As eCommerce becomes increasingly sophisticated, more consumers look to purchase items from abroad, but restrictions when it comes to delivery, payment and culture is preventing cross-border eCommerce sales.

Speaking with Enda Breslin, head of business development at eBay Enterprise, he says new research predicts EU cross-border shopping will tip €40 billion by 2018, but much has to be done to encourage this growth.

"European consumers are increasingly considering oversees retailers as part of their online shopping mix, but lack of delivery and payment options, as well as poor product information, could be harming some UK retailers' sales prospects in the region.

"Just like domestic consumers, cross-border shoppers also want different services, delivery speeds and price points depending on what they are buying," he says. "It comes down to choice; retailers that invest in providing a range of delivery options, payment methods and detailed product information will be able to up-sell premium services to those prepared to pay for it, without turning off those shoppers happy to compromise on service for a lower price."

Breslin also says the strong pound means it is not a great time to be a UK merchant, as domestic customers can often find the same product 25% cheaper in Germany or France. "They're haemorrhaging their long-term customers who are not thrown off by a little more shipping cost or waiting a few days longer – the continent may have a better chance of success."

But Breslin points out the UK has a population of 60 million, compared to a European population of 450 million, meaning if the industry can remove the hurdles to cross-border commerce, when the cyclical nature of currency turns back to favour the UK, more consumers will be encouraged to purchase from the mainland.

He notes Europe is pushing through legislation to set up a Digital Single Market, which will help set rules for European eCommerce such as 14 day returns policies and fair pricing across the continent.

But Breslin says it comes down to ensuring all EU eCommerce sites use local language as well as the predominate English which can be accessed by 70% of Europeans. Offering cheap delivery is another way to win foreign customers, as is clearly explaining returns policies.

Which countries are doing it right?

Breslin says the UK and Germany come out tops for eCommerce, but for different reasons. While click & collect is massively popular in the UK, it is only used by 2% of German shoppers.

"Brits are better at marketing, kiosks, omnichannel and breaking down the borders of online and offline," he adds. "But the Germans are seeing very steady growth and what they build is very good – there's not much downtime on German sites."

He says the UK is more American in its attitude. "They like to try it out and risk it. While Germans do something well, it takes a while because they're very cautious. Germany is better at the long-term game and the last mile of getting the product to the customer, they have late cut-off times and low delivery rates."

Meanwhile, Breslin says the French do click & collect and omnichannel well, while Spain is good at marketing, pointing at the Spanish brands Zara and Mango.

"But the Italians master none of those, their big brands sell little online and Yoox is the only success story. And their hands have been tied by strict legislation by who can collect money for you, so Italian retailers couldn't have third parties collect on their behalf."

But Breslin does advise the industry to keep an eye on Eastern Europe. "It's up and coming, you don't really hear about it, but they have massive online businesses which we may be hearing more of going forward."

But the UK shouldn't rest on its laurels, and Breslin says there is often an American attitude among UK retailers that they will not implement services and technology if it isn't already engrained as part of their own eCommerce culture. For instance, if the UK wants to be taken seriously by German consumers, retailers must provide a German language website and open invoices. "They also need good people in customer services as German consumers will complain," he adds.

"It's probably more of an arrogance issue not accepting things which are important in Europe," he says. "But it's just a matter of time until John Lewis and those guys become more European."

For more information, click below:

eBay Enterprise

And for a copy of the report, click below: 

Buying Across Borders