International Business Strategies

What Do Your International Customers Want? (Part 1: France, Germany and Japan)

If your company is expanding into global online markets in 2017, this analysis on international buying personas may prove valuable.

Victoria Bloyer's avatar
Victoria Bloyer

January 12, 2017


Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 in a 2-part series. Part 2 can be found here.

For more than 15 years, MotionPoint has developed innovative technologies and services that have revolutionised the website translation and localisation industry. Along the way, we've operated more than 1,000 global websites for hundreds of brands, and have acquired an unique perspective on how consumers use the Internet in international markets.

Using our exclusive first-party data, authoritative third-party data, and first-hand experience helping hundreds of brands serve consumers around the world, we've cooked up some interesting insights about online consumers around the world. Here are a few:

French Online Consumers

Consumers in France often shop for high-quality goods online-most likely apparel, though books and music are also common products purchased on e-commerce sites. Health and beauty items are also popular online purchases.

French shoppers prefer European brands, and will often shop on e-commerce sites based in neighboring countries. Cross-border shopping (and despatch) is common.

But for businesses eying France as an expansion-worthy online market, know that French consumers expect e-commerce sites to be available in French. Translating and localising online content is a must to succeed in this market. Further, they expect excellent customer service, and will shop elsewhere if their expectations aren't met in regards to product quality, customer service and smooth product returns.

French consumers often pay for their online purchases with credit cards, though other locally-preferred payment methods include Allopass (which lets them pay via phone or SMS), CM-CIC Paiement, Hipay, or PayPal.

Transparency is important to the French, particularly in the fulfillment process. They like being able to choose their delivery date and track their shipments. E-retailers, take note: French consumers usually prefer free despatch to fast despatch, so make sure to offer that option if appropriate. Further, they prefer home delivery to picking up their shipment at a "pick-up and go" location, or in-store delivery.

To reach the French shopper on social media, you'll most likely find them on Facebook. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Skyrock are also popular platforms.

German Online Consumers

Germans are likely to have a large disposable income, and often purchase e-retail items such as clothing, electronics and books. They're also more likely than other Europeans to buy sports and leisure items online. The German shopper is likely to prefer to pay with local payment methods-such as Klarna and Billpay-over credit cards. They're also likely to make payments via Paypal and bank transfers through GiroPay. E-retailers should support these platforms when serving the German online market.

Germans are known for being frugal-and they certainly do appreciate competitive prices-but a low price alone isn't enough to woo a German shopper. Germans value safety, quality, and convenience. Trust is important to these consumers. If they don't trust an item's quality, or think that product returns might be a hassle, they'll shop elsewhere. (Offering a robust return policy is a good way to engender goodwill in this market; German shoppers' return rate can be as high as 50%.)

Germans prefer to buy from domestic retailers, but if they can find the quality they seek for a reasonable price, they will shop from international sellers. This is especially true for apparel, since German-made clothing, such as jeans, tend to have a high price tag despite being of inferior quality.

Most German online shoppers prefer their purchases to be delivered to their homes, and they want their products despatched quickly. About 80% of consumers want to receive their orders within 3 to 5 days.

Most Germans are on social media at least once a day; their preferred platforms are Facebook, followed by Google+ and Xing.

Japanese Online Consumers

Most Japanese online consumers have studied English in junior high and high school-and possibly university if they attended-but will not feel confident enough to shop in any other language but Japanese. E-retailers should translate and localize content to serve this online market.

Japanese shoppers are very mobile-savvy, and nearly all Japanese Internet users shop online. They usually focus their online spending on travel, home electronics and women's apparel.

For the Japanese, trust plays a critical role in the decision to buy online. Not only must the content be in Japanese, but there must be a lot of information available-more than most Western companies might be accustomed to seeing. This content should include a detailed product description, technical dimensions and specifications, and more. While this might appear "busy" or overwhelming to Western eyes, it's the norm in this market.

Nearly half of online shopping is conducted on marketplace sites such as Rakuten, Amazon Japan, and Yahoo. Foreign brands may find better traction selling goods through these virtual marketplaces than via their own in-market branded websites.

Credit cards are the most common method of online payment here, though Japan's historical cash-first economy means that cards are still only used about 44% of the time. Cash on delivery and bank transfers are considered safe and reliable payment options here. Interestingly, Japanese consumers can make pay for online goods at convenience stores; this is used for about 10% of purchases.

Cross-border shopping is far less common in Japan than in other Asia-Pacific markets. Around only 10% of Japanese shoppers purchase from abroad. This is likely due to foreign brands not meeting their very high standards for customer service (including supporting locally-preferred payment methods, speedy despatch, and having customer communications and support in Japanese), or being unsure of the quality of an unfamiliar foreign brand.

Loyalty and rewards programmes are common among online retailers here. Foreign companies serving the online Japanese market should use such programmes to woo consumers.

To Be Continued…

Tomorrow, we’ll head westward and examine consumers in the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets. In the meantime, you can learn more about French and German consumers, holidays and in-country marketing opportunities by checking out our free France: Market Insights and Campaign Opportunities and Germany: Market Insights and Campaign Opportunities reports!

Update: Part 2 in this series is now available.

Last updated on January 12, 2017
Victoria Bloyer's avatar

About Victoria Bloyer

Victoria Bloyer is a Global Online Strategist with region-specific knowledge of Japan, where she resided for 9 years. She received her Master's degree in Regional Sciences from Tokushima University (Tokushima, Japan) in 2014, and also holds a Bachelor's in Asian Studies. Prior to joining the Global Growth team at MotionPoint, Victoria worked in translation and education. Most recently she worked for a publishing company, where she began her foray into content marketing and even co-wrote a book. She is passionate about discovering the best practices for global user experiences, and informing business how to implement those tools and techniques to achieve optimal success and customer satisfaction as they expand globally.

Victoria Bloyer's avatar
Victoria Bloyer

Global Online Strategist


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