The five best mistakes when entering the European market

Europe is large, with a population of 743 million, and offers huge growth potential for US e-commerce businesses.

EU e-commerce is almost as big as the US e-shop 703B USD vs. 891B USD (2019), but it is a really difficult task to enter the whole of Europe in one go, as the continent is separated by countries, languages ​​and cultures. That is why we are marketing at national level, not targeting Europe as a whole. This will allow us to maximize performance and achieve a better return on investment per euro invested.

Since 2013, we have invested more than 175,000 hours in managing digital campaigns for our customers in Europe. We have seen not only victories but also failures, which gives us an incredible amount of valuable experiences that we can share with you.

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If you are planning to do business in Europe, it is really important to be prepared, to know the markets, to know your competitors and the specifics of each specific European country market. Failure to follow certain steps will seriously affect your short- and long-term performance. To make it more successful, we’ve created a list of the most common mistakes e-commerce companies make when entering the European market. Avoid them if you want to increase your success and grow your business.

Error 1: One domain for all EU countries

The customer’s journey is complex, and users usually compare products, proposals, and companies before making a purchase. If you have a .com domain and your competitors have local domains, this is a clear signal to potential customers that you are not local. This is one reason people don’t buy because they think there may be problems with payments, delivery, returns, customer support, and so on. People don’t like to take risks when buying online, especially if a local company sells the same goods at a similar price and if the customer has had a bad experience of buying abroad in the past.

According to a MasterCard survey, three out of four European buyers (74%) are more likely to buy from local businesses. So when entering Europe, you should follow the “Think global, act local” rule. Consider purchasing domains in targeted local domain zones, such as Germany .de, Poland .pl, France .fr. Consumers say local businesses offer *:

  • More personalized service: 96%
  • Trust – fair customer treatment: 91%
  • Better customer service: 80%
  • Quality work: 86%
  • Reliability – Compliance: 79%
  • Professional staff: 75%


The following list of European domain zones will help you pinpoint the domains you should purchase.

list of domain zones in Europe

Error 2: The website is in English only

According to a Google survey, 56% of Europeans do not agree to use websites that are not written in their mother tongue, while according to the Harvard Business Survey, 72% of consumers spend most of their time on mother-tongue websites.

Mistake # 2 is closely related to Mistake # 1. The English-only approach is not a winning strategy because users compare your website, products, and proposal to local competitors. A website written only in English raises a lot of questions about delivery, payments, support, returns, and people usually don’t want to spend time finding answers to concerns, but simply buy from your local competitor whose website is written in their native language.

Yes, the most common language spoken in Europe is English and yes, cross-border sales in Europe (e.g. a German customer buys a product from the UK) are becoming more popular every year, but we are talking about local competition for everyone within the country. To achieve sustainable growth, you need to ensure that your e-shop is written in the local language.

One reason your e-shop may be okay, written in English only, is if you have a unique proposal. In this situation, you can keep your website in English, but you should make a little more effort in the preparation phase to take care of responding with trust factors (social proof, etc.).

Mistake 3: PayPal as the only payment method

When targeting by country, you should consider offering different forms of payment. PayPal is the most popular payment option in many European countries, but if PayPal is the only option, it will limit your growth and reduce your return on investment. Many people in Europe use alternative payment methods, as most countries have local providers, such as PayU in Poland, PayDirekt in Germany, Klarna in Norway and Carte Bancaires in France.

Before you start marketing, you should identify the most popular payment methods / providers and implement these options at your eStore checkout. This will increase your eStore conversion rates. The easiest way to find the best set of payment methods / options is to spy on local market leaders to see what they are using.

Error 4: Providing local delivery options

This is ok if you offer delivery via DHL, but if this is your only delivery option, you risk limiting your growth. As in the previous point, you should know the local market very well and know the most popular delivery preferences. In Germany, for example, the most popular / preferred delivery companies are Deutsche Post, DHL, Hermes and DPD. If you do not offer delivery by Royal Mail, DPD or Hermes, there is a risk of losing customers and money in the UK. In the meantime, if you operate in France, you should definitely consider offering to send via La Poste, Chronospost and / or DPD Colissimo.

As we always tell our exporting e-commerce customers, users don’t look for “why buy” arguments when they visit a new website. They are looking for reasons to “why not buy”. A website that has no trust factors and no delivery method is an ideal “why not buy” signal. So be sure to offer at least one popular delivery method in the country where you operate.

Error 4: The website is translated rather localized

Even good translation agencies may not understand this correctly. Many marketers remember Electrolux’s epic entry into the US market with the translated slogan “Nothing sucks like Electrolux”. Funny, but when it comes to your business and return on investment, it’s not that funny anymore.

We have seen many examples of websites where native speakers in translation agencies have translated text. The result is usually poor, which will significantly affect your business in Europe. You should make sure that the text and ad copy on your website are localized by a local linguist in your country. The best way to do this is to give your text to a local linguist for proofreading. Here are some of our local language feedback on the text of the website translated from Czech into German (a good agency translated into Czech):

Error 5: No local customer support

According to Forbes, 84% of companies working to improve their customer experience report revenue growth. We fully agree with this statement.

After starting marketing and operations in a particular country, people will start contacting your support team. Rarely do people contact you, saying, “Thank you for a great product and fast delivery!” Instead of wanting answers to important questions about purchasing a product, order delivery status, order details, technical issues, or complaints. If they don’t get quick responses from their native speaker, chances are high that your business metrics are considered poor and very difficult to fix. In some cases, you can solve this challenge with a FAQ section, but it’s not ideal because people don’t want to spend a lot of time reading their specific question and looking for an answer.

When you’re new to the market, people don’t trust you as much as your local competitors because you have no history or social evidence in that country. In this case, real local support can significantly improve the situation and give you the opportunity to expand your business much faster.

After adding a customer’s local support to our website, we see an average conversion rate increase of 27%.

About the digital marketing agency

Don’t know who will give you all this ?! helps US e-commerce businesses grow in Europe. We have been working since 2013 and organized digital marketing campaigns in more than 20 countries. Last year, we earned 262 million euros in revenue for our export store customers. As a Google Export Partner, we are given access to closed market research tools and the Google Strategic Team. Our team has gained 175,000 hours of experience, the equivalent of 20 years of 24-hour direct work! Our headquarters are in Eastern Europe and our branch office is located in Chicago, Illinois.

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