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Introducing the IREU 500 (IRUK 2016)

At InternetRetailing, we’ve extended our research to cover all of Europe. We look forward to sharing our results in June 2016

Later this year, we publish the inaugural IREU Top 500, which follows from the Footprint Report released in March 2015. It will be based on research that’s seen InternetRetailing assessing and ranking leading cross-channel and ecommerce retailers across the European Economic Area plus Switzerland.

Working on the project, it’s seemed very much a natural progression from compiling the IRUK 500, building on what we’ve already learnt about what it’s important to measure, and why. That’s reflected in our strong focus on customers – the brands customers favour, the retail names they trust and, of course, the sites they most often visit. There’s a good reason for this approach. While corporate structures are clearly important within retail, they should never be seen as more important than providing a great experience across different channels.

Following the lead of customers also entails taking a cross-country view because European consumers increasingly shop in different territories. That’s particularly true for customers on the island of Malta with its population of around 450,000, all of whom look to foreign retailers in order to buy online. At the other extreme, 80% of ecommerce retailers with the largest number of Czech customers were locally based.

The mix in other countries is somewhere between these outliers, but wherever a retailer is based, our aim is to look beyond company footprint towards performance. This enables us to compare large companies with smaller retailers, and to draw out those areas of retail craft where each is strongest – and weakest too. In this context, as with the IRUK 500, we’ve analysed retailers’ performances in six key Performance Dimensions: Strategy and Innovation; The Customer; Operations and Logistics; Merchandising; Brand Engagement; and Mobile and Cross-channel.

As to the specific companies we’ve looked at, two names stand out. Between them, Amazon (across all of its sites and domains) and eBay account for 41% of all retail web traffic. This provides an important context for our research: if the rest of the retail sector is fighting over 59% of the market (and remember our initial list of companies was circa 12,000), are European retailers reacting strongly enough to the challenge posed by these behemoths?

We’ve also been intrigued to see how those companies with large real estate holdings are facing the challenge of cross-channel retail. In the UK, companies such as John Lewis, Argos and House of Fraser have rethought the role of the store within a cross-channel offering? Does this hold true elsewhere in Europe?

Another question we may answer, at least indirectly, is whether there’s an optimum number of territories for European retailers to operate within. It’s intriguing that of the 800 retailers we initially researched, only 20 of them operate stores in 10 or more countries. Is it possible to expand further in Europe without encountering difficulties with localisation that take up too much time and money to be worth the effort?

We’ll be able to provide insights on these questions, and many more, in June 2016, when we publish the IREU Top500, which we anticipate will become the definitive guide to the performance of European retailers.

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