people sitting around a table looking at charts and discussing their ecommerce growth strategy

9 Tips for Your EU Ecommerce Growth Strategy 

June 24, 2024 in Ecommerce, Ecommerce Tips

The EU single market is the largest single market in the world and sees increasing ecommerce sales year-on-year. With half a billion people in the EU across 27 member states there’s lots of potential to reach new customers. All expansions are an investment, and moving into Europe is no different. The Union and each member state have their own laws and regulations so keeping compliant can be complex. To reduce the margin of error and protect your investment, working to an ecommerce growth strategy is best. 

1. Understand the Market  

The European Union is not a monolith. Each member state has its own culture and consumer behaviours, preferences and buying habits change to match. This makes market research so important to your ecommerce growth strategy. You need to know which countries will be the most receptive of your products so you can focus your efforts.  

Country demographics will help establish online shopping habits, popular product categories and offer practical insights. People across the continent speak 24 official languages (plus many more). If your customer base mostly speaks one language, you could consider investing in a fluent copywriter.  

Geography and culture influence tastes and can help you identify high-potential markets. If your fashion brand sells exclusively knitted sweaters, you will likely have more buyers in Sweden than in Spain. Finding your target market can help you build a foothold in Europe from which you can expand to neighbouring states.  

This is the first tip on our list because market research is the foundation of a good strategy. Rarely do one-size-fits-all approaches work for the whole of Europe, so understanding the market is the best place to start.  

2. Localisation is Key  

With your market research in hand, you can start making your store work for your target audience. Localisation is adapting your online presence to resonate with local audiences in each target country. The goal is to make your customers feel understood and valued so they engage more and convert at higher rates. 

Translation is the obvious starting point for localisation, so translate your whole website accurately. A word of warning that automated translations often miss nuance and context. Poor translations erode trust, which is vital for winning repeat (and therefore more profitable) customers.  

The next task is to localise any content on your site to reflect local customers, traditions and cultural preferences. Consider the imagery on your site and the connotations it might have in different cultures. This isn’t about avoiding offence (although that’s important) but appealing to local sensibilities.  

Next, optimise your website for local SEO. Register for local directories, look up your competitors, and research keyword volume with a tool like Semrush. 

Finally, you’ll need to ensure you’re following the law. GDPR applies across the European Union, so make sure you understand the rules. Member states will have individual regulations and enforcement approaches for consumer rights and returns policies.  

3. Get the Tax Right  

Knowing where to start with cross-border tax compliance can be a challenge. Getting it sorted will save you stress and potential fines in the future. Doing this research when putting your ecommerce growth strategy together will set you up for smooth operation. You’ll know the cost and timescales for registrations and returns.  

What your VAT responsibilities are will depend on several factors:  

  • Where your business is based (in or outside the EU)  
  • Who (B2C or B2B) and where your customers are  
  • Where you’re storing and distributing your stock from 
  • What channel you’re selling through (a marketplace or your own website)  

The One Stop Shop Scheme (OSS) and Import One Stop Shop Scheme (IOSS) prevent B2C businesses from having to register for VAT in multiple countries. When you register for one of the schemes you only have to fill out one return in one member state. There you can declare all relevant transactions from across the EU. 

To work out which scheme would fit your business best take our EU VAT quiz. You can also download our EU VAT for Ecommerce Businesses Guide for more about OSS, IOSS and the alternatives.  

Consider getting professional help with your taxes. Cross-border VAT is complex, and legislation is constantly changing. If you don’t speak the official language of a country, you compound the problem. Tax forms are hard enough to understand in your native language.  

Preparing and filing returns can take a long time and small mistakes can cause huge delays. You can end up paying storage on goods you can’t sell waiting for documents to be delivered to tax authorities.   

4. Offer Multiple Payment Methods  

Different countries have different preferred payment methods and standards for what is considered trustworthy. You don’t want to fall at the last hurdle because you don’t offer a payment method your customer wants to use.  

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted across Europe, as are e-wallets like PayPal and Apple Pay. Bank Transfers were the primary method of online payments in some countries. Slowly they’re being replaced by more convenient methods. Poland has gone from primarily paying by bank transfers in 2018 to almost exclusively paying with BLIK in 2023.  

Some countries have a strong preference for local payment apps. Whilst The Netherlands uses credit and debit cards like the majority of Europe, iDEAL holds the market share. Which methods you should use for your store should be a part of your market research.  

To help your customers get to the payment point, make sure you’re able to display your prices in their local currency. In Europe, Sales Tax, or VAT (Value Added Tax) is included in the listed price of the product. Update your pricing to include the customer’s local VAT rate.   

