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Insights into E-Commerce Trends across Europe

08 December 2016, 16:28 CET

What does the current e-commerce market look like, and how has it performed through 2016? Will it remain strong in future years, or is it due to peak and decline? We examine the current and predicted trends affecting Europe’s e-commerce scene, and look at how things may change in the coming twelve months.

There are around 821 million people living in Europe, and almost three-quarters of the continent have access to the internet. That creates a huge market for e-commerce. Many British retailers have started targeting nations on the continent, and European trade is growing. Despite fears and uncertainty over the recent Brexit decision, trade across the continent has remained strong and the UK is still a crucial member of that market. Regardless of how the exit takes shape, trade between European countries is likely to keep on growing.

The largest e-commerce markets in Europe

Western Europe sees the most online trading activity. 81% of people here in the UK have made an online purchase in the past year, and the figure is around 75% for France, Denmark, Luxembourg, Germany and other prosperous Western nations. In the East and South East of the continent, online shopping is much less common. In contrast, just 11% of Romanian and Macedonian residents have used the internet for shopping in the past twelve months.

A recent study by Retail Research revealed that e-commerce is the fastest growing market in Europe, and that this trend is likely to continue into 2017. By the end of this year, there is predicted to have been a 16.7% growth in e-commerce trade overall - and experts say this will rise a further 15.7% in 2017. Companies are increasingly investing in the European market and expanding trade availability - and the effort seems to be paying off.

Using a variety of sales platforms

Multi-channel sales are the key trend to watch in 2017. Almost one-third of retailers already use multiple platforms to sell their products, and this strategy seems to be working well. Having a dedicated e-commerce site is the first step, but companies are recognising that they need to join online marketplaces, sell through social media and adopt app sales platforms if they want to maximise on the market's potential.

Product buying trends have remained steady for several years and this looks set to continue. Clothing and shoes are most frequently purchased online, along with books and with home electronics. A recent VoucherBin study found that European buyers across all nations are most frequently purchasing from the UK, Germany and France, while these countries tend to shop nationally. The UK is also the nation most likely to buy from outside of the continent, often choosing American or Asian products due to their cheap deals and great discounts.

Payment and security

When e-commerce first started to become popular and transactions were first made online, there were plenty of concerns over security and some people fell victim to scams and criminal acts. Identity fraud and data hacking are still very real risks today, but the methods used to prevent them have improved vastly. Today's e-commerce companies use secure sites and encryption to protect sensitive information - such as your credit card details! Many require you to register as a member, and purchases can only be made using a verified email account and after you sign in with your password.

Another popular way e-commerce sites protect customers is to allow payment through a merchant site, such as PayPal. This is great for international transactions, because the payment merchant will automatically convert currencies using a fair and accurate rate. As we all start to do more business outside of our own country, this multi-currency approach will become an important feature of e-commerce sales. Many brands already offer translated web pages with converted prices, to attract international customers from across the continent.

The future of e-commerce

It is fair to say that e-commerce is going nowhere. With growth predicted and sales rising, shopping online is becoming more popular all over the world. Even with concerns over the future of European trade, e-commerce ensures that products can cross borders and trade can continue freely - at least, it can for consumers. How the expected changes will affect EU businesses themselves remains to be seen, but it is likely that trade will just carry on as normal.

Mobile buying is likely to be the biggest disruptor for online sales. 76% of online shoppers have made a purchase using their smart phone or tablet, and this number is growing fast. Having fingertip access to products from all over Europe is creating a retail boom which every business can capitalize on - as long as they are prepared for e-commerce and willing to embrace it in a variety of ways.

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