What’s Next For European eCommerce?
Implementing The Best Online Merchant Services
The US and European markets are not only intrinsically linked; they are also the world’s two largest and most dominant economies. Excluding the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) bloc, to this day the European Union (EU) is still the United States’ largest trade partner despite recent upheavals surrounding negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The US Department of Commerce estimated that the EU supports roughly 2.6 million American jobs while close to 200,000 European companies sell goods and services to the US. Those numbers are only expected to increase as online product marketing and sales continue to drive consumer buying habits. The argument to be made is that now would be a good time to invest in EU eCommerce products and services.
Given the enormous increase in eTrade and eCommerce in the past few years, it has become necessary for businesses wishing to do business with foreign economies to invest in the best online merchant services possible in order to remain competitive and positively impact their bottom line.
Growing numbers for EU eCommerce
According to a European Ecommerce Report (2017) by the Ecommerce Foundation, during 2016 alone, EU eCommerce activity increased by nearly 15% in global retail sales. That’s equivalent to $602 billion USD. The report forecasts that 2017 will see a projected additional 14% growth of global retails sales, which equates to nearly $684 billion USD. This type of growth is unsurprising since the EU and Western countries are home to some of the most highly developed economies. For example, the United Kingdom alone accounted for one-third of all online European sales in 2016.
Shopper versus Market Demographics
Currently, the largest online European shopping markets are the UK, France, and Germany. Together they make up 70% of all online transactions in Europe. It is worth noting that their customers are primarily based outside their borders, coming from neighboring countries like Romania, Macedonia, to Bulgaria. The use of improved and high-quality online merchant services platforms have helped drive the rise of online shopping in many of these developing European countries; allowing them the opportunity to reach markets they hadn’t been able to reach before.
Where is the growth happening?
That’s not to say that developing countries are losing out on EU eCommerce market opportunities. While countries like Romania and Bulgaria make up the bottom rung of Europe’s eCommerce market list, they also make up some of the fastest growing markets in Europe. Romania alone experienced a 38% sales increase in 2016. Ukraine saw a 31% increase. Poland and Bulgaria each saw their eCommerce sales increase by 25%.
These markets may never reach the size and scale of the UK or Germany, but the trend is promising for those looking to invest in developing areas. This growth represents a commercial sector adapting to and applying some of the best online merchant services platforms that are currently available.
E-Commerce challenges in the EU
Anything that experiences rapid growth is prone to experience headaches along the way. The fact is eCommerce and the move toward digitalization of commercial sectors have fundamentally transformed the way markets and countries’ economies work. With the changing landscape of EU eCommerce, even the top retails and best online merchant services struggle to keep pace.
These changes have created new business opportunities, jobs, economic models, customer engagement practices, and an explosion of independent contractors and single person-owned small businesses. However, it has also highlighted some main support challenges: broken goods, delivery speed of goods and services, and repeat technical failures.
Evolving Customer Standards
Customers can now select and purchase a good or service with the simple push of a button and from the comfort of their own home. This simplicity has caused an uptick in consumer behavior that encourages immediate gratification. Even services pushing 1-day shipment options, such as Amazon Prime, have failed to address complete customer satisfaction when it comes to deliveries.
In addition, purchasing through online merchant services platforms means that a customer is unable to physically inspect the product or service before buying it. This has led to increased dissatisfaction with the final product received. Either it doesn’t meet the expectation a customer has built up in his or her head or it arrives damaged or broken. Many EU eCommerce markets have failed to address quality standards for online products and services, especially those from single person-owned or small businesses that don’t have experience with big business industry standards for quality assurance.
The Pace of Technology
Technology has simply failed to keep up with the demands of EU eCommerce in many respects. That’s not to say that significant strides haven’t been made. Some of the best online merchant services applications have allowed businesses to reach over 30 languages and accept multiple forms of currencies. The argument can be made that these applications were the revolutionaries that led to ecommerce dominance instead of having to play catch up.
Nevertheless, as the 2016 report noted, many EU markets and trading policies have failed to implement the technological developments needed that will support seamless cross-border transactions by its estimated 500 million+ online customer base. Right now, EU cross-border transactions are one of the main areas that need EU regularization and expansion if the EU is to continue with its upward online sales trend.
The Future for EU E-Commerce and online merchant services
Whatever is next for the EU markets, there isn’t any indicator that this trend towards online sales will wane. As developing countries catch up and leading economies solidify their dominance in certain areas such as retail and luxury goods and services, a business’ success not only hinges on its branding strategy but the tools it chooses to implement that strategy and its purchasing options going forward. Now is not the time to invest in the good enough. Instead, each business should look at investing in the best online merchant services platforms possible if they want to remain competitive in today’s markets.