Caroline Oliver
Caroline Oliver 18 October 2013

Europe Goes Shopping Online

In the context of the European Year of Citizens 2013, the week from 14 to 20 October is dedicated to "Shopping online" b

In the context of the European Year of Citizens 2013, the week from 14 to 20 October is dedicated to “Shopping online” by the European Commission. To mark this week, Eurostat, EU’s statistical office, published the latest findings of its annual survey of IT and telecom usage by European households and individuals.
According to the survey, in the EU in 2008 75% of adults (those aged from 16 to 74) had used the internet in the previous 12 months, while 59% of these internet users reported making purchases online. Within the European Union, the highest shares of online shoppers were registered in the United Kingdom (82% of internet users), Denmark and Sweden (both 79%), Germany (77%), Luxembourg (73%) and Finland (72%). Norway, which is not part of the EU but belongs to the European Economic Area also scored high in this respect with 80%. The lowest in the EU for online purchases were Romania (11%), Bulgaria (17%), Estonia and Italy (both 29%).


Across Europe, ordering clothes & sports goods and booking hotels & holiday accommodation are the most common types of online purchases among internet users. For each of these categories almost a third (32%) of European Union internet users purchases online during the previous twelve months. Almost a quarter of online Europeans admitted to buying books, magazines or e-learning materials from the internet (23%), while only 9% braved to order food and groceries online.
Buying clothes and sports goods online is most popular by internet users in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Nordics, France and the Netherlands. However, in many countries in the east of the European Union only a fraction of internet users shop for clothes online. Their number are rapidly growing though – so in due time they may close the gap with more advanced e-commerce markets, such as those of the UK or Germany. Interestingly, Italian internet users appear to be not keen to buy fashion online – according to Eurostat, only 8% of them purchased online for clothes and sports goods in 2012.


However, within Italy another figure is being widely quoted: Netcomm, Italian Consortium of E-Commerce, believes that in 2013 22% of Italians shop online for clothing. Alessandra Pierandrei, Italy Territory Manager at Ve Interactive, explains: “Still, it is a small percentage, so my view is that Italians love their fashion but are still stuck to the habit of going to a store to try clothes on and buy them rather than ordering online. The trend is changing though, especially because we love good prices, and the best deals can always be found online”.
Purchasing tickets for travel and booking holiday accommodation appears to be concentrated in the Nordics region: Sweden, Norway and Denmark occupy the top three places. Partly, it can be explained by the weather. “During the long winter with short days many dream of escaping to someplace warm and sunny. And the most convenient way for shopping is online as it makes easy to compare offers”, - elaborates Kim Nordness, Norway Territory Manager at Ve Interactive.


In addition, as Julie Fahler, Denmark Territory Manager at Ve Interactive says, “with an internet penetration of 89% - every operator needs to be online to be part of the travel market – the little local bus line, the national railway, various ferry operators and then of course airlines are all online and have been online for a long time”.
The highest shares of internet users buying books, magazine and e-learning materials online are in Luxembourg, Germany, Sweden and the UK. The lowest are recorded in the East of Europe. These post-communist countries still have a culture of content piracy for copyright material (see the 2013 report by International Intellectual Property Alliance on Romania here).


The United Kingdom is the leading country in Europe for online food and grocery shopping (with 21% of internet users shopping for them online). While in most other countries the share of food and groceries was 10% or less. Surprisingly, Poland scored high in 2012. According to Michal Wierzbowicz, Online Efficiency Manager for Poland at Ve Interactive, 2012 was the year when food groceries online market basically began in Poland with numerous online shops (including those by big supermarket chains) opening. “Consumers in Poland have realised that paying extra 20 zloty (5 euro) for delivery is worth less than their time, especially in queues and traffic”, - says Michal.


Data source for all charts: Eurostat, 2013.



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