E-commerce Is Booming in the Nordic Markets

e-commerce localization


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Shop till we drop it off – consumers in the Nordic countries spent almost 20 billion Euros on online shopping in 2020, with up to 9 in 10 consumers buying from other countries. The Nordics were early adopters of internet technology, and the pandemic has served only to strengthen the trend towards online shopping. Read on to find out what defines the trends in the Nordics and how you can best connect with this high-value market.

More online shopping in the Nordics

Nordic consumers are in general digitally mature. According to a recent e-commerce report by PostNord, around 9 in 10 Nordic consumers regularly engage in e-commerce. The pandemic significantly advanced the development towards online shopping, with up to a quarter of Nordics saying they used e-commerce more due to the pandemic, and a greater number of previously reluctant online shoppers, such as the older generations, also embraced the convenience of click and drop. The trend was, however, already well underway, with a big shift from physical stores to e-commerce well before 2020, driven by changing Nordic consumer habits.

Nordic consumers are also happy to purchase from other countries. 80 to 90% of consumers across the Nordics engage in “cross-border” e-commerce, and with Amazon now established in Sweden, in addition to already well-established players like Zalando, Wish, eBay and others, this trend is likely to continue.

Clothing and electronics dominate Nordic e-commerce trends

The products most often bought online in the Nordics, as in other European countries, are clothing and footwear, followed closely by electronics and cosmetics, skin and hair care. Indeed, up to a quarter of Nordic consumers say that they have bought clothing or footwear online in the past year.

But the more than 1,000 Euros spent in an average year by Swedish online consumers (well above the European average) is not reserved just for fashion. A whole array of consumer goods are purchased by Nordic consumers via e-commerce, such as groceries, literature and audiobooks, home furnishings, dietary supplements, medication and other pharmaceuticals, sports and leisure products, as well as movies and entertainment and much else besides.

E-commerce delivers the goods

The Nordics certainly seem to enjoy the convenience of having products delivered to them. Apart from Finnish consumers, the vast majority of Nordic consumers prefer to have things delivered to their homes or P.O. boxes. In Finland, most consumers have a collection point close by, which might explain why more than 6 in 10 consumers there are happy to collect their purchases from a parcel locker or distribution hub.

A third of Nordic consumers consider free delivery important and for half of consumers, the price of delivery is also significant, while two-thirds of online shoppers base their online shopping decisions on expectations of accurate information that is easy to understand, with the shipping price and any other fees clearly indicated. Whatever the T&Cs may be, clear communication about them is something most consumers appreciate.

Cards still on top, with apps gaining ground for online shopping payment

30 to 60% of consumers across the Nordics still prefer to use a debit or credit card to pay for their online purchases. Danes are the happiest to embrace mobile app payments, with nearly 2 in 10 consumers indicating such a preference – this figure is 1 in 10 in Sweden and Norway but only 1 in 50 in Finland.

New players, such as Swedish Klarna – an app that claims to make buying online easier (with its one-click payment step) and more convenient (with deferred payment options) – and Vipps, Swish and MobilePay enhance convenience for consumers as they use handheld mobile devices. Cashless transactions have in general become very common in all age groups in the past few years in Scandinavia, with Klarna contributing towards this shopping trend.

E-commerce localization – what is there to localize?

In October 2020 Amazon launched to great fanfare in Sweden. It is testimony to the great purchasing power of the Nordic region that Amazon wanted to have a strong presence there and tap into this valuable market. In the Postnord report, Amazon ranks among the top online retailers in most Nordic countries, alongside competitors such as Zalando, eBay and Wish.

Following its acquisition of Tradera in 2006, eBay already had a strong presence in the Swedish market. Later, in 2015, Tradera entered into a cooperation with Klarna to use the payment solution on their website.

As mentioned above, two-thirds of e-commerce consumers consider clear information a key element when shopping online. It is therefore extremely important when crossing country and language borders in the world of e-commerce that information is available in the consumer’s own language.

Even though Scandinavian consumers are usually more than capable of navigating and understanding an English-language website, they prefer to make purchases in their own language.

A recent study commissioned by Sandberg showed that a clear majority of survey respondents (close to 80%) stated that they would choose their native language over English on a website if given the choice. In addition, more than half said they would likely be more interested in content in their own language. Simply put, consumers are less likely to shop on an e-commerce site that is available only in English.

Multilingual SEO


Key content to localize in e-commerce

There are several important elements that need to be readily accessible to the customer in the local target language and culture. Firstly, there are the product names and categories, which need to be accurately translated so that potential customers can look them up in their language and know what they are.

Once potential e-commerce customers have found your website and products, they will want more details about the items for sale. Proper product descriptions and details are crucial to guide the customer from browsing to purchasing, including comparing different offerings across your website but also with other suppliers online.

Product names and descriptions often require a premium marketing translation, sometimes called trans-creation, to work well in the target language – essentially adapting or even re-writing the copy to fit the target market, rather than providing a straight-forward translation. For top performance, keywords should be researched and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) carried out to identify specific attributes in the target language before translating any content. This entails not so much translation, but research skill to identify the terms that people in the target markets use when searching for a particular product or service.

However, if you want to provide the full localization experience, it’s important not to forget about consumer reviews. According to Trustpilot, 79 per cent of shoppers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Consumer reviews have become central to the online shopping experience – they help to build a strong relationship between the brand and the consumer, and drive sales.

One thing to remember when localizing consumer reviews is that the volume of text tends to grow so quickly that human translation might prove impossible. Here, the judicious use of machine translation (MT) can be extremely helpful to keep up. Other forms of direct customer interaction where MT can be helpful are chatbots and frequently asked questions – in these contexts, the MT function could be turned on or off by browsing consumers themselves.

From User Experience to Purchase Experience on your e-commerce platform

Increasing the value of your online offering by localizing the product information and user generated context will have less impact than it could have if you don’t adopt the overall User Experience (UX) for the local market. Take a look at this article for three considerations Sandberg always take to ensure successful localization of your UX.

One of the first considerations, for example, is to ensure that currencies are properly localized for the target market. When it comes to the Scandinavian nations, each has its own currency, even if they are all called “krone”.

It is equally important to offer online customers local payment options, such as Sweden-based Klarna – an increasingly popular payment option in the Nordics. Your UX must also be completely responsive. About 80% of Scandinavian e-commerce consumers use a mobile device, a smartphone or tablet, to engage in online shopping.

Besides currencies and payment options, you also need adjusted delivery options and all the myriad big and small steps that guide a customer from product to purchase, preferably without abandoning their shopping basket – up to 80% of online shoppers do this, according to research. 

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