Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Consumer Scoreboard Part II: How integrated are European Retail Markets?

According to the Scoreboard, consumers are still somewhat hesitant in their attitude towards cross-border shopping. Around one third of European consumers has purchased cross-border in 2011, with a a slightly positive trend since the first survey (2006). Similarly, most sellers declared they do not trade with foreign customer- with only around one fourth of them having sold at distance in the course of last year. In this case, the trend has been less unidirectional, opening at almost 30% in 2006 and suffering fall-backs in the next years. 

The reluctance to shop & sell cross-border seems to be reflected in e-commerce, a context in which consumers still seem to favour national shopping over EU-wide options. As concerns internet purchases, two major features should be remarked: 

    From left to right, UK to Romania
  • first, familiarity with online shopping varies enormously from country to country, ranging from UK and Sweden's impressive 71% of e-consumers among respondents to Romania's  6%- this might suggest that technological gaps matter at least as much as confidence-building to this respect;
  • second, the preference for national providers- or rather, the lack of confidence in non-national ones- seems to be largely overcome when consumers go cross-border at least once: the reported experiences with foreign traders score no worse (rather, better) than national ones, which is reflected in the fact than consumers who tried a non-domestic purchase at least once are significantly more likely to to that in the future compared to those with no previous experience. 
Of course a major problem for consumers who want to engage in EU-wide shopping trips (which according to this study offer them a daunting 16x choice compared to national e-commerce) is that many online shops simply do not ship abroad or otherwise deter foreign customers. Might the CESL be an incentive for traders to open up to a more international clientele? Only time (and observation) will tell. 

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