If we needed any more confirmation that ecommerce holds increasing consumer power, it was predicted recently that online retail revenue will top $1.92 trillion by 2016, with European ecommerce alone growing by more than 18% during 2015 to a total value of €185 billion.
Interestingly, offline sales are only forecast to increase 1.4% during the same time frame – outlining digital’s dominance in today’s consumer shopping preferences.
However, when it comes to ecommerce, not all markets are created equal. The UK, US and China might be leading the global online race, for instance, but this maturity means saturation levels will be reached much quicker than less developed regions. In fact, some may say the threshold is already being reached.
So where should online and multi-channel retailers be looking to enhance their digital presence internationally? Loyalty firm RetailMeNot, which issued the €185 billion forecast, points towards Germany and France as the top 3’s closest competitors.
Certainly both regions have a well-established ecommerce culture – by 2016, 54% of Germany’s consumer spending will be online, along with 36% of French retail spend – but like Britain, rivalry is already rife, which makes market entry very tough.
It’s not all about established behaviour patterns, either; some, less developed regions offer lucrative potential when it comes to spending levels. In Sweden, for instance, online shopping will only account for 4% of total retail spend this year, but the average transaction value will equate to £56.40 – higher than the France, Germany and the UK.
Equally, there are rapidly growing ecommerce opportunities. Poland is a prime example; average online spend per shopper is set to grow by more than 14% over the next 12 months, as an influx of western European brands and the growth of reliable internet services supports a stronger digital retail network.
Of course, it’s not just where to grow that retailers must consider – it’s how.
Larger trading networks involve much greater logistical challenges, in terms of operational infrastructure and stock availability. Plus, the need to present a consistent brand identity becomes paramount, yet many retailers find themselves trying to create common looks and functionalities across websites run by multiple ecommerce solutions.
This is a tall order, as not only is every online retail platform different in its makeup, they differ in terms of their long-term capabilities. And one thing we know for sure is that consumer demands are always changing, so retailers must have an agile solution to stand a chance of keeping up!
Therefore, I would urge retail businesses to consider not just where new ecommerce opportunities lie, but how those opportunities fit into an ongoing international strategy. Increasing profits is not just a matter of geographical growth; it is having the technology in place to meet customer expectations in each market.