E-commerce in Europe: Where is online shopping popular and where is it not?

Germany is one of the most important e-commerce markets in Europe. According to a study conducted by the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat) in 2018, Germans aged between 16 and 74 are part of the top group who use online shops.

This makes Germany one of a number of Northern and Western European countries in which e-commerce already plays an important role in consumer behaviour. At the same time, however, it is also becoming clear that online shopping is not as popular elsewhere in Europe. What are the differences? We take a closer look at the results of the Eurostat survey for you.

What role does e-commerce play in European comparison?

For the Eurostat study, European citizens were asked whether they had shopped online in the last twelve months. 77 percent of German respondents said yes. There are only a few European countries where e-commerce is as widespread as it is in Germany. How far the acceptance of online shopping in Germany has already progressed can also be seen in the annual growth of the German e-commerce market. More and more German stationary retailers are using large online marketplaces such as ebay or Amazon to increase their sales. Not surprisingly, online purchasing is as strong in the Scandinavian countries Sweden, Iceland and Norway, as it is in Germany.

The Netherlands (where eight out of ten respondents use online shops), the United Kingdom (83 per cent) and Denmark (84 per cent) achieved top scores in a European comparison.

Impressive: only two out of ten inhabitants of Denmark do not use online shops

Impressive: only two out of ten inhabitants of Denmark do not use online shops

Montenegro, on the other hand, lags behind when it comes to the use of e-commerce services; only one in ten citizens orders products online. In Bulgaria and Romania it is only one in five. In addition to these economically weaker states, it is also evident that e-commerce does not yet play a comparable role in some of Europe’s largest economies as it does in Germany. And this despite the fact that the internet offers an incomparably high number of providers and a huge selection of products. A noticeably low use of online shopping offers can be observed in Italy (36 percent), Spain (53 percent) and France (67 percent).

What are the regional differences in European e-commerce usage?

In which regions of Europe is online purchasing particularly widespread? Which regions hardly shop online? It is noticeable that e-commerce has not yet established itself strongly in countries in Eastern and Southern Europe, with a few exceptions such as Estonia. This also shows a clear North-South and East-West divide, which is also evident in many other areas such as in purchasing power. However, a look at European regions shows that even within European countries there are some striking differences in the use of e-commerce offers.

Germany’s federal states all show a similar strong tendency by European standards to shop online. Regional differences in other countries are much more pronounced than in Germany. France, Europe’s third-largest economy, is particularly striking. In almost all regions, the usage rate of online shopping is between 56 and 70 percent and does not reach European peak values. Online shopping is done mostly in the region of the capital and a few other regions. Regional differences are similar in Spain; in addition to Madrid, Spaniards shop significantly more online in only three other regions of the country. Within Italy, there is a clear North-South divide. The citizens of the economically weaker southern Italian regions buy their products online much less frequently than in the two northern Italian regions of the Aosta Valley and Trentino.

Southern Europe — the growth engine of European e-commerce

While consumers in Southern European countries currently still shop comparatively little online, this will change in the future. We assume that Southern Europe is only at the beginning of an e-commerce boom and will become a real growth driver in e-commerce in the future.

The largest E-commerce sales are recorded in Italy by fashion companies. This will remain so in the future. Source: eshopworld.com

The largest E-commerce sales are recorded in Italy by fashion companies. This will remain so in the future. Source: eshopworld.com

Italy and Spain show what potential exists, especially for online fashion retailers in Southern Europe. Fashion is currently the most lucrative segment for e-commerce in both countries, but most Spanish and Italians still prefer to buy fashion items in brick and mortar stores. However, figures on e-commerce growth show that the comprehensive triumph of e-commerce could also continue in these countries: From 2017 to 2018 the Spanish e-commerce market grew strongly by 15 percent; in Italy the growth was even as high as 17 percent.  We can look forward to the future of e-commerce in Southern Europe. Would you like to know more about promising European growth markets? Our series on European e-commerce provides you with further important information:

#1: eCommerce in Europe: Developments and customer preferences 

#2: eCommerce in Europe: Pioneers and growth markets 

Success in European e-commerce with intelligent market analysis

The Eurostat survey shows that many European regions still offer enormous growth potential for e-commerce. Would you like to expand into these growing European markets? Use intelligent market analysis tools such as blackbee for an international e-commerce strategy right from the start. Our market analysis platform can be used across languages and countries and enables you to observe foreign markets and then find the best prices for your products.

Are you interested in international e-commerce? Our newsletter keep you up to date on the latest developments in the market.