5. Optimise Logistics and Shipping  

The EU has specific expectations for businesses concerning deliveries. Plus, expensive and slow shipping might cause your customer to look elsewhere. Considering the cost, regulations and impact on customer experience, logistics needs to feature prominently in your ecommerce growth strategy. You’ll want reliable carriers, local fulfilment centres and to be able to offer varying delivery options.  

Companies like FedEx, UPS and DHL have expansive networks across Europe to help you get your goods to your customers. Look into a carrier’s reputation in a country and compare their prices. Lost or damaged parcels are a major resource drain, so make sure you pick a carrier you trust to handle your orders.  

Warehouses and fulfilment centres close to the customer will reduce shipping costs and increase conversions. If you’re already selling on Amazon you might want to consider Amazon FBA. There are plenty of other options though – GFS offer fulfilment and delivery across Europe.   

Selling across an international border comes with a lot of red tape. Best practice is to be transparent with your shipping policies and returns processes. Look into providing estimated delivery dates at checkout and offer clear instructions for returns.  

6. Provide Excellent Customer Support  

Great customer support builds trust and loyalty, the main ingredients for repeat customers. The gold standard is to employ a customer service representative who speaks the local language fluently. If hiring someone isn’t an option, you still need to make sure your team can help your customers in their language. Look into translation options that will work for you on an ongoing basis (whether that’s software or a part-time freelancer).  

The key is to provide easy communication. Give your customers multiple channels to reach you, bearing in mind local preferences (such as email vs phone calls). Someone must monitor and respond on these channels during your business hours or their existence will do you more harm than good. Slow service can be as bad as no service at all. 

7. Leverage EU Marketplaces  

Establishing your brand across multiple channels is a good idea. It gives you access to established customer bases and expands your market reach. As you build your business across Europe you should consider taking advantage of channels unique to specific countries.  

Amazon has multiple store fronts for specific European countries, a list that’s expanding slowly over time. Joining their Pan-European FBA scheme will mean you can sell to their customers from their fulfilment centres across Europe. If you’re a fashion brand, partnering with Zalando should be on your to-do list. The platform is Europe’s largest fashion and beauty marketplace.  

As for country-specific marketplaces, Allegro is Poland’s largest marketplace. According to their website, they have 22 million visits a month. The German equivalent is Otto, which boasts 11 million active users.  

8. Make Marketing a part of your Ecommerce Growth Strategy  

Product listing SEO traditionally falls under marketing. However, getting your products in front of your target market can go far beyond your listings. Before we get into some options, remember that localisation is just as (if not more) important in marketing. 

Social media is a great place to start as it’s free and easily geo-tagged. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are ideal platforms to visually showcase your product. Make behind-the-scenes videos or post product demonstration images. 

If you have a budget to allocate, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) adverts are a great way to drive traffic to your website. You can make them highly targeted to reach your ideal customer in each country, and on each platform. Collaborating with influencers is another paid option. Influencer marketing is less targeted but much more engaging. 

Capturing emails is a great way to start building touch points with your customers. You can send abandoned cart reminders, product listing updates and special offers directly to their inbox.  

You’re likely familiar with SEO from optimising your product listings. But did you know that content like blogs, videos and product guides can boost your SEO too? Plus, good content resonates with your audience, bringing them back for more.  

Finally, optimise your website for mobile. Increasingly shopping takes place on mobile, and poorly optimised websites damage SEO and conversion rates.  

9. Monitor your Growth and Adapt your Strategy 

Your ability to adapt to changing market conditions will make a difference in the dynamic and diverse European market. Staying agile and responsive can give you an edge over the competition. Monitoring your performance will give you the data you need to make those swift changes.  

Sales data and website traffic are great starting points for understanding how users interact with your brand. You can improve your site and your product offering with this information. Customer behaviour can be better understood with tools like heatmaps. You can use this data to remove pain points and enhance the shopping experience.  

Decide what your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are as you’re writing your ecommerce growth strategy:  

  • Sales and Revenue Growth – Compare performance across different EU markets to find high-growth areas  
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – Evaluate the efficiency of your marketing spend and adjust your budgets accordingly  
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) – The higher you can get this figure the more profitable your business will be.  

You should also take the time to listen to customer feedback and monitor your competition. Doing so can help you stay up to date on market trends or find gaps in the market.  

Start Planning 

Expanding into the EU opens your business up to new markets but brings with it a lot of work. There’s a lot to think about when you’re putting your strategy together, so let us give you a place to start. Check out our Selling in the EU page for information on everything from EORI numbers to pricing strategies. 

Recent posts

Amazon Pick Up and Returns Building
July 11, 2024
Amazon FBA Europe: 7 things you need to know
Read More
Two workers in a warehouse surrounded by stock
July 11, 2024
Amazon’s Call-off Stock Program is Ending
Read More

Not sure where to begin?

Schedule a call with one of our VAT experts today