By 2018, cross-border ecommerce in Europe will surpass a value of €40bn, according to analyst house Forrester in a report titled Western European Online Cross-Border Retail Sales Forecast, 2013 to 2018.
It predicts an average 11% year-on-year growth and that online transactions will account for 16% of all general retail trade.
Taking this as a starting point, Dutch post and parcels carrier, PostNL, has summarised the main points of difference between shoppers in some of the key markets in Europe and further afield, including attitudes toward returns and delivery preferences.
Delivery to a home address is still the most popular option in most EU countries and in the US. And while click-and-collect continues to be a very popular supplementary option in the UK (both in-store and via networks), French shoppers are happy with click-and-collect facilities and lockers available on hypermarket sites. In Germany automated lockers have been commonplace for a number of years and continue to be widely used.
The InternetRetailing UK Top500, published early in February, contains a detailed overview in the operations & logistics dimension of the UK retail delivery landscape.
Speed is not always the key consideration across Europe, with free delivery being more popular than fast delivery with most European online shoppers, with the exception of Germany and the Nordics where speed and a nominated slot are increasingly seen as must-haves.
Returns have to be even more carefully considered where cross-border ecommerce is concerned, as a problem with a purchase has the capability to make the physical distance between shopper and retailer feel enormous. Not surprisingly, most international buyers prefer free returns. But servicing international returns can also be costly and complicated for retailers.
As with delivery preferences, return preferences also vary from one country to the next.
In the UK, 73% of shoppers would be happy to swap the unwanted item directly when a new one is delivered, 54% of Germans prefer to return their products to a drop-off point such as a post-office or kiosks, as do shoppers in Sweden.
Looking beyond Europe, China has recently surpassed the US is now the world’s number one ecommerce market, with an annual ecommerce turnover of €405bn and a cross-border volume of €19.4bn.
China is planning to significantly to improve internet infrastructures in rural areas, which will give the already vast Chinese market a considerable extra boost.
Retailers who are serious about doing business in China will need decide whether they are going to store stock in China or to ship directly from their existing DCs.
As we reported back in November, Royal Mail is already working with Alibaba to speed up deliveries into the UK of Chinese goods, and there are schemes in place to help cut down on waiting times for items going from the UK to China too. A typical wait time of two weeks isn’t enough on its own to put off Chinese shoppers when it comes to buying from European retailers, but don’t expect that to always be the case as shopper expectations rise.
According to PostNL, reseach from Pitney Bowes in 2014 found that high shipping costs (68%), additional fees at time of delivery, including duties and taxes (58%) and too lengthy shipping times (42%) were top-three factors inhibiting buyers from completing their online cross-border purchases.