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E‐Commerce » Trends, Tips & Facts | 18.03.2013

The potential is great for cross border e-commerce


The international mail-order trade offers big opportunities… Asendia in interview with Susanne Czech, chief executive of EMOTA, the European Multi-Channel and Online Trade Association.

Asendia: Ms Czech, who benefits from the international mail-order trade?
Susanne Czech: Retailers who would like to expand their market and customers who are searching for a bigger range of goods. However, mail-order trade over the border is only profitable if the products can be transported with no problem, there are no complicated special regulations regarding their sale and the time factor does not play a major role.

What opportunities does the international mail-order trade offer?
International business is still in its infancy. According to Eurostat data, 43 per cent of Europeans shop online. The European average for border-crossing e-commerce is only around 10 per cent. So the potential is great. The European Commission is pursuing the goal that by 2015, 20 per cent of consumers will be shopping online in another EU country. However, we do not currently see this as feasible since a whole series of hurdles would have to be eliminated within the next two years, hurdles that still make cross-border business for retailers difficult.


“The European Commission is pursuing the goal that by 2015, 20 per cent of consumers will be shopping online in another EU country.”


What are the biggest hurdles?
Important topics are non-harmonised consumer rights, data protection provisions and added-value-tax regulations as well as different delivery terms and payment methods. Currently, retailers are only able to meet these barriers with investment in the procurement of the required knowledge. SMEs, which make up the majority of European companies, are at a disadvantage here compared to large companies. Also central are the risk of fraud, claims management, processing complaints, the variety of languages and the organisation of after-sales service. This too requires additional investments.

How can a simplification of legal aspects be achieved?
Harmonisation and simultaneous simplification lies in the hands of the European legislators and of EU member states that are to implement the EU specifications. A current example is the new directive on the rights of the consumer in the internal market, which is to bring uniformity throughout Europe. Areas affected are, for instance the revocation period, which in future will amount to 14 calendar days, and the pre-contractual obligations to provide information.

How has the mail-order trade developed over recent years?
Very positively, despite what are seen as unsolved problems by the internal European market. With growth of 20 per cent compared to the previous year, sales for 2012 are around 300 billion euros. With that Europe has taken the lead from the US. In the Eastern European countries where electronic business is not yet so strongly developed, the growth rate is even higher. In addition, the trend seems to be heading to “multi-channel”. That means that sales and communication are occurring more and more frequently over several channels.



EMOTA (European Multi-channel and Online Trade Association) is the European e-commerce and mail-order trade association domiciled in Brussels. With its currently 16 member associations in 15 countries, EMOTA represents the interests of over 3000 European mail-order retailers and online shops.

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The international mail order trade offers big opportunities. Interview with Susanne Czech.