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8 tips for cross-border success in Europe

In Europe, cross-border ecommerce is happening more and more, as customers today have better access to the internet and are more comfortable with shopping at foreign sites, while online retailers are looking for ways to expand their businesses. We give you 8 tips for cross-border success in Europe.

As an online business, cross-border ecommerce in Europe is something you really should consider. The European ecommerce industry is already valued at 165 billion euros and it’s expected to keep growing at 18% per year¹. And 40% of EU shoppers are already active online and this number is expected to pass 50% next year. Eastern Europe and Southern Europe still have a lot of growth potential in terms of internet penetration, online shoppers and average spend per online consumer.

According to research from Nielsen the top reason for buying online from overseas is “to save money” (80% of respondents), followed by “more variety that cannot be found locally” (79%). In the United Kingdom there are almost 16 million online cross-border shoppers who spent 10.7 billion euros in 2013, a number that’s expected to climb to 23 billion euros by 2018. In Germany there were 14.1 million online cross-border shoppers (46% of whom shop in the UK) who spent 7.6 billion euros in 2013, with up to 15.8 billion cross-border shoppers expected to spend up to 11 billion euros by 2018. So you not only want to sell online, but also sell cross-border in Europe.

Microsoft talked to five ecommerce experts and came up with 8 tips for cross-border success:

1. Offer local payment options
Of course, this tip should not be absent. As preferred payment options differ from country to country, you should always accept a range of payment methods. “Even within a region, such as Scandinavia, while Finns are reluctant to part with their credit card details online, (preferring direct bank transfers), Danes are active users of plastic.”

Payment methods in Scandinavia

Also, check out: “The most common payment methods in Europe” and “Popular payment methods in Europe”.

2. Look like a local
As you become an outsider whenever you sell online to consumers from abroad, you need to gain their trust. This can be done by using local domains, listing your business address on the website (which, in many countries, is even legally obliged), accepting and giving prices in the local currency, using local credit card symbols and other payment methods and by considering local delivery logistics and costs.

3. Employ native speakers
As you can see in our article “The ecommerce needs of European customers” there’s a high percentage of people who can communicate in English in countries like the UK (duh!), Ireland (duh!), the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. But still, many consumers prefer to buy in their mother tongue. Therefore you should consider hiring native speakers who can help you out with translating content, but also with telling you what the audience’s expectations are. For example: in Russia a call-to-action such as “buy now” can be seen as offensive, too pushy.

4. Look for local partners
As a logical follow-up of the previous tip, you should look for local partners. They already possess the expertise you’ll need cross-border, whether it be in the field of logistics, marketing or customer service.

5. Think mobile
The value of mcommerce is already growing, but is also set to increase both in the upcoming years. Almost eight out of ten cross-border shoppers wants to make more mobile purchases in the future. Therefore it’s a no-brainer to make your website mobile-ready. Make the website and customer journey mobile-optimized, so you won’t miss out on the conversion.

6. Know the laws
Each country has its own rules and regulations to abide by, such as return laws, VAT requirements and advertising restrictions. The differences in domestic regulations across Europe deepen the complexity. “France, for example, requires detailed packaging information at the individual product level; while in Germany retailers only need to report how much packaging is used annually.”

7. Target the right countries
Of course, look at most ecommerce industries in Europe and you’ll see clothing and consumer electronics to be very popular. But still, different categories are more popular in different markets. For example in Spain, while travel and tickets are big drivers of online sales, apparel purchases are very low; in the UK however, clothes, shoes and accessories are the main items bought in cross-border ecommerce.

So, know with what kind of ecommerce country you will be dealing. This also applies in terms of your website’s design. In France, local consumers are accustomed to websites that are designed with a “more is more” policy, while in Scandinavia you will probably see more websites that offer a much more minimalist experience.

8. Look for the similarities
Clearly, you must do your research before entering a new market. You need to know who your target audience is, how they behave, what their needs are… But do not only look at what differs them from the customers in your home country, also look at what commonalities they have with their foreign peers. “Do not let a country’s border defined an audience”, says Chambaz. “Many communities transcend geographical borders. So you should target an audience wherever they are, not necessarily by country.”

8 tips for cross-border ecommerce success

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