How to target European customers online


UK e-commerce retailers are in an enviable position. The English language is widely spoken worldwide, UK brands are well regarded in emerging markets like China and the UK‘s e-commerce market is the third largest in the world despite not being in the top twenty countries by population. The sun does not set on Britain‘s retail empire. 

But one area that does present a challenge for UK retail exports is Europe. Other “Old World” countries have well-established retail markets, while the current strength of the pound relative to the euro puts many UK retailers at a disadvantage. 

eBay enterprise partnered with Imperial College to identify the biggest issues faced by European e-commerce customers as part of our “Buying Across Borders” research. Read on for a summary of our findings.  

Don‘t rush 

First, identify which markets you would like to enter and begin by offering shipping to these markets. The biggest turn-off for shoppers is high delivery costs, cited by 80% of respondents, therefore it is important for the retailer to subsidise delivery costs in line with local expectations for overseas buyers. 

Make sure you can process the preferred payment method in your target market –”¯this was an issue for 74% of respondents. European markets have vastly different payment preferences so make sure that you can handle your target market‘s preferred payment method whether it is open invoice, PayPal or credit card. Some retailers encounter difficulty when processing international payments, so monitor your payment rejection rate in case it is costing you sales when dealing with your new customers. 

Inform your customers 

E-commerce consumers are especially concerned about returns policy, particularly for fashion purchases. Some 68% of customers identified a lack of information as being a barrier to international purchases, so highlight your returns policy up front and ensure that the costs and delivery times for goods are clearly displayed. Know your audience and factor in any changes in return rates –”¯in Germany, for example these often go above 50%. The best way to reduce costly returns is to provide as much information up-front as possible including images, videos and sizing guides. 

Be patient 

While the strong pound is doing no favours for British retailers right now, there is a lot to be positive about. British brands are at the forefront of the e-commerce revolution, and many are setting the bar for international best practice. Recent results from UK fashion retailers show that investors are rewarding growing e-commerce footprints, and the latest EU Consumer Scoreboard shows that the e-commerce market remains underdeveloped. British retailers can still make gains in Europe, and strong performance will be rewarded when cyclical currency markets move back in the UK‘s favour.  

Enda Breslin, Head of Business Development, Europe, at eBay Enterprise