Blog

Key considerations for selling on Amazon in Europe vs. the US

Selling on Amazon in Europe isn't copy-and-paste from the US - it requires a nuanced approach to each market with considerations for varying cultures, languages, geographies, and existing competition.

Written by
Mark James
May 17, 2024
10
mins
Ecommerce
Amazon
Key considerations for selling on Amazon in Europe vs. the US

Table of contents

Amazon is a prominent marketplace across Europe and it is booming with opportunity, but replicating a successful North American Amazon business across the pond is by no means straightforward. Firstly, there isn't one "Amazon Europe" marketplace—Amazon operates in several European countries, so before you even get started you have to decide which marketplaces you want to enter. 

Secondly, Europe is famed for its diversity of languages and cultures, and this applies to eCommerce too. If you're in multiple European marketplaces, winning on Amazon requires a nuanced approach that takes national differences and the competitive landscape in each country into consideration. In this blog post, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • What are the most important cultural differences to consider when selling on Amazon in Europe?
  • How does the competitive eCommerce landscape in Europe differ from that in the US and how does it vary from country to country?
  • What are the challenges and solutions around cross-border logistics within Europe?
  • What role do European Union and national regulations play and how do they impact businesses selling on Amazon?

Multiple countries, multiple considerations

Amazon recently announced plans to launch amazon.ie in 2025. This will see Ireland become the tenth European country with a dedicated Amazon marketplace.

In addition, several of Amazon's European marketplaces also serve consumers in neighboring countries. Amazon Spain, for example, has a Portuguese language option and is open to shoppers in Portugal. This further increases Amazon's extensive reach across the continent, though it also further adds to the complexity for businesses selling on Amazon in Europe.

Linguistic diversity requires targeted content and keyword strategies

While the US is composed of many states with individual characteristics, 78% of the population speak English as a first language. So, if you've only been active on Amazon in North America, translations probably aren't something you've had to worry too much about. 

Europe is completely different. With just a few exceptions—French and Dutch are spoken in Belgium—each Amazon marketplace has its own primary language, meaning that brands looking to expand across Europe will need regional language expertise to be successful.

Anyone who has tried to translate an Amazon catalog into a new language knows that there are complications, which is why working with native speakers is critical when creating the content for your product detail pages. And even that's not enough. If you hand your English content to a generic translation agency and hope for the best, your listings won't necessarily be tailored to user behavior and keyword usage in the target country. 

You need to work with digital commerce experts who understand Amazon and can do the required keyword research on a language-by-language basis. This will ensure that your localized content is optimized for Amazon's ranking algorithm, making it visible and appealing to shoppers searching naturally in their native language.

National holidays impact consumer demand

Amazon's own shopping events, like Prime Day, Black Friday or other deal periods, tend to be held in parallel across Europe. Similarly, many major holidays that drive consumer demand—most obviously the Christmas shopping season—can be considered continent-wide events.

However, there are many smaller holidays that are either specific to individual countries or that happen on different dates across Europe. Mother's Day, for example, is celebrated in late March in the UK but in May—and there on different dates—in Germany, Spain and Poland.

Whichever market you're operating in, you'll want to find out which peak shopping events are important in your category, when they take place, and what the regional customs are. National traditions don't just dictate the timing of the holidays, but which keywords will be relevant and where you can benefit from optimizing seasonally-specific content and ramping up ad spend.

Marketplace maturity affects performance benchmarks

If you roll out your Amazon business in multiple European countries, you can expect to quickly notice differences in CPCs, ROAS, and other advertising KPIs. This doesn't have to mean that you're doing anything wrong.

While precise benchmarks depend on your category, ad types, and countless other factors, the more mature Amazon marketplaces (e.g. UK, Germany, France) tend to see higher CPCs and lower ROAS than in countries where Amazon is less well established.

What this means is that you should look at each of your Amazon presences individually and assess its performance on its own merits. Don't dismiss marketplaces where your ROAS is slightly lower, as these will generally have other advantages like a larger, more active user base and higher growth potential.

The eCommerce landscape in Europe

The state of digital commerce varies greatly across Europe. Here, we'll take a look at how widespread eCommerce penetration is in different countries, and where Amazon sits amongst a range of different national competitors.

Online sales share depends on consumer culture

Penetration of eCommerce varies significantly across Europe. According to data from Flywheel Retail Insights, the online share of retail sales in the UK reached 33.7% in 2024. This puts it well ahead of Amazon's EU marketplaces, with Italy's online share in particular just 11.9%.

These are overall figures, and the size of your relevant eCommerce market will depend on your category and brand. Some countries still have a strong culture of buying CPG items at local markets or pharmacies, and it is these kinds of differences you need to research and consider before selling in Europe.

