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Introducing our findings to date

In establishing the IREU Footprint we have considered web traffic (the ‘share of activity online), company revenues (a function of the scale of sales), the level of search traffic (a function of front-of-mind awareness for customers and of potential demand), the ecommerce proportion of sales (indicating the ability to serve a customer across all channels) and the store estate (combining close-to-customer service capabilities and local brand fascia). Taken together these ‘ingredients’ combine to give a view of ‘heft’, of overall presence in customers’ lives – in their physical experience, their intent and service contact points. There are a few retailers who have high rankings in all of these dimensions – most have strengths in some areas and room for growth in others. However it is the range of results within these measurement areas that gives an indication of the variety and extent of the European multichannel landscape.

Our ‘long list’ comprises nearly 12,000 retail brands and sites throughout Europe, taking the highest-traffic retail destinations for browsers in each of the 32 countries (the EEA 31 plus Switzerland). The range of traffic in a year had us reaching for our log tables to fit onto a chart – from c20,000 page views up to 275 billion. This range opens areas of research into niche offerings as well as headroom for growth.

Within the annual traffic it was interesting to note that two retailers stood out in every market. Between them, Amazon (across all of its sites and domains) and eBay account for 41% of all retail web traffic. We will be monitoring this portion, as well as the behaviours across countries to determine whether the remaining 59% is an ample market for the ‘other 11,000+ retailers, of whether this is a threatened pool of interest.

The customer contact continues into the physical world with stores. While the two largest digital properties have no stores, our largest measured estate is some 4,000 stores. We will investigate how well the stores are used for overall effectiveness and customer experience during our research.

We also have an ongoing tension between our imposed view of Europe (it’s our choice to consider the 32 countries) and the retailer’s own view – whether they choose to trade outside of their ‘own’ country. In our research we are not unduly favouring multinational retailers since our focus is the customer connection in-country, however it’s interesting to note that of the 800 retailers we’ve profiled only 20 of them operate stores in 10 or more countries. This led us to consider the ‘indigenous’ nature of web activities – the extent to which a country’s top-visited retail sites were based in that country. Top of the league was the Czech Republic, where 80% of the retailers in their top 500 were Czech or locally based. At the opposite extreme neither Malta nor Liechtenstein could count any national retailers in their most-visited sites.

Some early indications of the insights and challenges ahead as we move from sizing the market and the footprint to our deep-dive into the six Performance Dimensions of operating capability – where we move from a view as to the ‘biggest’ to a considered assessment of who’s the best.

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