“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.

In recent years, new socio-demographic groups have begun to shop online. The largest increase has occurred among the elderly. One reason is that digitally mature groups are aging, another is that those who already are 65+ are fast getting used to shopping online.

Between 2015 and 2019, the percentage of older Europeans who have shopped online has increased sharply

(Click for larger image)

Older people also benefit from the increase in ways to access the Internet compared with previously – those who have difficulty using a computer can use a mobile phone or tablet instead. And it will be even easier in the near future. Voice recognition tools such as Alexa and Google Home have already been shown to be capable to of helping elderly people in everyday life, since they require less technical know-how. Voice recognition is expected to be particularly valuable for older people with physical disabilities.

Olof Källgren, Market Information Manager, Direct Link

Image and information above taken from the latest ”E-commerce in Europe” report.

When it comes to delivery times for online orders, two things in particular seem to affect how quickly consumers in a country can expect to receive their goods: population density and the maturity of the e-commerce market.

diagram, Delivery expectations in European countries

Delivery expectations in European countries (click for larger image)

Residents of densely populated Belgium and the Netherlands have become accustomed to quick deliveries. The most impatient consumers can be found in the Netherlands, where more than one in three consumers expects to receive the purchased product within two days.

Delivery speed and being able to choose delivery method and pickup location are now hygiene factors in all markets. However, it’s interesting to note that consumers in rapidly growing e-commerce markets, such as Italy and Spain, say that fast and flexible deliveries are very important, while consumers in more mature markets such as Germany, the Nordic region, and the UK, do not rank this as high. This is probably because online consumers in mature markets quite simply already take delivery speed and flexibility for granted.

The different European markets are still underway in finding the balance between consumer expectations and companies’ ability to deliver. In this balance-finding process, it is still possible to exceed customers’ expectations regarding deliveries, and e-tailers would be well-advised to consider this.

Olof Källgren, Market Information Manager, Direct Link

Image above taken from the latest ”E-commerce in Europe” report.

Nowadays, using mobile devices for shopping is a given. However, just going back a few years, it’s astonishing how fast this development has taken place. In the space of five years, from 2014 to 2019, the percentage of European consumers who used a phone or tablet to shop online has almost tripled. On average, almost two of three Europeans have shopped using a mobile device during the past year.

diagram, Percentage who shopped online with a mobile device

Click for larger image

A mobile-friendly and responsive website has thus become a fundamental hygiene factor for online stores, and consumer demands are constantly increasing. Today, consumers also expect that websites load quickly, are easy to search, and that they can make relevant personal recommendations. Consumers also want to be able to pay without having to fill in a bunch of personal information or register an account.

Since consumers so easily can go to a different online store that sells the same product, any minor friction in the purchase journey may well mean a customer lost. This is why it is imperative for e-tailers to keep abreast of the constant development in technology trends.

Olof Källgren, Market Information Manager, Direct Link

Image above taken from the latest ”E-commerce in Europe” report.

The very first PostNord/Direct Link report “E-commerce in Europe” was published in 2014. Since then, the entire concept of online shopping has developed at a remarkable speed. Here are the remaining four of eight trends that have emerged during this period (see the previous post for the first four trends).

Higher demands for freedom of choice

Consumers’ demands for freedom of choice regarding delivery has steadily increased, and e-retailers have listened. In-store pick-up is becoming increasingly popular in chain stores. Partner outlets have made strong progress in countries that have otherwise preferred home delivery. In the Nordic region, where partner outlets are standard for pick-up, home delivery has instead increased.

Mobile online shopping is growing

In a historical perspective, the use of smartphones has shown incredible growth. In 2014, 28 percent of online consumers had shopped using their phone, while this year the figure was an impressive 63 percent. One reason smartphone usage has increased is that the digital infrastructure continues to grow, providing more people with convenient Internet access. Another reason is that the phone is always available, making online shopping possible anytime and anywhere.

Internet changes the purchase journey

The Internet continues to develop at a record speed, which has had great impact on how e-tailers reach consumers and how the purchase experience is designed. Some of the recent developments are influencers whom e-tailers can use to market themselves, and consumers being able to make purchases directly inside of social media platforms. 

Free is no longer sustainable

A growing number of e-commerce companies appear to be considering whether free shipping and returns really are sustainable, from both an environmental and financial perspective. For example, some fashion retailers, who previously promoted free shipping as one of their major selling points, have begun to charge for orders under a certain amount.

Interested in the latest report from 2019? The “E-commerce in Europe” report can be ordered free of charge.

Olof Källgren, Market Information Manager, Direct Link