Internet Special Report Europe's Enticing E-markets (1,780 wo
While the U.S. e-marketplace may be experiencing a slowdown, some American online marketers are starting to invest in e-commerce's next frontier: Europe.
The Continent is enjoying its highest consumer-confidence levels in eight years, its lowest unemployment in a decade, and economies determined to go high-tech—all good signs. So while America's Internet boom has slowed, Europe's prospects appear relatively brighter.
Since it's impossible to cover in one article the marketing potential of all of Europe, I'll briefly examine the Continent's three main markets: Germany, the United Kingdom and France. Online sales in these three countries alone are expected to reach $12.7 billion by 2003. I'll also discuss Sweden, which is rapidly becoming one of northern Europe's most technologically advanced regions.
When taken as a whole, the European Union (EU), in many ways resembles the United States. Its population of 291 million is slightly larger than the United States' 283 million, and the EU's GDP of $7.5 trillion is near the United States' $8.7 trillion.
Currently, Europe's consumer e-market is less than $20 billion, while Forrester Research reports that online sales in the United States in 2000 were double that.
By 2005, European online sales are expected to reach $65 billion, not as high as North America's ($269 billion, according to Forrester), but a healthy climb nonetheless.
It's important to understand core differences between EU and U.S. e-markets. Unlike the United States, Europe cannot be treated as a homogenous market. It's home to numerous languages and cultures that make marketing much more patchwork and decentralized. Also, Internet penetration is uneven across the Continent. Currently, Germany has 14.4 million dedicated Internet users; the United Kingdom, 13.1 million; France, 5.6 million; Italy, 5.3 million; and Sweden, 3.8 million.
Unlike the United States, European ISPs tend to be free, while local telecommunications charges can be high. As a result, Europeans tend to spend one-fourth to one-third less time online than their U.S. counterparts—often planning their Web surfing ahead of time and quickly logging off to avoid phone charges. Other important differences include Europe's generally stricter privacy laws, as well as the Continent's high density compared with the United States, often translating into relatively lower shipping costs for those with warehouse assets in Europe.