Opinion Piece: Making the most of Europes differences in online retail
Capturing even a slither of Europe’s 300 million consumers is a very attractive proposition to UK retailers. Thanks to the reach offered by online retail it is also a very real possibility for even the smallest retailer or brand. What stops many UK retailers from the tackling the European market is quite often fears over the logistical and language barriers that they will need to overcome. However, with a little knowledge of Europe’s online retail landscape and an understanding of the technology available, these barriers can quite quickly melt away.
For UK retailers and brands aiming to build their customer base in Europe, one of the key ways to create visibility is to integrate the various European marketplaces into a multi-channel strategy. This allows the retailer to leverage the consumer base and marketing power of numerous marketplaces in several countries at once. This is especially important because, whereas the UK and US markets are dominated by ‘generalist’ marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, in Europe, marketplaces are generally specialised by category. For example, Zalando and Otto in Germany and La Redoute and Spartoo in France are leading fashion destinations, whereas FNAC, Cdiscount, PriceMinister and Rue du Commerce focus on technology and media.
To overcome one of the biggest hurdles of operating in Europe - multiple languages - many marketplaces such as PriceMinister, Cdiscount, Rakuten, FNAC and Rue du Commerce, also offer European Article Number (EAN) matching. This means that merchants do not need to translate their product data into different languages. They input one data set with an EAN and the marketplace does the rest. Similarly, many marketplaces, including Spartoo and BrandAlley, handle customer service internally. This means that if you sell your product on either of these sites, their respective customer service teams will handle any queries or complaints from customers across Europe. For consumers, this all but guarantees a high level of service, and for retailers it removes the difficulty of potentially handling queries in multiple languages.
By choosing marketplaces which offer additional services such as customer service and delivery, UK retailers can also make substantial savings on infrastructure costs and enable much more efficient delivery of products to customers across Europe.
European retail is competitive and complex, however, this intercontinental rivalry has created an environment where more and more innovative products are being developed which UK retailers can leverage to help them compete. By choosing the right technology to distribute products through the right European marketplaces, there is no reason why UK retailers cannot successfully compete right across the continent.
*If you would like to get involved in the Retail Bulletin's 4th International Expansion Summit, Spring 2015, please contact Karen Howard on 01737 647103. E:firstname.lastname@example.org
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