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Do’s and Don’ts for Retailers Expanding in European Markets

For many retailers, expanding to European markets holds a big draw. But it’s more complicated than putting something in Google translate and getting international shipping packaging. Is your company up to the daunting task of expanding to a whole new market?

Here are few things to take into consideration as you craft your next move:

● You can’t rely on Amazon: Even if a business falls prey to the lure of Amazon monopoly (also known as the world’s biggest product search engine), you need to remember that Amazon isn’t even available in most European countries.

● Social media creates a global marketplace: Social media is a no-brainer for retailers around the world. Not only does it give you an exclusive opportunity to have an authentic conversation with your market, it makes it easier to build a brand and reach shoppers around the world. There could be demand for your market in Europe and you’re “missing the boat.”

● Know the market: If you do decide to go into a new European market, be aware that critical mistakes happen when you don’t know what will work – and what won’t. Don’t spend too much money experimenting, make sure you know what will sell from country to country.

● Partner wisely: Big platforms that sell internationally can be likened to a huge body of water. If you don’t have a remarkable or popular product to start, your product will get “lost at sea.”

• Don’t mistake today for yesterday: It’s crucial to have a real strategy for Europe – more so than was needed five years ago. Even if you’ve been in the European market before, things have changed and your company will need to adapt.

Understanding the Challenges
After you’re done considering the market conditions that can impact your current retail strategies, you’ll also want to understand what challenges you’ll be facing as you turn from domestic to European markets. Consider the following:

• The New Retail: Technology matters. Being proactive and innovative in your partner choices will impact your performance.

Companies that have been using traditional online commerce systems for the past ten years are not going to perform at the same level as a company that adapts and makes the change to something newer and more flexible. Keep up with current market technologies to ensure your product gets seen.

• Avoid the anonymization of your brand: Avoid being a faceless, nameless product in a sea of products. Product aggregation sites might ensure that you’re selling a product, but it doesn’t mean that you’re building a brand. Not to mention the simple monetary aspect: Platforms take a cut of the revenue sales – anywhere from 6%-18% – plus whatever other partners you may use that charge more. You could be losing almost 40% of your sales revenue. If you’re like most retailers, that cut means little to no profit.

• It probably won’t work there: What works in the U.S. may not work in Europe. Shoppers in Europe will turn to the U.S. for items they can’t get. Where U.S. shoppers have come to appreciate free shipping as a given, you won’t be able to use that as a differentiator with European customers.

Free shipping doesn’t exist between Europe and the U.S. Customs in Europe want their import duties and taxes. This makes shipping a long, expensive and painful process with a surprise behind every door. It only takes one item to make or break the first impression for your new European customer.
How to Beat the Challenges.

After you’re done considering the market conditions that can impact your current retail strategies, you’ll also want to understand what challenges you’ll be facing as you turn from domestic to European markets.

Here’s a checklist of ways to beat the heat when it comes to transitioning to European markets:

● Carefully consider technology and partner platforms based on your products, market, and competitors in the market you’re tackling.

● Find the right partner and market your product in Europe for affordable and fast shipping.

● Use social media to sell as much directly to consumers from your “.com” to avoid partner revenue drain.

● Focus on products that are unique to your brand to stand out in crowded markets and create demand.

● Pay attention to small details such as changing from a “.com” to a “” or “.de” make the European market more comfortable with your product’s website.

• Partner with a localization expert help you ensure that your message is tightly aligned with a target customer’s need from country to country.

The Future of Global Retail expansion
There are a host of shifts in the market that will directly impact those retailers looking to expand their markets. First, millennials are bringing change to the global market faster than ever. They don’t have the perception that China or Morocco are that far away. They give new meaning to "it’s a small world,” and it’s impacting the way they buy. This makes ordering online from an international company feel more “lock and key” and less “Nigerian prince.”

One more thing to consider is the fact that there will be new customs and shipping laws going into effect for Europe, starting by the end of 2020. As the world shrinks and governments recognize international tax potential of online retail sales, everything will come with duties and taxes.

All cross-border commercial items shipped into Europe will be taxable from the first cent. GO EU is helping businesses breaking into European markets with all the aforementioned challenges and helping provide solutions.

Kelly Stickel is the founder and CEO of Remodista, a social think tank examining global retail and fintech disruption.

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