Nov. 17, 2016
By Kirsty Tull
The last few years have seen European retailers adopting the traditional U.S. holiday shopping season kickoff days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Last year, the U.K. saw online sales on Cyber Monday reaching over £3bn anda bump in online sales on Black Fridaytoo, reaching £1.1bn.German online retailers also saw an increase in sales on Cyber Monday, particularly for electronic goods.
Regardless of origins, cyber weekend – this year spanning November 24 to November 28 – has clearly now become a global opportunity for online retailers.
With native U.S. companies, like Target and Walmart, offering deep discounts to loyal customer bases around this event, what can European retailers do to compete?
Competing for international cyber weekend customers
U.S. retailers certainly have the upper hand in many respects. European businesses who are adopting this U.S. shopping holiday could find it challenging to battle for sales against American companies on their own turf. Retailers like Amazon and Zappos have taught consumers to anticipate great user experience and excellent customer service, as well as easy returns and cheap shipping.
For a start, U.K. retailers must avoid experiences likelast year’s website issues over cyber weekend in the U.K. which could seriously harm international sales.
Black Friday sees deep discounts to attract buyers, while Cyber Monday focuses on sales in the already low margin electronics market. Discounts on these items within a retailer's borders might help business but European operators may very well lose going head to head with American companies on those products, particularly with the compounded international shipping costs.
However, the battle is not lost.
European retailers must play to their strengths
Instead, to attract global customers, European online retailers need to play to their strengths during cyber weekend. For instance, around 40 percent of consumers who report shopping from global retailers say they do so to purchase unique products that they can't buy in their own countries. This means that cross border sales of unique items don't need to try and compete on price during this holiday shopping window, they just need to catch the attention of global shoppers.
To do this, consider taking a lesson from the highly successful online U.K.brand, ASOS. While international sales were down in 2014, ASOS saw a significant jump of 20 percent in cross border sales in 2015, thanks in part to Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. ASOS has done well attracting cross border consumers through heavy use of marketing, especially through social media.
Think big, focus small
One of the most important strategies to employ for global sales is to consider localization of your commerce pages and leveraging from market segment differences over the holiday shopping weekend.
A recent study by OC&C Strategy Consultants reported "U.K. retailers are some of the world’s most popular and are in a strong position to seize more opportunities abroad." However, the report went on to note U.K. retailers are only doing the bare minimum, offering hardly more than international shipping and local returns, when it comes to serving a global audience. Retailers that go beyond these basics, to better uniquely serve their international audience during the holidays, will position themselves to reap the benefits all year.
As an example, a U.K. retailer with a U.S.-centric version of their online shopping experience could highlight items otherwise unavailable in the U.S. Their cyber weekend offers, too, could then be different from those presented to their local customers, such as free shipping options for those in the U.S., but a deeper discount for those shopping from and shipping to the U.K. They could have a third localized site for Germany with translated web copy and a focus on items that have historically been popular with German customers.
Localization allows businesses to target holiday messaging where it's applicable and more generic sales messaging where it's not. Furthermore, a zonal approach to online commerce helps retailers build trust with their international customers.
Consumers feel more comfortable, and therefore are more likely to spend, when they can shop in their own language and use payment methods they are familiar with. Retailers who cater to specific, targeted regions are the ones that will see the greatest growth in cross border ecommerce sales during this busy holiday shopping weekend and beyond
Kirsty Tull is director marketing and communications for BillPro, follow on twitter at@Billpropayments.