Which languages should you start with, or can you just proceed in English? Also how do our continental cousins like to shop online and what sort of web design do they prefer?

Cross border trade is a growing phenomenon across Europe. In Spain cross border accounts for nearly 50% of online purchases and in France 41% of shoppers buy from online German stores and 29% from UK e-tailers.

But don’t be alluded into thinking it’s as easy as ‘setting up shop’, there are big local players in each market and diverse cultural differences when it comes to ecommerce.

In this post, I look at some of the factors affecting design for e-Shoppers in four key markets helping you make better informed decisions for your international eCommerce strategy.


Russian shoppers tend to prefer local brands to global ones. Some of the best known web companies have local equivalent providers in the Russian market.

For Google in Russia think Yandex. For Amazon.com, think Ozon.ru. However, some plucky UK brands choose to tackle the Russian market head on.

So hats off to Monsoon, who for Xmas 2013 in the Russian market tweaked their Western European templates to push “New Year’s offers” rather than Xmas offers.

For Russians, Orthodox Christmas falls on January 7th, so getting that outfit for New Year’s Eve is the main priority.


Online retail in France operates a .more is more’ policy when it comes to web design, in comparison with the retail experience you might be familiar with in the UK.

Local brands dominate the online world in France and at least one online retailer is multichannel.

French design might look overwhelming to British shoppers. The full width of the screen is used with sometimes highly colourful backgrounds, devices and images in the guttering competing for eye attention.

Pricing is routinely in red (used elsewhere in Europe to highlight a discount) or pink. Top navigation is downgraded with assorted product offers taking up most of the page real estate.

Although the conversion process is similar to a UK funnel, one should consider that native French retailers extensively push local loyalty schemes and payment options to consumers.

So expect to see icons for CIC, Banque Casino, Societe Generale, as well as Paypal and Mastercard amongst the payment options.


Germans don’t like credit cards. Historically very credit averse, the DIBS 2013 study into ecommerce preferences across Europe highlighted only 9% of Germans like to pay for online purchases by credit card, with pre-paid invoice (46%) and micropayments (29%) accounting for three quarters of online payments.

In addition, 50% of German consumers say they wouldn’t return to a store that didn’t provide their preferred payment option.

Local brands are once again popular, with Otto being #2 in Germany behind Amazon and brands like Conrad and Verlagsgruppe Weltbild also featuring in the top five retailers.

German web design looks more familiar to UK shoppers, as German ecommerce tends to favour a cleaner, clearer design than say, France.

Given that as a language German tends to produce long compound nouns, one should  think about the space allocated for call-to-action buttons. For example, “in den Einkaufswagen” takes up more page real estate than  “buy now”.

When thinking about the German language, don’t discount Austria either. German retailers benefit greatly from their German- speaking customers.


Spain is the 4th largest market overall in Europe with over €13bn in ecommerce revenues. Despite the continuing economic difficulties in Spain, online shopping continues to enjoy strong growth.

Spanish customers support home-grown retailers such as El Corte Ingles and Casadellibro, as well as  buying from global brands like Orange, Samsung, Vodafone and Apple.

Apparel is a relatively light area of ecommerce in Spain with holiday accommodation, travel and tickets being the dominant sectors.

Spanish retailers tend to be more retention focused than most Northern European retailers- brands like El Corte Ingles, Buy VIP, Eroski, Casadlelibro and El Campo either insist on early data capture, early registration or sign-in via Facebook before proceeding to the cart. Retailers who push guest checkout may therefore enjoy an advantage.

The national colours of red and yellow are popular for call-to-action messaging, particularly across brands like Eroski and El Campo.

The European market is easy to access with millions of potential customers who are receptive to new brands and products.However, there are subtle cultural nuances in other countries- and this phenomenon is not limited to the four markets above.

The key thing to remember is to do your research. Look at potential competitors, do test purchases, look at which products and brands are most popular. Retailers who do the groundwork will be at a distinct advantage.

Econsultancy’s Internationalisation of Ecommerce Best Practice Guide will help beginners and experts alike to understand the common pitfalls in e-commerce internationalisation and address key challenges.