According to the European Commission, ecommerce sales have been the main factor in retail sales growth over recent years with 75 % of Europeans regularly using the internet. However, the latest statistics from a new survey by Esprit, the leading online retailer that looks at shopping habits Europe-wide suggests that whilst some European retailers recognise the importance of ecommerce, some have been slower to embrace the possibilities of online shopping as their competitors.
The Dutch are the trailblazers in terms of ecommerce according to these latest statistics, revealing that a staggering 76% of Dutch retailers have an online shop. The Dutch are closely followed by the UK where 70% of retailers also operate online whilst France was the lowest of the countries surveyed. In France, just 48% of retailers have an online presence whilst the overall average for the European countries surveyed was 62%.
However, European retailers as a whole are not making the most of mobile ecommerce. More and more people are using smartphones to do their shopping and most analysts think that it will be the prime shopping device within 12 – 36 months. For retailers to give their shoppers the optimal shopping experience it’s important that online shops are optimised for mobile use. Across Europe, just 31% of retailers have shopping portals that are optimised for mobiles. The UK however leads the way in this respect, with 40% of retailers with an online presence offering a mobile optimised experience for their users. This ties in neatly with research undertaken by Twenga Solutions. This showed that whilst in the Netherlands the use of smartphones for shopping stood at just 9%, in the UK mobile devices are used in over 30% of online purchases.
As the use of online shopping increases and in particular the use of smartphones, so does the competition for search engine rankings. This will force retailers to move towards mobile optimised sites as it has now been made clear by Google that it is a ranking signal. Speaking at the SMX West search marketing conference held in San Jose on March 21-23 2017, Google Webmaster Trends analyst Gary Illyes said, when asked about whether mobile responsiveness was a ranking signal:
“Having a responsive site will help you, especially in the future. With mobile-first, when it rolls out, responsive sites won’t have to change anything. Other sites may have to do something more to not suffer when that transition happens.”
Speaking about the findings of their survey, Dieter Messner, General Manager Europe at Esprit highlighted the need to combine traditional and online retail strategies: “We strongly believe in an Omni Channel strategy where online and offline merge and where it’s all about the consumer’s experience and needs. In Belgium and The Netherlands, around 80 per cent of our stores are Omni channel operational, offering services such as Click & Collect and Click & Reserve. By the end of this season, almost all our BNL stores will be on board. It turns out to be a success. In Belgium, the results are even beyond expectations. 15 Years ago, we were already selling online, so we’ve built quite some experience on this level. Nevertheless, Esprit keeps investing in physical stores and in training our staff to deliver an excellent service. In the end, it’s all about the consumer.”