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Cross-border e-commerce: thinking outside the box

By 4. August 2021September 1st, 2021No Comments

Why actually sell online only in Germany? Especially in a region as heterogeneous as Europe, cross-border e-commerce is worthwhile. Countries with a direct border to Germany, such as France, Poland or the Netherlands, are perfect candidates for additional sales.

The necessary logistics are often easier to set up than for countries that do not directly border Germany. Above all, however, it is important to select the right sales channel in the countries mentioned – this is where online marketplaces come into play. They are the perfect means of testing other markets and expanding into them.

Cross-border e-commerce is becoming increasingly important

In Europe, e-commerce sales more than doubled between 2013 (€307 billion) and 2019 (€621 billion). In 2020, the value is even expected to have reached €717 billion. With the general growth of the e-commerce market, cross-border online trade is also growing.

According to Cross-Border Commerce Europe, cross-border e-commerce sales (excluding tourism) in Europe reached €146 billion in 2020 – an increase of 35 percent year-on-year. The cross-border share thus accounts for 25.5 percent of total online sales in Europe. One of the main reasons for this rapid development is the Corona pandemic.

However, cross-border online trade in Europe varies greatly from country to country. Everyone has their very own preferences here. For example, Spanish (61%), Italian (54%) and Belgian (72%) online shoppers do more cross-border online shopping than their British (38%), German (32%) or French (40%) shopping counterparts. One explanation may be the respective progress of the country’s own e-commerce market (Spain and Italy lag behind other large EU countries) as well as the geographical location (Belgium, for example, is right next to France and people speak the same language).

Cross-border online trade in Europe varies greatly from country to country. Everyone has their very own preferences.

Adrian GmelchLengow SAS

Online marketplaces as the perfect showcase abroad

Online marketplaces are particularly suitable for cross-border sales. Half of all online sales take place on marketplaces. They grow faster than other sales channels and customer trust in these platforms is usually very high.

It doesn’t always have to be top international online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, but regional platforms that are strong in the respective country can often be the better choice. This way, you can quickly reach a broad, loyal target group via this sales channel. When searching for the best online marketplace, this marketplace search function can be a great help.

Three concrete examples of European online marketplaces

France in particular is very suitable for selling products. It is the third largest e-commerce market in Europe and is located right next to Germany. The delivery time thus remains relatively low. France is known as the country of online marketplaces. Every second French person has ordered there at least once and among the most visited e-commerce websites are almost exclusively online marketplaces. The most important marketplace there after Amazon is Cdiscount with 24.5 million visitors per month. The store reaches both French and Belgian customers. If you want to sell on Cdiscount, you absolutely need French product descriptions, because French people see the French language as one of the most important elements. Since they have great confidence in this marketplace, it is the perfect showcase for foreign merchants. Lengow has a privileged interface with Cdiscount and makes it very easy for merchants worldwide to sell their product catalogs there.

In addition to France, however, the Netherlands is also a perfect destination for cross-border sales. With around 15 million products and over 8 million users, the online marketplace bol.com is one of the largest online stores there and in Belgium. The platform has an awareness level of over 95 percent. Here, too, integration with Lengow is quite simple. A guide to bol.com is available here.

Third example: Poland is still relatively small as an e-commerce market, but it has enormous growth potential. One online marketplace in particular has been able to make its mark there: Allegro, with its 18.5 million customers a month, is the absolute market leader in Poland. This marketplace accounts for around 40 percent of total Polish e-commerce sales. Retailers who want to be active here need Polish product descriptions. A Polish return address is also recommended.

Optimized and centralized product data in online marketplaces is what counts

Logistics is of course one of the most important aspects of a successful cross-border strategy. But one element that is often underestimated is the product catalog. For the international market, optimized product data feeds are another centerpiece for cross-border online commerce and must therefore be up-to-date, of high quality, and always adapted according to country and channel.
Cdiscount, for example, has different requirements than bol.com or Allegro. Product titles and descriptions must be in the local language and appeal to the “foreign” e-shopper just as well as products from local suppliers. (Spelling) mistakes are taboo here. Regional holidays, festivals and sales must also be taken into account for any discount campaigns or special offers. With Lengow, for example, automatic rules can be set up in a product data feed to integrate such regional differences and thus increase sales success.

About the author

Adrian Gmelch is Head Of Communications at Lengow. He first served large tech companies at an international PR agency in Paris before joining Lengow for international public relations. The company is a provider of an e-commerce platform that optimizes product data feeds for online retailers looking to sell their items globally on online marketplaces and other sales channels.

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