Excellent English, high internet connectivity: understanding the Nordic region

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Author: Greig Holbrook, Founder, Oban Digital

The Nordics is often a region overlooked by retailers in favour of our near neighbours in Western Europe or across the pond in North America.

However, combined the countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland are worth around USD $50bn annually, with growth on-top of this ranging from 2.7% per year (Finland) up to 8.1% per year (Norway). This means the Nordic market as a whole is about two-thirds the size of the UK market which is estimated at USD $73bn: significant numbers considering the relative importance of the UK market.

 

In a region where winters are long and harsh, and the mainly socialist governments prioritise internet infrastructure projects it is perhaps unsurprising that the Nordic countries are leading the world in online connectivity. Finland may be the least connected in the region, but it still has 93% of its population online (Iceland tops the international list with 98% and is joined in the top 10 by Norway, Sweden and Denmark).

Excellent English

Although we might think of the Swedes, Finns, Norwegians and Danes as speaking excellent English, this does not mean that they want to engage online in a non-native language. The majority of successful local eCommerce sites use the native language of the Nordic country they are targeting.

 

Although some multinational brands do offer a range of language options this is still not the norm. Many are falling well short of fully localising content across their eCommerce and social media platforms. Social media conversations for non-Nordic brands are often not conducted in local languages and of those that are, very few offer full localisation of content such as the use of local celebrities.

 

Localisation into Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish will be a key differentiator for international brands.

 

Understanding the Nordic Region

Spotlight on Finland: where broadband access is a democratic right

Talking to our Local In-Market Experts (LIME) in Finland, they suggest that, in general, there is huge enthusiasm for Finnish eCommerce, but online stores could be doing more to attract customers and drive conversions.

 

Although eCommerce is developing at a slower rate than in other Nordic countries, it should not be overlooked. This is a market where mobile phone ownership stands at 10 million in a population of 5 million and broadband access has been enshrined as a legal right since 2010.

 

The Finnish marketing press has discussed this phenomenon in great depth – concerned that the Finnish economy is losing on eCommerce, as customers are looking abroad. “The domestic online stores are either not there or they’re not being properly marketed, offering opportunities for international brands to meet unserved consumer demand.”

 

Finland is a bilingual country, and by law a customer can demand service in Finnish or Swedish. Although execution of this right can sometimes be difficult, because actually not every Finnish person is bilingual. However, there is still a legal expectation. Despite this, many Finnish online stores offer only a Finnish site with only a few sites providing Swedish and in some cases, English options. Around 95% of the market can be reached with Finnish alone, so if budgets are limited marketers could consider a phased approach to localising for both languages. Some international brands with a presence in Finland are successfully localising their eCommerce offering, but failing to localise across all their channels. Social media conversations are conducted in English or followers are directed to non-native content featuring non-local celebrities and events.

 

Collectively, the Nordics offer a sizeable eCommerce opportunity. Understanding the individual countries within the region, their cultural differences, online preferences and the trends that are driving purchasing will enable businesses to successfully make their move into the Nordics.

For more information, please consult our The Nordics ‘passport’ trading guide.

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