One of the biggest challenge for businesses running e-commerce site is its international expansion. Cross-border sales are recording record growth rates and are expected to reach $ 250-350 billion by 2025, according to the Boston Consulting Group. This is why it is essential for a business to respond to the specific needs of particular countries.
What is e-commerce?
The following definition of e-commerce is made by the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies: “Commercial transactions using the Internet or other computer networks such as computerized data exchange and involving a change of ownership of the goods or services ordered. Goods and services are subject to an order filed through these networks, but payment and ultimate delivery of the good or service can be made by traditional methods. Orders received by telephone, fax and e-mail are not considered to be electronic commerce. These tools do not allow complete automation of business transactions. Banking and financial transactions are not part of e-commerce.”
There are two categories of players in this market:
- “pure players” whose activity is exclusively conducted via the internet
- “multi channels” that have access via the internet and traditional sales outlets.
With three main models: B2B, B2C and C2C.
The advantages for the business are a reduction in costs, a better knowledge of the customer and a greater growth. On the customer side, the advantages are the practicality, the diversity of the offer, an updated product information and more attractive prices.
What are the key element you need to adapt when you run a B2C e-commerce site aimed at customers in the UK and customers in France?
- British consumption characteristics:
According to IMRG, the UK’s online retail association, UK (market: 107.1 billion euros) have 40 million e-buyers and Occupies the first place on the European podium ahead of France (market: 51.1 billion euros).
Women buy mainly ready-to-wear arcs. Men buy essentially music and movies.
51% of buyers do it via their mobile and 34% through their laptop. 60% of online buyers buy online up to 3 times a month and 40% buy online at least once a week.
British consumers are also very receptive and open to innovations and new communication and Information technologies. They are more demanding on the quality of the products, online presentation, functionality and efficiency of the site.
Price is the most important factor in online shopping decision for 60% of UK consumers. It even surpasses the practical aspect of buying and delivering at home.
Two characteristics of e-commerce can however still slow down the cyber-consumer to initiate orders:
- the fear of not being delivered within the specified time or of receiving defective or non-compliant products,
- the risk of online payment fraud.
Two types of means of payment are mainly used by British e-consumers: the bank card (in 75% of the cases) and PayPal (21%).
- French consumption characteristics:
According to an Oracle study: the store remains the norm in France more than elsewhere. 54% of French respondents prefer to buy goods in stores and bring them home. Less convinced by new technologies than other nationalities (83% on average), they are still 64% to consider important that the distributors use it in order to improve their experience of purchase.
French consumers are only 27% prefer to order online and get delivered next, against 34% on average. In fact, only 17% buy online at least once a week, which is the case for 28% of consumers in other countries. Yet, the French are changing their habits: 49% say they have used more new technologies than last year to make their purchases. But this remains less than in other countries, where this share is 59%.
On the other hand, great followers of click & collect, 58% think that these devices would improve their shopping experience. Much more than consumers from other countries (38%).
When you run an e-commerce site cross-border, it is important to know about the shipping and consumption habits of your potential customers. Indeed, this step will allow you to respond as best as possible to the expectations and needs of consumers. Customer service is essential. If your e-commerce site is not well adapted to the country’s specifics, brakes will prevent your sales from being done.
Multiple things have to be taken in consideration:
- The native language
- The currency
- The domain name
- Ergonomics and site design
- Social networks
- The regulatory framework (withdrawal period, merchant’s obligation, VAT-specific features)