Sometimes it is thought that cross-border e-commerce is an easy subject. Just look at the success of global market places like Amazon and eBay, or the international expansion of European players like Asos or Zalando. In any case, much research, adaptation, flexibility and understanding are needed to make the new market a success.
Because of cultural differences, it is not possible for online retailers to take existing sales models and to work abroad as well. This is the first and most important lesson that Rick Kirk, sales director at B2C Europe, wants to teach online retailers. For this reason he wrote to us about e-commerce players in Europe, describing what he should know as he widened in Europe.
1. Localize your shopping experience
Translating the website content language and viewing product prices in local currency is the first thing you need to do while expanding internationally. The client provides a localized experience, ensuring that they can rely on your business. For example, FreestyleXtreme, a company that sells online sports products, translated its website into 13 languages and nearly doubled its revenue in nine months after offering nine different currencies. And for this reason Dutch multi-channel company Coolblue is almost ready to enter new markets in Europe. CEO “Pieter Zwart” says this “the last obstacle is multilingualism” this summer.
2. Understand payment preferences
There are many different payment methods when making online payments. For example, in Italy, the CartaSi credit card has a 40% market share and over 7 million users, making it the most popular payment method. By 2015, 56% of online purchases in the Netherlands were made via iDeal. Meanwhile, in Germany, where card penetration is about 20%, consumers pay their orders with an open bill.
Supporting these different payment methods is life for international expansion. If you do not offer the payment methods they prefer to consumers, they may not buy from you at all.
3. Target relevant market places
In the case of online marketplaces, it can be hard to believe that UK-based businesses have gone beyond eBay and Amazon. While these sites are well known, there are other European markets that increase their popularity. If you plan to expand internationally, it is worth the time to explore these sites to see if your products will fit or not.
France: The top 5 most visited markets are Amazon, Cdiscount, fnac, eBay and PriceMinister.
Germany: Consumers make their first online search on Amazon and eBay and are likely to go to alternative markets such as Zalando and Otto.
Italy: Zalando is the largest e-commerce site for Italians. Other popular markets include Amazon, Euronics, IBS and BonPrix.
Netherlands: domestic sites Bol.com and Wehkamp.nl are more popular among the Dutch consumers than Amazon and eBay.
Spain: Amazon and eBay are the most popular sites, but Privalia, Rakuten, Zalando and Spartoo are increasingly popular.
4. Respond to different delivery requirements
Last year, B2C Europe’s research found great differences in consumers’ preferences for country delivery to the country. In the UK, the average consumer is ready to pay for follow-up and tracking and for the next day delivery of the store. On the other hand, the French prefer to take their orders from a local shop in their spare time. These different distribution preferences are also shown in Metapack’s research in 2015.
Research has shown that delivery preferences and costs are sometimes enough to stop the consumer from making purchases. Dutch consumers, for example, have a price consciousness, especially in terms of distribution costs, and if the cost is too high, they give up the order.
Keep your return policies simple
Return can be a headache for online retailers and consumers alike, but international refunds can literally be a migraine. Which is the cheapest and fastest method? What are customs rules? Do I need to provide a free return service?
What’s more, Amazon’s international sales regulations require merchants to now give their customers a local return address. This rule has been initiated to make the return process more convenient and cheaper for customers – you need to find a way to deliver this service.
6. Learn about import regulations
Customs duties and import duties may come to the fore when selling abroad. In order not to dissuade customers, it is necessary to consider these costs as part of the price of the product and to include the prize. In addition to wages, there are regulations for cross-border products sold. For example, there are restrictions on the sale of perfume and other flammable products to the UK. Now that Britain seems to be leaving the EU, be sure to follow customs regulations and fees closely. Different celebrationsBabar Day, Anniversary Day and other celebrations are obvious opportunities for online retailers, but many holidays happen on different dates around the world. Even for Christmas, December 6 is the most popular day for gift shopping in Sinterklaas (St Nicholas Day) in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Northern France, while many see December 24 as the most important date. On December 7th is the busiest shopping day in Europe. Online retailers should know the differences in the dates, so that they can give products and opportunities to customers in certain countries at the right time. Read our 8 tips for cross-border success in Europe.