Want to get happy? Head to the Nordics whose regions, including Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Sweden, top the global charts in the World Happiness Report. Norway is at the very top, based on combined economic, health and polling data extracted from 3,000 respondents in more than 150 countries.
The region is also the birthplace of some of the most innovative companies in the world. Digital high-growth companies including Spotify, Skype and Mojang – the company behind childrens’ virtual building game Minecraft – all originated in Sweden. The Nordics are home to the bestselling electrical gadget in history – the Nokia 1100, originating in Finland, with sales reaching 250 million.
Nordic nations dominate the top fifteen Bloomberg Most Innovative Economies, with Sweden and Finland falling within the top five, and Sweden is one of the most successful countries in export per capita, with globally recognised brands in furniture, vehicles and fashion available in physical stores across the world. Sweden is also second in the world when it comes to creating patents, overtaking South Korea in this barometer for innovation.
Widespread broadband access, high mobile penetration and relatively stable economies should create a favourable climate for a booming ecommerce industry. Indeed consumers within the region are certainly enjoying the benefits of cross-border commerce: the region’s ecommerce industry is worth €21.9bn in terms of consumer spend.
However, when it comes to Nordics-based businesses themselves benefitting from cross-border ecommerce, they haven’t yet shown the same level of digital maturity. Despite the innovation and entrepreneurialism which flows through the region, local firms are coming under threat from global ecommerce giants such as Amazon, Asos and Etsy, whose foothold in the Nordics region is gaining strength.
Local ecommerce companies must extend their reach beyond their home markets if they are to seize the opportunities presented by the borderless world of commerce. The good news is that there has never been a better time for Nordics-based ecommerce companies to extend their digital presence overseas.
Taking advantage of current trends using cloud-based ecommerce platforms will boost their performance, drive growth and futureproof their businesses.
There are five key reasons why there is no better time like the present for Nordics ecommerce firms to embrace the potential of global ecommerce:
1. Consumers like to shop outside their own countries
Research shows that online shoppers, searching for wider product choice and better value, are frequently, and increasingly, shopping beyond borders. Just as Nordics-based shoppers are buying from brands outside their region, so too are consumers in other geographies, which poses a great opportunity for ecommerce firms. In fact, Pitney Bowes’ global online shopping study found as many as 66% of consumers shop online outside their own country, with 58% doing so each month. In markets including China, Australia, Singapore and Canada, cross-border shopping is becoming a part of everyday life.
2. Customers search for products across a variety of channels
Consumers now find the products, and companies, they want online in a variety of different ways. Armed with this knowledge, Nordics firms can tailor their strategies and target particular geographies for a higher chance of success. For example, we know that consumers in China (83%), Japan (82%) and India (81%) are most likely to find products and companies using a marketplace such as eBay or Etsy. Selling through a marketplace can be a great way of testing a new market without major capital investment. Conversely, Hong Kong’s and Australia’s buyers are more likely to find products through search engines than through a marketplace, and nearly 20% of consumers also use social media to find products.
Consumers in Hong Kong are just as likely to search via social media (45%) as they are a retailer’s website (45%), while those in Mexico are more likely to search via social media (32%) than they are a retailer’s website (13%). For companies investing in new regions, it’s worth considering geotargeting, which delivers content to users based on their particular geographic location.
3. Nordics-inspired lifestyle trends are hugely popular
Nordics-inspired lifestyle choices are held in high-esteem across Europe and beyond. The Danish word ‘hygge’, based on wellbeing and implying comfort and warmth, is now featured in the Oxford English Dictionary. A journalist writing for the Guardian observes that she has seen the term used to sell “cashmere cardigans, wine, wallpaper, vegan shepherd’s pie, sewing patterns, a skincare range, teeny-tiny festive harnesses for dachshunds, yoga retreats and a holiday in a shepherd’s hut in Kent”.
A lifestyle magazine ran a feature entitled, “How to be more Danish”. Businesses based in the Nordics can take advantage of this popularity and great cultural interest, using data to locate those potential customers with highest propensity to buy, and can target them with personalised communications, minimising the risks posed by entering new markets and maximising opportunity.
4. Expertise in design thinking and design-led innovation
From hipster coffee bars and boutique hotels, to sleek homewares and ultra-cool technologies, ‘Scandi style’ has been synonymous with industrial-chic around the world for several years. It may be a cliché, but the Nordics region is globally-recognised for its innovation in design, and businesses should capitalise on this homegrown talent, its popularity outside the region and how it can be applied to broader business functions. Now, design-thinking – a methodology common to designers in solving problems and finding solutions for clients – has become a blueprint for successful innovation across a range of business functions.
Ecommerce companies have several opportunities here: firstly, using the unique design talent available to fuel creative R&D and differentiate themselves and their product lines from global competitors. And secondly, to gain critical thought leadership in the area of design thinking, applying the innovative, client-focused elements of creative design and extending it to broader business operations: at its simplest, identifying an issue, collaborating, designing a prototype solution, test, rolling out and learning from it. It’s simple but effective and is being applied across every industry from the tech industry to the restaurant world.
5. Cloud-based shipping platforms remove complexity
For large and small businesses alike, extending an ecommerce business overseas can be daunting. As well as language, cultural and behavioural differences to understand, organisations need a knowledge of currencies and payment preferences. There are also the practicalities of shipping and sending, understanding local regulations, taxes, duties, shipping and carrier costs and variations and managing returns. Now, advanced shipping platforms remove the guesswork, bringing together a full range of innovative software tools and applications on a single, secure cloud-based platform.
The tools which sit on these platforms help businesses draw insight to solve challenges such as:
• Where are my most profitable customers located?
• How should I communicate with my customers to drive results?
• How can I accept payments in multiple currencies?
For businesses in the Nordic nations, these five points create a perfect storm of unprecedented global opportunity.
Georges Berzgal is vice president EMEA global ecommerce, Pitney BowesImage credits:
- Pitney Bowes