Study: European Web sites fail to satisfy shoppers

European Web commerce sites at large still fail to give users a satisfactory shopping experience, according to a new study from Forrester Research.

Many European businesses put up mediocre Web sites that fail to create a compelling environment for commerce, concluded Forrester in the report entitled "The Best of Europe's eCommerce".

In addition, many European companies are still looking to their US counterparts to inspire their electronic commerce efforts on the Web, according to the report, which was based on interviews with 66 internet strategists and 36 online merchants throughout Europe.

When asked to name the top European Web sites, US companies won top honours among respondents: 38 per cent of the interviewees listed Amazon.com's site, 23 per cent voted for Dell, and 16 per cent chose Cisco Systems' online shop.

Out of the top six companies cited, only two were European: Bertelsmann AG's series of book-selling sites, BOL, garnered 11 per cent of the votes, and 7 per cent of respondents said Lufthansa's Web site was one of the best.

Those polled believed that e-commerce still takes too low of a priority at most European companies, Forrester said. The obstacles include companies' lack of skilled personnel, conflicts with middlemen who perceive the Web as a threat to their business, and the lack of coordination among a company's internal departments.

European executives also believe however that as the market matures, new types of sites will emerge with more local content, Forrester noted. The sites need to be more focused first on grabbing an online shopper's attention, and then making the shopping experience as convenient as possible.

"Localisation is primordial today," one vendor told Forrester, noting that although pan-European sites need a common architecture, local editing is crucial. "There is no common average European behaviour when it comes to products like food."

Forrester also highlighted four companies which are leading the way in Europe. They included Somm & Partner's private label computer stores, a Swedish site with content written by teenagers, a new Dutch Web site by a company called Fun-Shopping which offers reviews of stores as well as online shopping opportunities, and Autobytel in the UK, which is selling cars over the internet.

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