Study: Euro E-Commerce Sites Lag Behind U.S. Standard

According to industry analyst Forrester Research, Inc., leading Web strategists consider European e-commerce sites to be a good value and easy to use, but U.S. sites still remain the international benchmark of excellence.

This conclusion is just one of the findings of a survey conducted with 66 Net strategists from 30 interactive architect firms and 36 online merchants. The strategists design and operate leading e-commerce sites that target European businesses and consumers.

Those interviewed ranked Amazon.com, Dell and Cisco as the best European e-commerce sites. The highest rated European-based site was BOL, capturing an 11 percent approval rate — compared with Amazon’s 38 percent and Dell’s 23 percent.

Mimicking U.S. Sites Not Enough

European e-commerce finds itself in a Catch-22 situation. The executives surveyed believe that copying U.S. sites is not the answer to getting European e-commerce off the ground. While they found U.S. sites user-friendly, European experts said that they also found them too cluttered. In addition, U.S. sites tend to focus on the “average European,” which is nonexistent.

However, the survey pointed out that the biggest problem facing European e-commerce is the fact that most European firms lack a strong commitment to the Internet. The executives interviewed said that many senior managers showed little interest in expanding their companies’ operations to the Web. As a result, the European e-commerce landscape finds itself underfunded.

Devise Pan-European Strategy

In order to avoid being squeezed out of the instantly global Web by international players, Forrester suggested that European firms devise a Pan-European strategy. Online stores that are currently focused on one national market should immediately start serving neighboring markets by simply displaying prices in euros, taking payments in multiple currencies and delivering outside their borders.

Forrester also pointed out that European Web sites must quickly embrace tools to measure their progress if they ever hope to compete with Yankee invaders. Such tools offered by Andromedia and Open Market should be put in place to measure their sites’ visitors-to-buyers conversion ratio and to track repeat purchases. In addition, external measures from Keynote and Media Metrix should be quickly adopted in order to rate sites’ competitiveness in download efficiency and audience.

Become Instantly Responsive

Although keeping score is critical to the success of European e-commerce, what is done with the information once it is gathered is the real acid test. Forrester concluded that European Web sites must be prepared to launch instant marketing campaigns based on real-time analysis of user behavior. At the same time, product selection and pricing must also become fluid — based on the current data.

Whether European e-commerce players are willing to adapt to this type of U.S. guerrilla marketing tactics remains an unanswered question. Still, some industry observers feel if they don’t, they will never catch up with their American cousins.

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