Western Europe is already an advanced ecommerce market— eMarketer estimates business-to-consumer ecommerce sales in the region will approach $373 billion this year—thanks to robust telecommunications infrastructure, highly developed retail and delivery industries, and a mostly well-to-do population alert to technology’s benefits, according to a new eMarketer report, “Western Europe B2C Ecommerce Trends: Omnichannel Is the Watchword as Markets Gain Sophistication.”
Once they have placed an order, most digital buyers want to receive their goods as soon as possible—and this has become a major focus for digital sellers, too. According to a May 2014 report from yStats, one-third of online shoppers in France were likely to choose an online retailer based on its delivery speeds, and almost 20% of internet shoppers in Spain had left an online store when they learned the delivery time would be longer than they wanted to wait. As a result, a growing number of ecommerce sites offer same-day delivery as standard, yStats found—though this is more common in Germany, where retailers have enjoyed a better economic climate and are better able to invest in faster operations.
At the same time, the focus on delivery time may not be ideal for many shoppers, especially those whose budgets don’t stretch to paying for express service. Even in Germany, nearly two-thirds of online shoppers polled wanted the option of free shipping, even if they had to wait a few days for their purchases to arrive. This suggests that offering a range of delivery options and charges can be a big competitive advantage for retailers.
Lockers for pickup and return of parcels are also on the agenda, as various players in the delivery channel aim to update their services. Locker initiatives are generally more advanced in Germany and the UK than in other markets. And in Italy and Spain specifically, foreign companies with the resources and ambitions to expand are often the ones making this move.
A solution for digital buyers who live near their retailers of choice is “click-and-collect”—known in France as “click-and-drive,” or “drive” for short. This has been a booming trend among larger retailers, according to LSA Expert, which counted a total of 3,002 click-and-drive pickup points in France in March 2014. But LSA Expert also noted that the rate of “drives” opening had slowed markedly since 2013, and a few had actually closed, due to lack of profitability. As with many aspects of multichannel retail, striking the right balance of services in specific locations is partly a matter of trial and error.
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