“Many e-retailers fail because they view Europe as one market.” These are the words of Henrik Hansen, partner at Makes You Local, a company that assists cross-border e-commerce companies in establishing themselves in new markets. He warns that some companies underestimate the challenge of multiple languages, currencies and cultures in the region.

Dictionaries of different European languages

That is why Henrik offers three important points of advice to e-retailers that want to sell in a European country:

Choose the right market

Almost everyone wants to sell their products in the largest e-commerce markets in Europe. Maybe that is not always realistic. Because of the extremely intense competition, it might be better to begin with a smaller country or region, like the Nordic or Benelux countries. While fewer people live there, the economies are healthy and purchasing power is high.

Adapt to the local market

Adapting to the local market is extremely important – preferably, consumers should not notice that they are making purchases from abroad. Having the entire website translated to the local language by a professional is highly recommended. Local customization also involves adjusting to how customers want to pay and have their goods delivered. Returns should be convenient, and customer service should feel local. Having these things in place gives consumers a sense of security and reliability.

Find the best ways to market and sell

There are several examples of companies spending large amounts of money on advertising on Facebook in Germany, and afterwards wondering why this did not have any effect. The simple fact is that Germans are not too keen on being reached through Facebook, while it can be a totally different story in another European market. Testing many different ideas and marketing channels over a short period of time on a small scale, analyzing the results, and then scaling up the best ones has been a proven and successful method for many e-retailers.

After having taken the above into account, Hansen believes that there is no reason to be afraid of taking that step across the border. It’s a matter of focusing on the right market for each company, and adapting to how that market works.