According to statistics, 53% of the over 380 million Internet users within the EU area buy products and services online. The EU Single Market offers huge potential for ecommerce, but differences in member nation’s practices and legislation confuse not only consumers but also companies aiming to expand their business abroad. The upcoming ecommerce law will unify some practices. However, clear rules and efficient, EU- wide online shopping are still miles away. What are the current areas of development from the viewpoint of the European Union?
The European Parliament and the European Commission together with other European institutions arranged an event called Single Market Month where the EU citizens and decision makers got a chance to discuss ecommerce and give ideas on how to develop it further. The most popular ideas are now taken into account in building the new prerequisites for ecommerce success.
Standards for Managing Deliveries and Returns
Once again the discussion brought up one of the biggest challenges in ecommerce: deliveries. The mailing costs may be too high, the delivery tracking services may not work well or consumers may not understand how to return the order. As according to EU’s statistics 20–50 % of online purchases are returned, this may cause remarkable losses for web stores: it is surprisingly common that the costs of handling returns end up being higher than the actual sales proceeds.
Based on this problem, creating a standard system for managing deliveries and returns was among the most popular ideas of the Single Market Month. With an efficient returns system the web store could save remarkable amounts of money and the customer satisfaction would increase due to easy-to-understand return systems. In practice this means the customer could fill in the returns form online and the web stores would handle the return easily via their back-office system. In addition to returns management, this data system would allow an easy way of tracking deliveries and would increase the customers’ feeling of control of the purchase process.
EU-Wide Trust Mark
Standardized practices for deliveries and returns also create basis for another popular idea of the Single Market Month: There should be a list of criteria, and by fulfilling those the web store would be granted a trust mark. This mark would tell consumers that the web store is following certain practices and hence it is able to provide high quality service and easy shopping experience for everyone. Basically a web store could fill these criteria by using the standard electronic system for delivery tracking and returns processes. Among the endless amount of different trust marks, one that would be common for the whole EU area could increase the trust of consumers against the other European web stores.
Many web stores may find the new EU based ecommerce law (efficient from June 2014) and possible new regulations frustrating, but it is good to remember that they open whole new possibilities for ecommerce on the international level. It is positive that these development ideas raised during the Single Market Month are the kind we in Finland already have solutions for. Hence we are ready to bring the solutions to the European level.
For Further Reading
Already in 2008 Suomen Maksuturva Oy launched a payment service that includes tools for efficient management of returns and tracking of deliveries. This solution is now used in multiple successful Finnish web stores as well as our international clients that sell to Finland. During 2013 the service got a new feature – a certificate site that communicates the web stores responsible practices to its customers.