eCommerce in Europe: Pioneers and growth markets

In the first part of our article “eCommerce in Europe: Development and customer preferences” we offered you a market overview and an impression of the buying behavior of European consumers. In today’s article we introduce you to the biggest pioneers and exciting markets with high growth rates. We show you which European countries are worth getting started in and where the potential is at its greatest. In order to grow in other European countries, an analysis of the target markets is, of course, indispensable.

Europe’s strongest eCommerce markets in comparison

eCommerce in the UK:

Despite Brexit, the conditions in the British eCommerce market for generating sales still remain very good. The market research firm eMarketer even estimates that the market will continue to grow and will account for around a quarter of total UK sales by 2021. In our first article on eCommerce in Europe, you have seen that the British spent 197 billion euros in online retail last year. They thus by far hold the largest share of the eCommerce market in Europe. Hardly surprising with just under 60.4 million Internet users – a share of 92.6 percent of the total population. Out of these, in turn, some 88 percent of Britons buy online. The most popular products among British online shoppers stem from the “clothing and shoes” category.

A study by the logistics company Postnord shows that the majority (60 percent) of these online shoppers prefer to order clothes and shoes online.Electronics are the first choice for 45 percent of the British. And at 39 percent, books come in third place, followed by cosmetics and foodstuffs at 32 percent each.

At the beginning of 2016, the consumer research company comScore listed the most visited retail sites in the UK. Unsurprisingly, two major international online marketplaces stand at the forefront. According to the experts, Amazon ranks first with over 24 million visitors. Second place goes to eBay with over 18 million visitors. Both providers therefore represent a perfect platform to enter into cross-border business and to sell to British consumers.

eCommerce in the UK rank

The website ranking by the consumer research company comScore makes clear that Amazon and eBay are by far the most visited eCommerce sites in the UK.

eCommerce in France:

As described in the first part of our “eCommerce in Europe” series, France is one of the pioneering markets in European eCommerce, after the United Kingdom and besides Germany. But there are also more good reasons why you should be represented with an online presence on the French market. With almost 65 million inhabitants in 2016, France is the second largest consumer market in Europe after Germany. Of these, almost 55.8 million French people (86.4 percent of the total population) use the Internet – a considerable customer potential. According to a study by the French Association for eCommerce (FEVAD), around 36.6 million French people bought online in 2016. This equates to 82.7 percent of all Internet users. Similar to the European average, “clothing” is one of the most popular product categories in online retail for the French also.

eCommerce in France

As the data from the French eCommerce association (FEVAD) shows, clothing accounts for more than half of all products and services purchased on the Internet. The ‘shoe’ category, at 39 percent, is also at the top.

The most visitors (around 23.5 million) were also booked by Amazon in France. Other than this, the greater tendency of the French is to shop on national websites and marketplaces. These usually have their own clientele and individual product portfolios, so there is an excellent potential for expansion here. With almost 16.7 million visitors per month and a turnover of 3 billion euros, Cdiscount is the biggest national online retailer in France. The company’s own marketplace “C le marche” is also open to German online retailers and covers almost all product categories, from video games, electronics, clothing and shoes, right through to baby products, wine and foodstuffs. The website of the French retail chain Fnac has around 13.3 million monthly visitors. With a presence in four other European countries (Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland), Fnac’s marketplace has over 20 million users. Also among the Top 5 most visited websites in France is the shopping club Vente-privee.

eCommerce in France

According to the French association FEVAD, Amazon leads the list of the most visited eCommerce sites and apps in France.

eCommerce in Russia:

With a recent annual growth of 20 percent and sales of 28 billion euros, Russia ranks fourth among the strongest eCommerce markets in Europe. This is mainly due to the high population number of almost 145 million, of whom 70.4 percent (84 million Russians) in turn use the Internet. According to East West Digital News (EWDN), conurbations such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg are clearly different from the rest of the country. The Internet provision rate here is 79 percent, well above the rural areas at 68 percent. According to EWDN, consumers on Russian websites mainly buy clothes and shoes, followed by cosmetics and small electrical appliances. Close behind follow health products and children’s items.

eCommerce in Russia

Clothing and shoes are also among the most popular product categories in Russian eCommerce. In addition, Chinese providers account for a large share of Russian eCommerce, from whom more than a quarter of Russians buy, for example, clothes and shoes.

Unlike other European countries, in Russian online retail domestic websites stand primarily at the forefront. Data Insight and Ruward published a ranking last year of Russia’s strongest-selling eCommerce websites. The ranking was led by the Russian fashion retailer Wildberries, which stands clearly at the top with a sales increase of 43 percent to 681 US dollars. Second place is occupied by the shopping platform Ulmart, which is considered the Russian Amazon. Also among the Top 10 are the fashion retailer Lamoda and the online shopping club Kupivip, which also offers international retailers very good sales opportunities.

eCommerce in Russia

Most of Russia’s best-selling eCommerce providers are largely domestic providers

As far as the most visited websites in Russia are concerned, the marketplace Aliexpress from the Chinese company Alibaba is clearly in the lead with 22.194 million visitors, according to eCommerce Europe. The Russian competitor Ozon arrives at nearly 9 million customers. In particular, Aliexpress seems to persuade with their free delivery once an order value of two dollars has been reached. International online retailers also have the option here of selling from their own brand shop to Russian consumers.

eCommerce Russian

With 22.194 million visitors, the Chinese supplier Aliexpress is the most visited online shop in Russia.

