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Social Commerce Impact in Western European Markets


According to the latest market study by eMarketer, the UK has long dominated the Western European ecommerce landscape, accounting for well over half of annual sales in the European Union top five (EU-5). But France, Germany, Italy and Spain are increasingly important markets.

eMarketer estimates that in 2013, combined B2C online sales in these countries will reach $121.5 billion -- and overtake the UK total for the first time. By 2015, spending across the region will reach $343.5 billion, with 58.2 percent of the total -- or $199.9 billion, coming from France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

“Europe’s ecommerce market is a resounding success by any standard,” said Karin von Abrams, senior analyst at eMarketer. “The number of online buyers in Europe’s four main continental markets is rising steadily as consumer confidence increases and online sellers provide an ever-wider range of goods and services.”

However, the number of online buyers in these countries -- as a percentage of total internet users -- can vary significantly. In the UK and Germany, nearly three-quarters or more of the online population has made a purchase online in the past year -- incidentally, that's higher than the U.S. market rate of 72.6 percent for 2011.

Apparently, France is not far behind. But in Spain and Italy, rates of online purchasing are much lower. One reason is that Italy, like Spain, had no prior tradition of catalog-based home shopping, whereas France and Germany do. As a result, most consumers in these countries are not familiar with the process of evaluating goods without an in-store visit.

“As ecommerce grows across the region, each country seems to foster a unique blend of ecommerce habits,” said von Abrams.

For example, mobile phone owners polled in France in 2011 appeared far more likely than those in other EU-5 countries to use their handsets while shopping in stores. Yet France’s mobile users were less likely to make any mobile purchases. Similarly, it's unlikely that Italy and Spain will embrace online food shopping -- as consumers in Germany and the UK have done.

“Though levels of online buying will rise in all major European countries, significant variations will persist,” she continued.

I believe that the next wave of online sales growth in Western Europe will likely come from Social Commerce -- where collaborative e-commerce tools enable shoppers to get advice and guidance from trusted individuals, find the specific goods and services that they need and then purchase them from their preferred online retailers.

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