Why you should ‘go local’ with a European eCommerce strategy

(c)iStock.com/Richard Sharrocks

More and more online retailers and brands are applying cross-border strategies to develop their business and gain more visibility abroad, despite the British public vote in the referendum on Britain's membership of the EU on Thursday 23 June looming in the background.

Although a ‘Brexit’ could potentially harm UK retailers and shoppers, current figures suggest that by 2018, 83% of European cross-border shoppers will choose to buy online from another European country.

The competition is hot but so are the rewards. The benefits of internationalisation are obvious: an increase in visibility and a larger potential customer base.

One of the great advantages of eCommerce is the opportunity to reach new international customer bases without needing a physical presence in the country.

Risks

However, when exporting abroad, retailers face a range of risks, particularly if they fail to prepare beforehand. There are a variety of barriers, both physical and psychological, that consumers face when shopping online abroad. So how can retailers build the right strategy that taps into the right international markets?

Before creating a strategy or a plan, it is vital to select the right markets for international expansion. Rather than being spread too thin over a variety of regions, it is best for online retailers to optimise their resources and target a few select markets with the highest business growth potential.

Online retailers need to carefully manage these issues and adapt their offering to the needs of their international consumers. Important questions to consider includes:

  • Are there existing international customers? If so, where do they come from?

  • Is there a demand for the products in this new market?

  • Who are the local competitors?

  • How many and how strong are they?

  • Is the retailer already known in the market? If not, what communication and acquisition channels can be used to quickly gain customers and test the market?

Part of the solution to going international is going local. When shoppers browse these international websites, they expect the same services that they receive from local businesses. It is vital to appear as local as possible in order to truly connect.

A recent study by Common Sense Advisory showed that 60% of Europeans won’t shop from websites that are not in their native language. 

Yet effective localisation goes beyond simple translation - it involves adapting to the local audience. The key elements to effectively going local are:

  • Vocabulary: It’s important to use the style, vocabulary and expressions of the target market to resonate with them
  • Shipping information: Shipping is one of the top reasons for shopping cart abandonment,so it’s crucial to provide clear information and prices
  • Return/refund policy: Local legislation varies by region and consumer protection laws can have a big impact on retailers’ policies
  • Contact information: A local email, physical address and phone number should be listed so that customers can get in contact easily without paying international fees
  • Operating hours: Having a local customer service and sales team is best, but if operations are centralised from one location, it is important to indicate the appropriate operating hours, taking into account possible time zone differences
  • Payment methods: Payment methods should be adapted to match local preferences to reduce shopping cart abandonment
  • Currency: According to a report by Statista, 13% of shoppers did not complete their purchase because the website was in a foreign currency
  • Measurements: Sizes, weights and volumes should all be adapted to the local standards
  • Holidays and events: Marketing promotions should match the holidays and events that are popular in the target market

There’s a lot for retailers to consider when building an international strategy. Cross-border B2C eCommerce is expanding worldwide.

With an estimated turnover of $1,700bn (£1,184bn) this year, eCommerce has achieved a global presence and is expected to grow to $2,300bn (£1,602bn).

But the enormous opportunity that cross-border sales represent can only be fulfilled by business who know how to enter the market, how to adapt, and also how to respect the important details, habits and customs that exist in each country.

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