In addition to marketplace presences, online retailers could also have their own location in Russia. As EWDN indicates, conditions in Russia for selling from your own online store with local warehouse and local presence are currently very cheap. Vacancies in the commercial real estate market make it possible, among other things, to rent logistics centres cost-effectively. Starting a business in Russia, however, still poses many challenges, ranging from bureaucratic requirements to cultural peculiarities through to actual running costs.

Europe’s exciting growth markets in comparison

eCommerce in Spain:

In the first part of our series on eCommerce in Europe we have already reported on the high growth rates of the southern European markets. One of the most exciting countries in this region is Spain. This southern European country currently looks convincing after an economic downturn followed by continuous growth and a constant increase in sales. For the current year, eCommerce Europe estimates the market volume at almost 28 billion euros – an increase of 17 percent over the previous year. Spain thus leads the eCommerce ranking among the southern European countries. This continuous growth can be justified also by a good Internet provision rate, with nearly 39 million using the Internet (82 percent) of the more than 46 million inhabitants of Spain. Out of these, in turn, some 20 million Spanish buy online.
The largest share of Spanish online retail (40 percent) is occupied by the clothing and footwear categories, closely followed by home electronics (38 percent). Compared to the previous year, these two categories have also shown strong growth.

eCommerce in Spain

The Spaniards also prefer shopping for clothes and shoes online (40 percent). In second place is home electronics, followed by books.

Also at the pinnacle of the most popular eCommerce websites is Amazon. Second place goes to French and internationally active retailer Carrefour. Third place is occupied by eBay, followed by El Corte Ingles, one of Europe’s largest department store chains.

In Spain also, the top dog Amazon heads the list of the most popular online shops.

But in Spain, it is not just a presence in large marketplaces that pays off. Even a self-owned shop with shipping option to Spain offers good sales opportunities. Spanish consumers like to shop abroad, with eCommerce Europe publishing in a study that 41 percent of online shoppers say they also shop on international websites. Some 7 percent of respondents even buy exclusively cross-border online.

eCommerce in Italy:

With a growth rate of about 20 percent and online sales worth around 22 billion euros, Italy ranks second to Spain in southern Europe. As a result, Italian eCommerce is now growing as strongly as it last did in 2010. And also in terms of Internet provision rate, Italy has expanded significantly in recent years. In the previous year, this stood at 83 percent (equivalent to around 51 million of the almost 60 million inhabitants) – a significant plus compared to just over 60 percent in 2014 and 2015. In addition, minor domestic competition in Italy creates a huge potential for German online retailers. In 2016, only 7 percent of Italian companies were selling their goods online. This is probably the reason why 37 percent of Italians use domestic websites as well as international shops. Some 11 percent even say they buy only cross-border. In this context, it is not surprising that the most visited shops belong to the foreign corporations of Amazon, eBay and Zalando.

eCommerce in Italy

The most visited shops in Italy are mainly operated by foreign companies. The ranking is led by the two marketplaces of Amazon and eBay

The product preferences of Italians are similar to those of their European neighbors. Independent of the tourism and service categories, the fashion sector is the strongest. This, according to eshopworld, currently comes to a volume of 3 million US dollars. Second place is occupied by electronics, for which around 2 million US dollars will be spent in Italy this year.

eCommerce in Italy

eCommerce in Italy is constantly growing. The leading product categories are currently clothing and electronics. Interestingly, products from the food and beauty care categories will be overtaking the market for electronic goods in coming years.

Summary: A glimpse at other European countries is worthwhile

Selling your goods outside of Germany should also be an integral part of the online retailers’ growth strategy. To this end, Europe offers many tempting markets with exciting prospects.
To get started in European eCommerce, you should work out a multi-stage plan and initially restrict yourself to just a few countries. This is how internationalisation works, step by step. Once you have done all the necessary research on potential target markets in Europe, you will then need to translate and localise your offers as well as optimise the currency conversions. Consumers also expect smooth logistics and an international customer service. Decisive also is the price of your products, since customers abroad are interested in an international online shop when the offer and price seem attractive. Accordingly, you will need a well thought-out pricing strategy in order to compete with the top players in European eCommerce or to keep pace with your competitors in marketplaces. For fast and effective price and market monitoring, automatic tools have now become indispensible. Our Business Intelligence software blackbee helps you to determine the best prices across Europe and to generate a profitable margin. With blackbee you are also ideally set up for international eCommerce, because a country and language-independent usage is easily achieved.

Are you interested in further developments in international eCommerce?
Stay informed with our newsletter!