Global e-Commerce Expansion
Cyber Monday got off to a great start this year according to comScore, a digital market research company. Sales are up 16% from last year (with half of the spend coming from work computers!). The growth in sales is due to the increased dollar spend per consumer (up 12%) rather than a pure increase in transactions (up 6%).
The growth in online sales is not confined to the U.S. According to e-market Services, online sales in Europe are expected to grow by 25% year on year growth. So how can companies take advantage of this growth in Europe?
Companies will often have a Web-based retail unit in one or two key markets in Europe - for example, in the U.K. or Germany. It is often by accident that expatriates familiar with the brand start ordering products outside the expected geographies. This is usually known as a passive strategy, however, if a company wishes to aggressively target more European markets it will need the following:
- Multilingual Websites – For each market, the website should be in the local language. In some cases international websites are simplified for ease of translation into the chosen language, which will allow changes to be made quickly.
- Multilingual Contact Center – If clients in new countries have any queries or questions, it is important that it can be dealt with in their native language either by phone or email (contact center times must relate to the client countries standard business hours also).
- Currency and Payment Methods – A single method of payment, such as credit cards, can often reduce your potential market share in countries in Europe. Payment types common in Europe include bank transfers, cash on delivery and debit card payments. Also, local currencies must be supported on the website.
- Tax and Reporting – In Europe, if sales exceed a certain threshold, VAT must be paid in that country. It is possible to either operate these services or have them outsourced to a partner who specializes in managing payments in multiple currencies. Statistical reporting to the various in-country departments may also be a necessity. The website must also be able to cope with the pricing changes.
- Shipping and Fulfillment – If you are fulfilling from one location internationally, lead times and costs may be higher. It is usual to offer a number of shipping methods so that the consumer can choose the service level.
- Marketing – In order for a website to succeed, the brand must have a presence in the country. Targeted search engine marketing and country-specific campaigns can increase traffic to a site.
- Returns – Offering a convenient and cost effective method of returns is important for the customer experience. There are a number of postal consolidation services that work well for returning products all over Europe.
In terms of marketing the Web store, it might begin with a formal launch in the specific country and various online campaigns. In some cases, different pricing strategies are utilized to grow market share by offering reduced priced shipping, for example. The ultimate goal would be to grow volumes so that more distribution centers could be set up around Europe to support demand.
Do you have any tips about growing your online business throughout Europe?
Want to learn more?
Download the Gateway to Global e-Commerce white paper that explores the process of global e-commerce expansion and addresses key challenges.