Seven out of eight Brits and Germans shop online

October 12, 2015 02:34 PM

Growing consumer confidence among European shoppers is leading to greater revenue for online retailers. 

That’s according to a recent report based on a study of European consumers’ web shopping habits. The study was conducted by consumer research firm Nepa AB and commissioned by PostNord, a distribution, delivery and marketing firm. Both Nepa AB and PostNord are based in Stockholm, Sweden. 

The report is based on surveys of more than 11,000 consumers age 15–79 in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Survey respondents in those markets spent about 180 billion euros ($203 billion) online last year, about 10 billion euros ($11.28 billion), or 5.6%, more than in 2013, the report says. 

In the United Kingdom and Germany, 87% of consumers shopped online last year, up from 81% in 2013 in each country, and consumer spending averaged 1,028 euros ($1,159) and 672 euros ($758), respectively, in those two countries. Online spending in the U.K. increased 7.9% from 953 euros ($1,075) and by 4.0% in Germany, from 646 euros ($729). 

The report says apparel and footwear continue to dominate Europeans’ web shopping choices, stemming from longtime mail order buying habits and increasingly upgraded returns processing. Home electronics and books round out the top four categories of products bought online in Europe. 

German and British consumers buy clothes and shoes most often, with 54% and 53% of consumers, respectively, who shopped online last year making such purchases. The Netherlands and France followed with 46% and 42%, respectively, of consumers buying those products on the Internet in 2014. Apparel and shoes are the top categories in all countries surveyed except Italy, where home electronics products are purchased most often online. Home electronics replaced books for second place among web shoppers in this year’s survey. 

Among the Top 25 retailers ranked in Internet Retailer’s 2015 Top 500 selling products online in the European markets in the PostNord report, three are dominant. Inc. (No. 1), Apple Inc. (No. 3) and Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 5) are the three largest retailers selling in Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden, according to the Internet Retailer database. 

Amazon, Apple and Staples Inc. (No. 4) are the three largest Top 500 retailers selling in Germany and the UK, and Amazon, Sears and Macy’s (No. 7) are the top three selling in Finland, according to data compiled from the database. 

The most mature markets in the PostNord survey are the combined Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), the UK and Germany. These countries have the highest level of Internet penetration and the highest proportion of consumers who have shopped online, the report notes. “In countries where the level of Internet penetration is low, relatively many people have also shopped online at some point. As Internet use in these markets can be expected to increase, and thereby also e-commerce, we see further opportunities for very strong growth. This applies above all to markets such as Italy, Spain and Poland.” 

European consumers are not only embracing online shopping within their borders, they are increasingly willing to buy products online from other countries. Compared with 2013, the number of Europeans who had at some time shopped online in other countries rose by 8%, the report says. The report’s authors attribute this increase to two factors. First, consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to shopping online, and second, buying from other countries gives consumers access to “a wider product range, more brands, better offers and lower prices,” the report says. 

The Nordics have the highest proportion of consumers who have shopped online from abroad, at seven in 10. The proportion of all consumers who have shopped online in 2014 at stores based in other countries:

  • Nordics: 70%
  • UK: 58%
  • Germany: 53%
  • Belgium: 52%
  • Spain: 50%
  • France: 49%
  • Netherlands: 46%
  • Italy: 41%
  • Poland: 24%

The PostNord European e-commerce survey was conducted in April. The number of respondents varies somewhat between the countries; in most countries more than 1,000 people responded. The Nordics are an exception, where the countries are reported as one region, within which the number of respondents totaled about 600 per country, the report says.




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