Amazon still an emerging platform in some countries

In the US, ecommerce competition primarily revolves around Amazon and Walmart, but in Europe Walmart doesn't even exist and Amazon doesn't have nearly the same level of market dominance. Many European countries have incumbent marketplaces or emerging marketplaces that Amazon has to choose whether or not to compete with. Take bol.com, for example, which is the leading eCommerce marketplace in the Netherlands in terms of web traffic, with amazon.nl down in third place. Flywheel Retail Insights' data tells a similar story, with bol.com's parent company, Ahold Delhaize, boasting more than three times the market share than second-placed Amazon.

The situation in Poland is even more extreme. Here, Allegro dominates the market with almost half the share of eCommerce sales, and Amazon can be considered an emerging player, ranking fourth behind Alibaba Group and Euronics.

In countries where it isn't the primary eCommerce shop of choice, Amazon must strategically determine how much to invest in gaining market share, and brands must also determine how to balance investment between Amazon and other marketplaces. Scale this decision-making up across nine European countries and you can quickly see how complex planning your Amazon expansion to Europe can be.

Challenges and solutions for cross-border logistics

Another consideration when looking at Amazon in Europe versus North America is the logistics of cross-border commerce. Geography and transport infrastructure vary drastically across Europe, which can impact the speed and even the choice of vehicles by which packages or palettes can travel by. Infrastructure across North America also varies, but one major factor is there are fewer international borders to be crossed.

The European Union is part of a Customs Union, which means that trade between the 27 member countries is intended to be largely frictionless and products don't need checking at every single border. However, not every country in Europe is in the EU and even within the Customs Union your shipping speeds and costs will depend on where your inventory is stored and where you are shipping to.

To support brands with these choices, Amazon offers its European Expansion Accelerator Program, which aims to make it easier to sell across the EU and the UK. While this is framed as a solution in "just two clicks", brands are advised to research the different fulfillment models, which include:

  • Pan-European FBA: primarily for distribution within the European Union
  • European Fulfillment Network: for distribution between the UK and (some) EU countries

In all cases, it's important you dig into the details and ensure you understand how they pertain to your brand so that you're aware of all costs and logistics requirements before committing to a fulfilment option.

Rules and regulations: a different beast from the US

The last major area of consideration for brands selling on Amazon in the EU (especially brands whose eCommerce teams are mostly familiar with Amazon in the US) is the difference in the government rules and regulations that exist. Below are three of the most important to understand:

  • General Data Protection Regulation: GDPR, which has been in force in the European Union since 2018, is designed to protect the data rights of individuals in the EU. GDPR regulates how businesses handle personal information, enforces rules around obtaining users' consent, and empowers authorities to apply penalties.
  • Although the UK is no longer part of the European Union, the GDPR was incorporated into UK law so effectively all the same regulations apply, though this could change in the future. While the GDPR is broadly similar to the California Consumer Privacy Act, any company operating in Europe should familiarize themselves with the details of GDPR and ensure they are compliant.
  • Digital Services Act: The DSA is an EU legislation that requires businesses to be held accountable across a range of issues. For Amazon—and businesses selling on Amazon—relevant areas of the DSA include the selling of illegal products, misleading product content, misleading or suspicious advertising and illegitimate ways of getting consumers to buy products.
  • Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill: The DMCC is a bill currently moving through the UK parliament that covers similar issues to the DSA. The DMCC enforces competition laws in order to protect consumers from falling into traps such as unbeneficial subscriptions or misleading product information and reviews..

All of these laws—and we’ve only highlighted a few—showcase how there can be variation across the different markets, though one thing they have in common is they all come with hefty fines for companies that don't comply. So, as well as having your language and eCommerce specialists, it's vital for your success that you work with local experts who know the legal frameworks and can help you negotiate the ins and outs of doing business in each market.

Selling on Amazon in Europe isn't copy and paste

With the language and cultural differences, the unique eCommerce landscape in each country, and logistical and legal requirements, it's easy to see that a one-size-fits-all global Amazon strategy is not plausible. Understanding the nuances of each and every market is a necessary task to have any chance of success.

If you'd hoped selling on Amazon across Europe was as simple as copying and pasting your entire product catalog in each individual market, we've got you covered. Flywheel’s EMEA team is the leading partner for eCommerce strategy in the region and we're ready to gain a deeper understanding of your business.

FAQ
Mark James
Mark James
Senior Director EMEA, Flywheel
Mark James
Senior Director EMEA, Flywheel
As Senior Director for EMEA, Mark James is an experienced ad tech industry leader who ensures that Flywheel’s operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa are adapted to the needs of doing business on Amazon and across the region’s many other digital commerce marketplaces.
Connect

Ready to grow your business?

Let’s discuss the best approach to meet your brand’s specific needs.

Let's connect

Commerce
Collective

Congratulations! You’re in.
Look out for fresh industry insights and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Stay ahead of the eCommerce curve with fresh industry insights and updates delivered straight to your inbox.