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Trade war stimulates European market. How importers can develop e-commerce in EU.

European market is unique. 28 countries and 24 different recognized languages. According to a recent study, 80% of customers prefer to buy products if the description of the products is written in their own language. This demonstrates the importance of using local languages correctly in e-commerce, even for international platforms. If the translation is poor, then even the best products will be ignored in Europe. Find out what the main languages in Europe are, and our tips to increase your ROI and reach your customers to increase sales.

1 – E-commerce in Europe – a thriving but demanding market
2 – The trade war – an opportunity for the European market to open up
3 – Translate your product fact sheets – an essential item
4 – Translate your product fact sheet:Important points
5 – Why use HI-COM??

1 – E-commerce in Europe, a thriving but demanding market

E-commerce is becoming more prevalent around the world, and Europe is no exception.
With its 712 million inhabitants, 76.5% of whom use the internet, it is nevertheless difficult to consider European e-commerce as a whole since it is made up of several regions which each play their own role.

According to PostNord’s research on major e-commerce countries in Europe and particularly in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, and the Nordic countries, it has been found that the most popular categories in European e-commerce are clothing and footwear, home appliances and books.

E-commerce revenue in Europe reached 534 billion Euros in 2017. Most online revenue is still generated in Western Europe, which accounts for around 68% of total online retail sales in Europe. Southern Europe, Northern Europe and Eastern Europe show a much smaller share, with 12%, 8% and 6% respectively.

e-commerce, commerce électronique, e-commerce europe, commerce électronique europe
In Europe, the major American retailers of course have great influence in the local e-commerce sectors. Amazon was the most visited retail site in Europe in 2018.

But of course that doesn’t mean that Europe doesn’t have its own platforms.

Amazon, Staples and Apple are the only US retailers to rank among the top 10 largest online retailers in Europe. The list also includes Otto (Germany), Tesco (United Kingdom), Casino Group (France), Shop Direct Group , Hom Retail Group (United Kingdom), Zalando (Germany) and John Lewis (United Kingdom).

Every region of the world has its own language, its own culture and its own history.
This must be taken into account when localizing a product, service or when developing a market strategy. Amazon is dominant in parts of Europe in some areas. But each country has its own preferences :


German consumers are very strict on certain laws in terms of consumption. Written warnings are dear to them. They are often used to protect against unscrupulous sellers.

We must therefore increase our vigilance and service quality. As far as online payment is concerned, the Germans are also a little different. They prefer to pay only when the product has been received and when everything is in order rather than paying in advance like many other European consumers. This is why certain foreign players are less prominent in the German market. Amazon remains at the top of the ranking, but many other local companies are popular.

Trade war stimulates European market. How importers can develop e-commerce in EU.

2017 turnover of Germany online retailers




The French have always enjoyed shopping online, as they often associate with it shopping in real stores. Fnac or Carrefour, Auchan and Darty are the best examples.

However, the market leaders are still online only stores such as Amazon or the French champion Cdiscount which is hot on the heels of the American giant, thanks to effective strategies in terms of prices and a certain French patriotism.

Chiffre d'affaires des détaillants en ligne en France

2017 turnover of online retailers in France.



For Italians, websites in their own language are a crucial element in their choice of e-commerce site. They also pay close attention to delivery costs, which often don’t apply when using Amazon, which dominates the market (Amazon Italy). In addition the speed of delivery is just as important, as is the possibility of being able to return products.

Trade war stimulates European market. How importers can develop e-commerce in EU.

2017 turnover of online retailers in Italy.


The Netherlands:

The fact that local players dominate the market is explained by the fact that the country is so small. This has long discouraged big names to penetrate this particular market.

In addition, Dutch is an under-used language that may have discouraged Amazon for example. It is for this reason (among others) that has been able to move from a small German project of the Bertelsmann group to a leader in the Dutch market.

It was easy to grow without international competitors like Amazon or eBay, although their ability to adapt (made easy by the similarity in German and Dutch cultures) also played a major role.

Sales of online retailers in the Netherlands.

2017 turnover of online retailers in Netherlands.



