Europe 500 merchants seek cross-border e-commerce opportunities

June 9, 2015 11:57 AM

One is the world’s biggest web merchant headquartered in the United States and the other is a fast growing online retailer of apparel and accessories based in Germany.

But what Inc., Zalando SE and other fast-growing merchants ranked in Internet Retailer’s newly released 2015 Europe 500 have in common is an e-commerce business that sells online across Europe. That cross-border success is particularly notable at a time when European policymakers are taking high-profile steps aimed at creating a single online shopping market across Europe.

Collectively, Europe is the world’s second-biggest regional e-commerce market behind China and ahead of the United States. European e-commerce grew 16% last year to an estimated $410.97 billion, according to trade group Ecommerce Europe. In comparison, Chinese e-commerce last year soared 49.7% to $449.12 billion, says China’s National Bureau of Statistics, while U.S. e-commerce rose 16.2% in 2014 to $304.91 billion, according to U.S. Commerce Department estimates. Meanwhile, the merchants ranked in the 2015 Europe 500 increased collective web sales 15.6% to $141.35 billion.

The European Union is concerned that a true single e-commerce market has not yet emerged, as most consumers limit their online purchases to retail websites in their own country. Only 22% of the 264 million online shoppers in Europe, 58.1 million, had bought online outside their own country in the last three months, according to a recent survey from Forrester Research Inc.

Many European online shoppers are not accustomed to crossing borders to shop, but some retailers have managed to convince them to do so without any help from regulators and policymakers. Notable among them is Amazon, which is the top-ranked online merchant in the Europe 500. “Amazon has approached Europe as a single market since we launched here more than 15 years ago,” says Francois Saugier, Amazon’s director of European Union seller services. “European businesses are able to sell on any of our websites, to any customer, anywhere in Europe.”

Cross-border sales on the marketplace section—where other retailers sell merchandise--of its European sites also are growing, Amazon says. Amazon says its marketplace sellers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom generated sales of $3.08 billion last year. Amazon didn’t share figures for the prior year or disclose other numbers, such as how much of its total European sales marketplace sales represent.

But cross-border sales were a big factor in helping Amazon grow its total 2014 European web sales roughly 20% to an Internet Retailer-estimated 21.09 billion euros ($23.62 billion) from 17.58 billion euros ($19.68 billion) in 2013, says Scot Wingo, executive chairman of ChannelAdvisor Corp., an e-commerce services provider that helps merchants sell through such online marketplaces as those run by Amazon and eBay Inc. “They have built and sustained a pan-European e-commerce business longer and better than nearly everyone else,” he says.

Another Europe 500 merchant that sells across national boundaries in Europe is Zalando. Appealing to cross-border shoppers, especially younger shoppers who prefer to shop on mobile devices, is a top priority for Berlin-based Zalando, a web-only shoe and apparel retailer that ranks eighth in 2015 Europe 500. Zalando says sales grew about 26% in 2014 to the equivalent of $2.48 billion from $1.97 billion a year earlier. The fastest growth came outside of Zalando’s core markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In those countries, sales grew 24% to $1.39 billion in 2014. But web sales from the rest of Europe grew even faster, up 31.1% to $934.9 million. Zalando sells in 15 European countries and has dedicated web development, marketing and product buying teams for each market, says Robert Schütze, Zalando country manager for the United Kingdom and Poland. “We are targeting all of Europe because there’s huge potential there, and that’s how we scale our business,” he says.

The 2015 Europe 500 is available in two formats:

  • Digital edition for $119 
  • Online database for $289 for a year

Click here to buy it.




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