Global Perspective: How U.S. Direct Marketers Can Prosper From Digital Growth in Europe

Global Perspective

While television still dominates direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising budgets in Europe, more and more direct marketing spend is directed to digital channels. U.S. direct marketers are recognizing the implications. There are, however, certain fundamentals that U.S. marketers must recognize to effectively launch products internationally via digital channels.

For U.S. direct marketers, it is first and foremost important to recognize that Europe is not America — there are subtle differences that need to be understood and taken into consideration. The shopping cart structure, regulatory climate, sales tax, and linguistic nuances when determining search terms are a few of the core differences. Knowledge of local cultural differences cannot be underestimated.

Consumers are sophisticated in how they interact with digital marketing via their smartphones. In Europe, the growth of orders from mobile phones is outpacing U.S. trends. According to Demandware, 55 percent of U.K. and 52 percent of U.S. customers visit e-commerce sites on their mobile phones — but in the U.K., 37 percent of actual orders come from mobile phones, compared with 28 percent in the U.S. Optimizing your shopping cart and payment methods are key to narrowing the order gap. Effective m-commerce satisfies the demand for instant gratification with easy-to-navigate shopping carts, one-click payment methods, and fast (even same-day) delivery.

The typical DRTV customer (women 35-55) is one of the strongest growing m-commerce user groups in Europe. Smartphone technology has empowered European consumers to choose when and where they will make purchases — and use of smartphones for transactions has overtaken laptops and tablets. 

Of course, how consumers prefer to shop depends on what they are buying. When it comes to purchasing household appliances online, in the U.K., Poland, and Germany, shoppers are most likely to purchase via an online channel. Conversely in Canada and the U.S., two-thirds of shoppers prefer to buy in store.

Nevertheless, one universal truth is that customers want convenience and data security. According to PwC’s 2017 Total Retail Survey, 65 percent of global shoppers are wary of having their personal information hacked while using their cell/smartphone. Many consumers reduce risk by shopping online only with trusted brands or by paying only through trusted payment methods such as PayPal or European service providers like Klarna and After Pay.

Simplified and streamlined order processes make the difference. Many U.S. vendors place upsells in the cart after the customer has entered her payment details. Europeans are not accustomed to this order flow and are used to adding items to and amending their carts before paying. In a world where trust is so key, it makes sense to take customers to checkout by a familiar route.

The way that consumers watch television is changing, too, as they migrate toward subscription-based and streaming options. As television rates for long-form escalate, digital marketing yields immediacy in delivering demonstrable product messages and provides consumers with the ability to gather product information — checking customer reviews — and to conduct transactions.

Facebook and a variety of video streaming sites are ideal locations to demonstrate the benefits of the products we advertise on TV. Eighty percent of European Facebook members used their account in July 2017 (the number was 60 percent in the U.S.).

Having your site translated into local market languages is a necessity — but translation alone is not enough. It is vital to reflect the cultural differences of each market within the text.

Across Europe, direct digital advertising of products is subject to rules and regulations enforced by various governing bodies. For instance, while the U.S. may be relatively relaxed about using such terms as “best” and “better” to describe products, European markets are governed by strict principles when it comes to competitive messaging.

Promotion also plays a significant role in digital marketing. In Europe, contests, premium offers, and deals, such as “buy one, get one free,” are regulated across borders. Promotional tactics must be devised that avoid conflict with local laws. 

The digital direct response landscape in Europe is a model for the world. The vast differences between digital marketing in the U.S. and Europe are why it’s crucial that most U.S. marketers bring local expertise on board when launching digital campaigns in other territories.