Is your ecommerce site ready for the Nordic invasion?

When you think about the Nordics you probably think about Vikings, Abba and possibly flat-pack furniture! However, the latest report from PostNord reveals that more than 15 million citizens from the Nordic region (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) bought goods online last year. In 2013, an overwhelming 49 percent of Nordic online shoppers bought goods from the UK, making the UK the most popular destination for Nordic e-shoppers.

As members of the European Union, doing business in the Nordic region is very similar to doing business in the UK. So if your product or service is successful in the UK, there’s a good chance you’ll be successful over there. Not only this but English is widely used, there is a strong currency, and Nordics generally have an appreciation for British products and luxury goods making it the perfect launch-pad for first-time exporters.

Nevertheless, entering a new country without any contextual knowledge can lead to expensive errors that are easily avoided. Here’s our top tips for trading in the Nordic region.

Offer different payment methods

Before you venture internationally it’s important you research different forms of payment. While the majority of Swedes like to pay after having received the goods against an invoice, Norwegians and Danes prefer to pay by debit or credit card. Finns, on the other hand, choose in the first instance to pay directly through their bank. So it’s important that your website is set up to deal with a variety of payment methods for the country you are targeting.

Remove the barriers

Delivering to an unfamiliar region is always daunting; and with the cost of international postage to contend with, the price of getting it wrong can be detrimental. Nordic addressing is also quite different to the UK which can be a major headache when it comes to capturing customers’ delivery addresses. For example, Finnish addresses are written with an empty line above the line containing the postal code, and may also be in Finnish or Swedish. On top of this there’s an addition six unfamiliar character sets to contend with. For this reason it’s important to invest in software which can capture addresses in a way customers feel comfortable giving. While your checkout forms might work for UK customers they could be the very thing deterring your international audience.

Responsive design

Last year Sweden’s smartphone usage was more than double the European average, with more than half of its population owning a smartphone.

So if you’re website is not built for handheld devices, then you could be missing out on a lot of sales. Even though a responsive approach works for many sites larger projects, you might benefit from a full mobile site to allow true optimisation and contextual content for mobile.

Deliver on your promise

Generally mailbox delivery is the most popular delivery method in all countries apart from Finland, where customers prefer to pick up their goods at collection point. For this reason it’s important your website includes a full list of contact information and with details of your nearest pick up point.

On your international shipping page, be sure to include information on estimated shipping times, product availability as well as your international returns policies. Explaining any additional shipping costs here is a good way to discourage cart abandonment.  It’s always a good idea to include a full list of contact information as well as a complete list of countries to which you can ship and customer service hours of operation in relation to specific time zones. Most people will naturally presume hours are referred to in their own time zone and could find it frustrating if they cannot get hold of the company, not realising it’s out of business hours.

Get social

Never underestimate the power of social media for attracting new customers.There’s definitely an expectation for retailers to have a social media presence these days. Not only does it enable customers to have a dialogue with your store, but it also makes you appear more approachable and digitally aware. With approximately 55% of the Swedish population using Facebook, it could be the best medium to share your content.

Start in Sweden

According to Fredrik Lexmon, Director and head of Nordics at The Inset House, the easiest was to branch out into the Nordics is to start testing the water in Sweden. UK Trade & Investment, the Government’s export agency, also recommends the country as a “uniquely well-suited test market for new products”. Lexmon said: “From there it’s very straightforward progress into the Nordic region which is completely geared-up for business, with similar language, laws and culture, plus cross-border commercial co-operation.”

If you export internationally we’d love to hear from you. Leave your comments below.