E-commerce in Spain has taken time to set up. However, Spanish consumers have long been ordering products from foreign sites at the expense of local online stores.
But things are changing now. Spaniards also prefer to pay through PayPal online banking rather than traditional banking methods.

Trade war stimulates European market. How importers can develop e-commerce in EU.

2017 turnover of online retailers in Spain.


E-commerce developed late in Belgium for various reasons. To begin with, there are various languages commonly spoken by different regions each with very strong identities: Flemish speaking Flanders , French speaking Wallonia (economic lag in this region). And to make matters worse, the federal state of the country consists of three communities, three regions, and four language areas.

Local laws and regulations have also disrupted e-commerce growth. It took a long time for the state to allow overnight workers in the field of e-commerce. As a result, many e-commerce companies could not offer a delivery service the day after the order, when foreign companies could. However, a law has since passed and local players have been able to regain market share, offering more competition to Amazon in particular, and therefore better prices for consumers.

Turnover of online retailers in Belgium European market

2017 turnover of online retailers in Belgium.

Online retailers, Europe, E-commerce

Top 3 retailers and market shares in Western Europe

Official languages, Europe, Western

Official languages In Western Europe

2 – The trade war: an opportunity for the European market to open up

A trade war occurs when one country retaliates against another by raising import tariffs or imposing other restrictions on imports from the other country. Intensive and targeted forms of protectionism then manifest themselves. A tariff is a tax or duty imposed on goods imported into a country. In a global economy, a trade war can be very damaging to consumers and businesses in both countries, and such issues can spread and affect many aspects of both economies.

Since July 6, 2018, China and the United States have been engaged in a trade war involving the mutual placement of tariffs. US President Donald Trump exercised Congressional authority in the 1974 Trade Act to unilaterally impose tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods after the US Trade Representative’s Office determined that China’s trade practices unfairly limited US exports. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement that the United States “launched the biggest trade war in economic history known to date” and imposed retaliatory tariffs on US goods of similar value.

Of the $250 billion of Chinese exports to America , subject to punitive tariffs, 82% will be replaced by exports from other countries.

The European market is a flourishing market and still little exploited by foreign powers.
Because of these restrictions and new customs taxes, Europe is becoming a possible target market for the Chinese who are now emerging as new advocates of multilateralism, showing more and more signs of openness towards the Old Continent.

Trade War European market
With its 50 countries in continental Europe and its 28 countries in political Europe, the continent is one of the most diverse. The GDP of the European Union was estimated at 18.8 billion dollars in 2018, which represents 22% of the world economy. The largest countries in Europe are Russia, France, Ukraine and Spain. Germany remains the richest country in Europe with a GDP of $3,651.87 billion. France is the second richest country with a GDP of $2,574.81 billion. Then comes the United Kingdom ($2,565.05 billion), Italy ($1,921.14 billion), Russia ($1,469.34 billion), and Spain ($1,307.17 billion).

These countries are therefore the most interesting in terms of sales and trade.

In addition, import tariffs in Europe are among the lowest in the world. The European market is one of the most open to developing countries. Excluding fuel, the EU imports more LDCs than the United States, Canada, Japan and China combined.


3 – Translate your product fact sheets: an essentials 

According to a recent study , 80% of customers prefer to buy products if the description of the products is written in their own language. Translating your product sheet is an essential asset to increase your sales on European market and European customers will be able to discover your range of products or services with ease.

In the event that your product sheet is badly translated, you could end up with two potential disasters:

  1. Low traffic – e-commerce platforms require that keywords, titles, descriptions be accurately written in the target language, so that the customer can search them in their search engine.
    Some words will not be written in the same way as in English (for example, German will use a word in two sentences to express something that is written as a single word in English)
  2. Low conversion rate – If your product listings are poorly translated, you will not get enough relevant searches, meaning a low conversion rate.
    Low conversion rates translate into low sales.

