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Europeans have always looked abroad for better deals: Brits buying wine in Calais, Finns venturing to Estonia for vodka, and Spaniards exploring the exotic offerings of Andorra. While the proliferation and spread of digital channels empowers tech-savvy shoppers to go global on a different scale, translation can help online businesses capitalise on the rise of the wandering wallet.

The rise of cross-border e-commerce in Europe

A 2015 Retail Research study shows that more than two thirds of Europeans shop online and an estimated £150 billion was spent on online retail in 2015.

Two thirds of the European e-shoppers have bought from companies in another European country, and a third have bought from outside Europe. And there is space for growth: the 25-44 age group is almost twice as likely to shop abroad as the 55-65 group.

It is easy to see why cross-border e-commerce flourishes in Europe: excellent delivery infrastructure, high internet penetration, and a great deal of legal harmonisation across many countries in the continent. However, online businesses in Europe who want to sell abroad have to embrace Europe’s multitude of languages and cultures.

What takes online shoppers abroad?

Two thirds of those who shop abroad look for products not available in their own country. So it is little wonder that small countries with limited domestic offerings shop abroad most often: Malta and Luxembourg, with 39% of 65% of their online shoppers, respectively, having done so in the last year.

Next in the list of keenest pan-European shoppers are countries with strong linguistic and cultural ties to their neighbours: Austria (40%), Denmark (36%) and Belgium (34%). This comes as no surprise, considering that almost half of the e-shoppers that never shop abroad cite language barrier as a reason.

Customer concerns and solutions

When considering shopping abroad, about a third of the online customers cite security and lack of trust. This can be a particularly important hurdle for small and medium businesses, which may not be able to rely on international reputation.

Here’s how effective localisation can make customers feel at ease:

1. Customer support. Almost three quarters of European internet shoppers worry about resolving problems if something goes wrong with an international order. Perhaps their foreign language proficiency might be enough to make the purchase, but not to explain and defend their position should a problem arise.

Translated FAQs, a local-language support web portal and multilingual customer support all go a long way to show customers a business is on their side should something go wrong. Equally importantly, the professional translation of product and service descriptions in the local language helps align expectations and avoid disputes.

2. Customer reviews. No matter where the online shop is, the opinions of others matter: 77.7% of e-shoppers are influenced by online customer reviews, trusting them twelve times more than the company’s descriptions.
Translating the client feedback in other languages ensures positive reviews reach the interested shoppers.

3. Familiar payment methods. Parting with cash can be difficult even for the most enthusiastic shopaholic; using an option customers recognise makes it easier. Brits are happy to use credit cards, Germans prefer invoices, and Poles would rather pay cash-on-delivery.

4. A good website, with user-friendly design and correct grammar and spelling, will make the customer feel at ease .
Giving the customer the option to navigate and explore in their own language creates a familiarity that engenders trust. Similarly, poor translation can lead the customer to quickly discount the site as unprofessional.

How do global shoppers find businesses?

Most nomadic shoppers rely on online search. Using the local language to ‘speak’ to the search engines helps products and services stand out. Research shows that 90% of all internet users never look further than the first two pages of the search results, so professionally-localised and optimised content will go a long way.

Many European e-tailers are already capitalising on the proliferation of digital and delivery channels, receiving as much as 60% of their revenue from outside their domestic market. Translation can help smaller enterprises pursue growth abroad by capturing the attention of an increasingly curious and savvy customer.

*Photo credits: everything possible /

Lingo24 is a global translation company, with interests in marketing, e-commerce, product management and many other areas that are of relevance to our clients. We share news on our company performance, innovative technology solutions, exciting new hires and guest posts from some of our translators.