The Oban Blog

Amazon Warehouse photo Spain

The global digital marketing weekly: Thursday 24 July 2014

In your weekly update of global digital marketing activity, European matters of privacy and the freedom to criticise dominate, while a study on cross-border sales suggests a new direction for multinational ecommerce. Meanwhile, a new search service for developers to implement on Chinese websites is launched by Alibaba. Read on to discover the news that could affect the way you do business around the world.

Western Europe seeing increase in cross-border sales

Always championed as the great facilitator of international exchange, consumers have nonetheless traditionally continued to use the internet to purchase within their own borders. Despite this, a new report by observes that in Western Europe, there is slow but steady growth in non-domestic purchasing: a predicted 14% of all ecommerce sales will be across borders in 2014.

The phenomenon is particularly popular in Spain and Italy, where economic downturn has forced many leading retailers to delay website overhauls. Product selection and pricing also occasionally sees additional challenges, leading to these markets failing to keep pace with advances in neighbouring countries. Surprisingly, this trend extends beyond the Eurozone – the UK was the most popular foreign transaction destination for European online shoppers in 2013.


Alibaba makes search tech publicly available

Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba, operator of cloud computing services company Aliyun, has announced OpenSearch, a new publicly available search product based on the technology used in sites such as Taobao and Tmall. Developers will be able to use the technology for on-site search functions, and Alibaba say that it could be used as the basis for a full web search engine.

Currently free to use during a public testing phase, the eventual pricing plan will undercut similar products available overseas at about one tenth of the cost.

Bingmaster Tools Right to be Forgotten

Bing opens EU right to be forgotten form

As of last week’s roundup, Microsoft had promised to take their time with their internal process for managing the EU’s widely criticised ‘Right to be forgotten’ law in Bing. While it remains to be seen whether they will handle webmaster notifications in the same way as Google, we at least have their version of the submission form.

Microsoft’s approach appears to be a little less open ended: there are fields for stating what the applicant’s role is “in society or [their] community” and a checklist for the nature of the offending information. Google simply offered a 1000 character box in which to pour details into – a more focussed categorisation of issues will presumably allow Bing to prioritise action more effectively.

Roman Forum, Rome, Italy

Italy latest country to threaten Google over privacy practices

Adding to the long history of Google privacy backlashes in Europe, Italy has issued an ultimatum to the engine over its unified policy – the early 2012 terms and conditions rewrite that allowed it to pool data from 60 free services, contrary to EU and local government laws. A €1m fine and “possible criminal procedures” are being threatened if changes are not made in the next 18 months, according to

This follows last year’s action in France, which eventually lead to a €150,000 fine and an order to post details of the fine and their circumstances of its non-compliance on the homepage. Commentators (Marketing Land among them) observe that at this point, Google perhaps takes the view that the fines are “simply a cost of doing business in Europe”. The unified privacy policy has additionally been found in violation of laws in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

French blogger sued for negative restaurant review

A French court has ordered a blogger to pay damages to a restaurant she reviewed – because the offending blog post ranks “too prominently” in Google’s search results.

The review, featuring the scathingly well-optimised headline “L’endroit à éviter au Cap-Ferret : Il Giardino” (“The place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: il Giardino”) consistently ranked in the top five results for searches for the il Giardino restaurant. The restaurant owners argued that their business was hurt by this prominence of this negative sentiment, and the defendant – who unwisely chose to appear in court without legal representation – lost their seemingly straightforward case for freedom of speech.

Il Giardino search

Unfortunately for il Giardino, news of the case has gone viral – and their attempt to censor a single objective review has resulted in a flurry of one-star Google+ reviews and creatively titled news posts such as’s “Is Il Giardino in Cap-Ferret the worst restaurant in France?”

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Photo of Amazon España by Flickr user Álvaro Ibáñez

Photo of Roman forum by Flickr user Robert Young