As said before, the European market is made up of several regions that have their own consumption habits, their own cultures and their own languages.
If you plan to enter the European market, it will be necessary to translate your descriptions into local languages. It is clear that not all companies have the budget to translate their product descriptions into the many languages used in Europe.
This is why you should consider translating your descriptions into at least the 4 main languages used in Europe:

  • French
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • and German

Most descriptions are translated into English, and Europeans, regardless of their nationality and level of English, always prefer to purchase something with a description in their native language.

Recent research has shown that over 60% of customers leave the product’s sales page because of poorly used language.
This aspect is very important because it makes the buying experience easier for the consumer.

Whether it’s the name, the price, the description of the product or its characteristics, it is absolutely necessary to translate and localize everything so that it’s all clear in the minds of potential customers.

Even if the translation of your product sheet has a cost, you will see the difference on your return on investment. If you plan to translate your product description, it is important to entrust the translation to a professional. Using automatic translation a bad translator could turn against you and you could end up with nonsensical translations and a lack of fluidity.

Customers will think that your business is not serious and this will impact your sales.

4 – Translating your product fact sheet: important points

To reach a wider audience of buyers, you have a few options to translate information about your product. The product title and their translation must be concise and exhaustive. This is usually the name of the seller or brand of the product, the name of the product and some adjectives qualifying the product.

All of which are followed by the main characteristics of the product follow. In general it is a simple list with the main features.
Do not neglect any detail.

Dimensions, weight, color, power, speed, required batteries, components included, materials, everything you have as information about your product should be displayed clearly, most often in the form of a table or bullet list.
If we take the example of a mobile phone, its characteristics will be:

  • the size of the screen
  • battery life
  • weight
  • screen resolution
  • storage capacity
  • the quality of the camera
  • available colors)
  • processor, etc.

The description of the product is then found. This small text is usually located at the bottom of the page and therefore far from any images. The style must remain concise, but here we can go directly to the consumer and present the sales pitch.
You can opt for a less formal tone and use exclamation marks for example.

It is also inappropriate to use the journalist technique of the inverted pyramid to write your product profile. This technique consists in presenting first the most important elements according to your customers. 

It is also important to highlight how your product could change the customer’s life by describing its benefits. When translating product descriptions for European market, it is important to correctly tailor your marketing and SEO content to each market. Attention must also be paid to the translation of keywords.  

These are the terms that will allow the product to be found during an online search.
The consumer can easily find your product in its search results and will be redirected to your online store. Be careful, it is not enough to translate the keywords – it is important to check the relevant keywords for the country concerned.

European market Bad translation product description, product description, product details

Example of a poor product description translation for an external battery.


The same goes for the translation of user manuals and guides. Many customers in European market order household appliances or other things, and do not always know how to use them.

The user guide provided is not always translated into the native language of the client, who is sometimes forced to return the product because without a guide it is impossible to understand how to use it.

It is therefore in your interest to translate your user guide into the main languages of Europe to drive sales and to offer customers a remarkable shopping experience so that they can be fully satisfied and return to your business for future purchases.

Translating your guides also requires good language skills and it’s not enough to use Google Translate or another machine translation service. Ask a professional who can provide you with a quality translation. Remember that in addition to translating your product listings and user guides, you must localize your content. This includes converting prices into local currency, changing keywords to add the most relevant ones to different countries and highlight what could attract customers in your target country.

Once you have implemented all these tips, you will be able to see the increase in your sales as well as the feedback from your satisfied customers, thanking you for providing them with easy-to-access content in their native language.

5 – Use HI-COM to translate your product descriptions and user guides

The translation of product descriptions and user guides for European market is a service that HI-COM has been providing for many years. We only use experienced and native translators of the target language. Our translation teams are made up of a project manager, a translator and a proofreader. We can also call upon a graphic designer if necessary.

Thanks to our expertise we have been able to satisfy many customers. The translation of your product sheet involves not only selecting the best translator to meet the specific needs of your request, but also adapting your content, taking into account the legislation, culture and buying habits of consumers in your target countries in European market.

By choosing HI-COM as a translation partner, the quality of your translations will put your company on the road to success!

Contact US!

Kate CHERNAVINATrade war stimulates European market. How importers can develop e-commerce in EU.