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Strategy & Innovation: Meeting local expectations

Chloe Rigby analyses the research to find out whether retailers are offering territory-specific websites and delivery promises that meet the needs of shoppers across the EEA.

How do European retailers serve online shoppers across the 32 highly diverse markets of the European Economic Area (EEA) plus Switzerland? RetailX researchers went in search of answers to this question by considering how far the leading traders that serve the region go to give shoppers relevant services. In order to do this, they measured how many languages retailers localise their websites for, and how far afield retailers offer fast delivery to markets across the EEA.

Researchers considered websites as truly localised when they use at least one of the official languages for the local market – such as French or Dutch in Belgium, or Spanish, Galician or Catalan in Spain, and, for delivery, when they deliver to the majority of a country. Thus, retailers that deliver to the UK, except Northern Ireland, or Spain, except the Canary Islands, were deemed localised, but those that have a local landing page in a second language, such as a Swedish landing page in English, or a Portuguese landing page in Spanish, were not considered to be localised.

How many retailers offer a local service?

The analysis found that almost a third (32%) of the RXEU Top500 localise to just one country, while three in five (61%) localise only for three. Just 4% provide websites that are local to more than half of the EEA – or 16 or more states – and no retailer was judged to offer websites that are fully local to all of the 32 markets under consideration. Just 2% offer a local service for more than 20 member states. Across the index, retailers selling within the EEA localise websites to an average of five markets, and a median of three.

Perhaps surprisingly, it is a trade-focused business, electronic and electrical components retailer RS Components, that offers the most local websites – with sites tailored to the needs of 27 EEA markets. This is followed by fashion brands Zara (26), H&M (25), and Pull & Bear (24). Apple, IKEA and Mango localise for 21 countries, and Farfetch, SportsDirect, Thomann and Vistaprint to 20.

English is the most widely used language, deployed by 52% of Top500 members. It is followed by German (37%) and French (34%). Estimates suggest that just over half (51%) of the population of the European Union speaks English, with 13% as native speakers. German is spoken by 32% (18% native), and French by 26% (12% native).

How far do retailers deliver?

The median EEA retailer delivers to five countries, while almost a third (29%) deliver to only one EEA member state and 23% deliver across the EEA.

More than half deliver to the UK (59%), Germany (56%) or France (54%) while half deliver to the Netherlands (50%).

At the other end of the scale, 25% deliver to Iceland, followed by Lichtenstein (27%), Cyprus (28%) and Malta (29%). Retailers most likely to deliver across the EEA are not headquartered within the continent but in China, delivering to a median of all 32 EEA plus Switzerland countries, and the US, delivering to a median of 18. Retailers based in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Italy deliver to 17 – or 53% of EEA states.

The UK is the most common foreign destination for retailers selling from Ireland or Italy, while those based in Germany, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia are most likely to offer international deliveries to Austria.

And how fast?

The proportion of retailers offering speedy fulfilment in 2019 is broadly unchanged on 2018. In 2019, 22% of the 496 Top500 retailers measured in both years offer next-day delivery. That’s one percentage point (pp) down from the 23% of those retailers that offered the service in 2018.

The biggest area of uptake is in Cyprus, where two of the 22 retailers that served the market in both years offer next-day delivery in 2019 – up from zero a year earlier. Croatian shoppers see a big improvement to their service, with five of the 43 retailers serving the market in 2019 offering next-day delivery. That’s up from two a year earlier.

Same-day collection also remains mostly unchanged. Of the 484 retailers measured in both periods, 10% offer the service in 2019, down from 12% in 2018. More retailers, however, offer this feature in Lithuania, where two of the 16 retailers that offered it in both years offer it in 2019 – up from just one a year earlier.

Case Studies:

Boulanger: fast delivery

French electricals and multimedia retailer Boulanger stands out in this Dimension for its fast delivery and collection. It offers delivery within France in as little as three hours or free one-hour collection from its 38 stores in that market. Meanwhile, shoppers can easily see from the product pages how quickly they can collect an item – and from which store – or alternatively how soon they can have it delivered to them at home. Visitors can order for delivery to more than 20 EEA countries, plus Switzerland. However, the website is primarily focused on the French market, and presented in French only. That makes Boulanger one of the 32% of Top500 retailers that fully present their websites to just one key market. French is thought to be spoken by 26% of the population of the European Union, where it is the mother tongue for 13% of residents.

Zara: localised languages

Spanish fashion retailer Zara offers fast delivery and collection, although what’s available varies according to the shopper’s location. The site is localised in 26 markets, with those shopping from Zara’s UK and French websites able to collect in store two to three days after placing the order, or order home delivery for next-day delivery. Those buying for home delivery to London or Paris can get items as quickly as the same day or at the day and time of their choice. However, those buying from Zara’s Italian website can pick up their items in-store or get them delivered to home in between three and five days, or opt for express delivery – with items arriving in between one and two days.

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