It is necessary to start educating Portuguese customers to buy online, which involves a lot of big brands and positive experiences.
I keep hearing that the Portuguese don’t buy online, but the truth is that if the online experience is not good and doesn’t bring advantages over the store, there are no people who buy. And that’s what happens in Portugal in most cases.
Those who educate customers to buy online are usually the big brands, and if they don’t do a good job, the whole market suffers. There is an initial barrier for the customer when he proposes to make his first online purchases, due to the inherent mistrust of a “first time”. In this case when the brand has notoriety it becomes easier. The customer will more easily make a first purchase at TAP or Pingo Doce online than at a place they have never heard of (no matter how good it is). The problem is that when these first purchases go wrong the whole market suffers. “If the big companies are like this, the small ones must be even worse”, thinks the customer. Let’s look at some cases.
An excellent way to travel around Portugal is undoubtedly by train, and if there is one product that people are already used to buying online is travel. Let’s imagine a foreigner arrives at CP’s site and clicks on the English option… Surprise… half of the English version of the site is in Portuguese. Try to make a purchase on the site in any language and you will go through a tortuous process with steps such as registration, emails, return to the main page and loss of information. In case, people have no choice, but in a normal store where the competitors are just a click away, any of the errors identified above the user to go and buy from the competition or simply give up and go to the store.
The case of Pingo Doce is common in several markets of “scared of cold water”. Launching the online store at the beginning of the last decade and having bad results, it never tried again. Entering the market too early did not generate the expected results and that is why today, in 2013, when e-commerce is already a relevant reality, Pingo Doce is still out of this market. We hope it will enter again and well soon. Recognizing that selling supermarket products online is not an easy business (fresh products, returns, etc. make this model highly complex), even so, Continente.pt, despite having a somewhat confusing site that can be optimized, has shown positive signs of investing more in online (I’m happy every time I see an ad saying to buy from continente.pt).Another very positive experience in our country is trying to contact TAP through Facebook with a problem and you will probably get a faster response than by phone. Despite all the criticism we usually hear about this company, TAP has without a doubt one of the best e-commerce teams in Portugal.
Of course, to further develop online in Portugal we still have to improve certain infrastructures and shared services, but that is a topic for a future article (CTT has several things they can do).
I hope that in the coming years we will see these big brands invest more in e-commerce infrastructure to realize the great potential that this channel has in our country.