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Cross-Border Commerce in Europe: Tips for the Christmas season

by Editorial Office

The e-commerce trend is continuing and has once again received a strong boost in recent months. Experts assume that European consumers will also increasingly do their Christmas shopping online. We provide tips on how internationally operating retailers can prepare for the challenges that this development entails.

Online retailers in Europe are eagerly awaiting the upcoming Christmas season: there are many indications that there will be another remarkable shift towards e-commerce before the holiday season begins.

Recent studies, including those initiated by Google and market researcher Kantar, show that online trade as the preferred shopping channel has increased by 15 percent. For 70 percent of consumers surveyed, it makes no difference whether they shop on- or offline. Moreover, between April and August 2020, a quarter of online purchases were conducted via mobile devices. The growing preference for mobile or online shopping also offers foreign retailers enormous potential in Europe – as long as they can flexibly adapt to changing requirements.

Planning the purchase of goods and assortment in advance

Current forecasts of the holiday season indicate an unprecedented rush to online sales channels. Online retailers should therefore prepare for an increased demand and plan their capacities accordingly.

But which products sell best in the pre-Christmas period? Experience and data from previous years provide an important basis for assortment planning. Professional data management further supports companies in using existing data in an expedient manner. In addition, bestseller lists from marketplaces provide information about which gifts are primarily being purchased in which European country.

When it comes to this year’s inventory planning it must also be taken into account that delivery delays may occur on the manufacturer side due to corona-related requirements and increased demands. As a result, many online retailers have purchased goods with more lead time than usual.

Anticipating cross-border sales: Accompanying purchasing choices

It is not only the actual purchase of the product, but much rather the entire process involving the purchasing choice that has shifted in light of the pandemic: Ever since the phase of the lockdown, the Internet has been increasingly used as a place for inspiration and as a place of reward as manifested in shopping experiences. According to the Google research, 76 percent of consumers surveyed looked up information about a product online prior to buying it. Retailers should use this research phase for their cross-border business: With detailed information, descriptions, photos and videos they can draw the attention of potential customers to their own products.

Consumers aged 55 years + have changed their online behavior particularly strongly: The so-called Silver Liners are considered to be quite receptive to advertising and open-minded towards new brands and dealers. For 14 percent of this group of respondents, a purchase had been initiated directly by an advertising campaign. It can therefore pay off to specifically address this new customer group.

Combining different sales channels

But where do European consumers prefer to shop? In addition to their own web store and presence on marketplaces such as Amazon, but also Otto.de (Germany), Cdiscount.fr (France) or Bol.com (Belgium, Netherlands), online retailers should rely on social shopping channels. Social networks such as Instagram or Pinterest are enjoying growing popularity and have long been the shopping tools for trends, especially in the pre-Christmas period. Via postings, consumers can be guided directly to the products or to the onlinestore. In combination with selected influencer cooperations, online retailers can thus significantly increase their sales.

Cross-Border Logistics: Optimizing delivery capabilities

A particularly critical factor for a successful Christmas business is the cross-border logistics: The high volume of parcels in the pre-Christmas period requires a lot of planning by online retailers and their logistics service providers. This year, however, it can be assumed that companies will need to overcome major hurdles in order to ensure delivery capability and punctual delivery. After all, it has already become visible in the first few months of the pandemic, that the deliveries could not always be guaranteed or that they reached the end customer with long delays.

Online retailers with a cross-border focus should therefore consider early on how they can speed up delivery times and returns processes. It might be useful to outsource cross-border fulfillment, including a local warehouse, to a service provider.

Online retailers can also win over customers with service-oriented shipping communication: European consumers want to be transparently informed about delivery times and the current shipping status, especially for products from abroad – preferably in real time. Those who use shipping communication strategically can also encourage customers proactively to make Christmas purchases even earlier than in previous years.

The 2020 Christmas season promises good opportunities for a substantial increase in sales, especially for retailers selling exclusively online. They can take advantage of the trend towards increased online shopping as long as they meet the increased demand, plan logistics processes in the best possible way and provide customers with a positive shopping experience through professional product and shipping communication.

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