts longer. Products that also have an enviromentally friendly background story appeal to people faster.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Iceland is known to be one of the world’s most green and eco-friendly countries. The winner of the 2016 Icelandic design award was the local clothing brand As We Grow. It offers children’s clothing made from materials, which “grow” with the child and thus can be used for years. Business entrepreneurs with a special focus on eco-friendly products and service have a good chance of making it in Iceland. Others should keep this fact in mind while creating their marketing strategy and product packaging.
How to Avoid Cultural and Marketing Faux-pas
Basic technical SEO and content marketing strategies apply in Iceland as do in other Western countries. But certain country characteristics like the size of the market and its geographical distance from Europe’s mainland will cause that a standard marketing strategy might backfire on you.
The infographic below includes Iceland’s important cultural facts that will help your marketing strategy to stay on the right track.
Need more information on how to create your digital marketing strategy for Iceland? We already have a plan prepared. Contact us and let’s get to work.
Featured image source: Pixabay.com