Consumers in twelve European countries spent a total of nearly EUR 180 billion on online shopping last year, an increase of about EUR 10 billion over the previous year. This according to PostNord’s "E-commerce in Europe" report.*
More and more Europeans shop online regularly and spend a higher average amount than they have before. The e-commerce market is also increasingly international, with commerce between countries – both within and outside Europe – on the rise. Compared to last year, nearly 11 million more Europeans shopped online from abroad at least once. In the Nordics, no fewer than seven in ten consumers shopped at least once from abroad – ahead of consumers in the United Kingdom (58%) and Germany (53%).
"We are no longer wary of buying from other countries. National borders have loosened up and, today, many of us feel that it’s just as natural to shop online as in a physical store," says Karin Falkentoft, Managing Director of Direct Link, a PostNord company offering borderless e-Commerce solutions and global distribution. "Consumers are looking for a wider range of products, more brands, better offers and lower prices. They have access to all of this when they shop from abroad."
The level of internet penetration remains comparatively low in a number of European markets, particularly Italy and Poland. E-commerce is expected to continue growing – including across national borders – as broadband infrastructure is expanded. Accordingly, there is still substantial growth potential for cross-border e-commerce in Europe, particularly considering the fact that consumers are becoming more mature in their purchasing behaviour.
Customers in the UK spent an average of EUR 1,028 per person on online purchases, the survey’s highest figure by far and significantly more than areas such as the Nordics (EUR 549) and Italy (EUR 295).
Europeans’ favourites and future e-commerce products
Clothing and footwear, home electronics and books are e-commerce favourites in all European markets. Online food shopping is on the rise, particularly in the United Kingdom, with a relatively large number of consumers in Germany and France also purchasing food online. A very large proportion of the UK figure is attributable to purchases from supermarket shops.
An increasing percentage of Europeans are buying cosmetics, hair- and skincare products online, led by consumers in the United Kingdom where 27% of the population purchased beauty products online. The sport and leisure category is growing in popularity in most markets, particularly in the Netherlands, although this product category remains most popular in Germany (24%).
Varying preferences for payment and delivery
The importance of the website offering the lowest price varies between markets. Price is most important in Italy (59%) and Spain (54%). Preferences vary in terms of payment solutions for online purchases, with debit or credit cards the most popular payment methods in most markets. PayPal and similar payment solutions are also popular in large parts of Europe with the exception of the Nordics and Belgium, where only around one-fifth of consumers use such services.
The amount of time consumers are prepared to wait for their e-commerce deliveries also varies between European countries. The Dutch have high expectations: over one-third stated that they want to receive their purchases within 1-2 days, a proportion twice as high as in the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium and three times as high as in the Nordics, France, Spain and Italy. In the Nordics and Spain, a full 25 per cent of consumers are prepared to wait six or more business days for their deliveries.
In all markets, a very high percentage of consumers regard easy returns processing to be an important factor in choosing to shop online. The percentage who have returned an item purchased online varies widely between markets. One clear trend is that returns are more prevalent in mature markets; the percentage is highest in Germany, followed by the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Regardless of market, by far the most commonly returned products are clothing and footwear, with home electronics a distant second.
* Since 2014, PostNord has conducted surveys of the European e-commerce market under the title "E-commerce in Europe". The report is based on interviews of over 11,000 consumers comprising an area-wide representative sample of private individuals aged 18-79 in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany. The survey was conducted by the research firm NEPA. There is some variation between countries in the number of respondents: there were over 1,000 respondents in most countries with the exception of the Nordics (reported as one overall region), with approximately 600 respondents from each Nordic country.