Mobile Internet Access in Europe: What does this mean for eCommerce?

The Stats

The Digital Trends Spring – UK – March 2016 report published by Mintel covers a thought provoking comparison between the UK and European markets. Its research states that 70% of consumers across the 5 main European countries they studied now access internet via smartphone. Mobile access peaks in Southern Europe, at 81% in Spain and 76% in Italy where “internet access via a tablet is also among the highest after the UK”.

Mobile internet access peaks in Southern European countries, so it comes as no surprise that Spain and Italy register 91% and 87% in rates of smartphone penetration. There is a close link between smartphones and smartwatches is reflected by the higher ownership rates of them in those same countries. The data in the report shows that the UK lags slightly behind with smartphone ownership averaging at 84% with France being the only country to show less than the UK. There’s clearly potential to penetrate these European markets that boast such high value in internet access potential.

Let’s Think About It

Second to the UK in mobile access, let’s take Spain as an example. According to Ecommerce Europe, 14.4 million of Spain’s internet users shop online and are spending an average of €1,174  a year – interestingly just as much as the UK. Spaniards’ shopping habits have significantly shifted in recent years. Previously shoppers would take to the high streets and do their monthly shops as a family activity.

Ernst Young, and economist José Luis Ruiz Expósito said: “If the crisis has changed Spaniards’ consumer habits and people are now watching their cents when it comes to buying, the internet has also made a big difference.” This attachment to the social experience of shopping has filtered into online purchasing with liveliness in product reviews, forums and blogs. There’s heavy emphasis on the community aspect of shopping online in Spain.

Last year eCommerce News noted that the main online product categories in Spain were technology and communication, travel and holidays, and leisure and culture. Compared to IAB, purchases made with mobile devices have increased drastically since 2013 and there’s ample room for reach into the market. 

The eCommerce market is less mature in Spain, but with surging growth in mobile access, there’s a gap for eCommerce reach and purchasing behaviour is changing for the good. If you want to appeal to this Southern European market, the implementation of customer recommendations and social widgets is essential.

The Big Picture: What Does It All Mean?

For eCommerce companies, the sheer saturation of the UK market makes expansion to the European markets a logical step, especially if you’re experiencing demand from other countries. But how do we go about it? There’s many intricate points to consider, but first of all for the love of god, do your market research on that country. Don’t even think about the rest until you’ve done that. When you have, check these out:


Localisation – Marketing strategies must be developed on a country to country basis according to ISM. Even starting off with the language. In Europe, marketing campaigns have to be localised several times in order to be successful throughout the continent. Translating your web page to another language isn’t enough and neither is just accepting different currencies. You need to make sure that the marketing materials on your website and social media are sympathetic towards the country’s culture. Tone of voice, imagery and humour – or lack thereof – all come into account. Don’t embarrass yourself, okay? Employing a local marketer can solve this.


Traffic Drivers – Ensure that your site is optimised for the correct traffic drivers. The popularity of your products may differ between countries therefore SEO copywriting and content must be optimised accordingly.


Promotions Perception – Differences between cultures affect the perception of promotions and loyalty programs. Make sure yours are country specific.


Trust – A nice simple one – trust marks. Each country has their own trust marks. Depending on your target market, use the ones they know.


Design & User Experience – Consider your design and user experience. A checkout online in Italy may differ from that of the UK but make sure that yours is above all simple and easy to navigate.


Market Regulations – Market regulations vary per country. Be in the know about policies. Know these and be in compliance.


Shipping – Needless to say shipping methods are central to your reach. Use the correct providers and be aware of the specific export documents you need if you choose to ship outside the EU-28 zone. This can be a complicated process, so ensure you are completely clued up on taxation and import/export laws.


Payments – Naturally, consumers have a clear preference for payment methods based in their own countries. Being familiar with the number one payment provider online for that country could increase your conversions nicely. After all, you do not want to confuse the user at the end of the purchasing journey and have them abandoning your products.

There’s no time like the present to expand your reach into Europe. Approach it as you would a brick-and-mortar store. Be welcoming and accommodate your new market’s needs.

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Sebastian Paszek

Marketing manager

Controlling the chaos of the digital landscape, Sebastian is a multiplatform executive, project manager and photographer.