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European e-commerce forecast: Winning the zero moment of truth

Leading technology-focused research and consulting firm, Forrester, recently released a report on European e-commerce and its future impact across 17 major European markets. Overall, online European retail sales are forecast to grow 12.2% annually, reaching a total value of 230.4 billion US dollars by 2016.

While e-commerce is set to increase across all major European markets, the highest compound annual growth rates will be seen in countries like Spain and Italy where consumers so far have been more resilient to embrace online shopping.

Although the UK and Germany will remain Europe’s two largest online economies through 2016, Sweden and the Netherlands come out on top as the countries with the highest percentage of online shoppers by 2016, with 86% and 85% of the total online population making purchases through this channel, respectively.

From a consumers perspective, saving time, finding the best deals at a given budget, as well as better selection are not surprisingly among the main reasons for shopping online. In fact, 69% of the European respondents in the survey perceived the time factor as a major reason to shop online, notes Editor Don Davies.

Significant changes in purchasing patterns: Zero moment of truth

One of the most debated topics in marketing circles in the past ten years, if not the most debated, has been how the control and power have gradually shifted from companies and marketers to consumers due to the interactive principles of web 2.0 through which the market transparency has dramatically increased. I will not bother you with another in-depth analysis of what exactly has caused this shift, however, the foundation of the success of e-commerce and its continuous growth is built upon the transparency that came along with web 2.0.

The mainstream adoption of the internet and the heavy usage of it have blurred the lines between the virtual and real world – and this definitely goes for e-commerce as well. In this regard, Knowledge@Wharton notes:

“Today, as web browsing has become more and more pervasive, the way people shop has changed. Long before shoppers find products on a store shelf, they search for the best options online. By the time they make a purchase, they have read reviews, compared prices and fully evaluated their options, whether they are buying a pillow or a Porsche. What, then, happens to the “first moment of truth?”

This new reality being described above has by some marketers been coined the term “zero moment of truth” and refers to marketers having to compete for a shopper’s attention long before a purchasing decision is made. Additionally, the number of online customer touchpoints has risen significantly with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, thus making the job of the marketer much more complex as the lines between offline and online will not only blur but completely vanish.

Wining those battles, however, seems to be key to future bottom line success. According to Myles Anderson, the findings of this year’s Local Consumer Review Survey (2012) reveal that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. What is more, the number of consumers checking out businesses online is steadily rising:

How many times have you used the internet to find a local business in the last 12 months?


The tendency is clear; online and offline will melt into one with increased emphasis given to online recommendations and reviews before purchasing a product or service. Although complex, it is your job as a marketer to connect the dots and win the battle of the booming online market – taking shortcuts surely will not get you there.

At the International Search Summit in London on 14 May Nick Garner from Unibet will be speaking about winning the “Zero Moment of Truth” globally. Passes for the summit are still available and early bird rates apply until 30 March.

Webcertain can be found on stand P31 next week at the Internet Retailing Expo in Birmingham.

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Immanuel Simonsen

Research Manager at Webcertain
As the Research Manager of multilingual web marketing agency Webcertain, Immanuel heads up the company’s global market research activities and large content marketing projects. He is the author of several reports and guides, including ‘The Essential Guide to Rel-Alternate-Hreflang’ and ‘The Webcertain Global Search and Social Report 2013’. Apart from being a tutor at the International Marketing School -- teaching online marketing professionals on business opportunities around the globe -- Immanuel is a regular speaker at the International Search Summit, a leading event series dedicated to multilingual search and social media marketing.

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