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Brussels, 5 March 2009

E-commerce in the EU

The European e-commerce market was estimated to be worth 106 billion euros in 2006 (an order of magnitude comparable to the size of the US e-commerce market)

70% of turnover is concentrated in 3 key markets (the United Kingdom, Germany, and France).[1]

There is significant variation in the levels of e-commerce across EU Member States

  • [2]In the UK in 2008, 57% of individuals had ordered goods or services over the internet for private use in the last year. In Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands the corresponding figure was also over 50%.
  • 66% of internet users in France have made a purchase online.[3] According to the Fédération du e-commerce et de la vente à distance (FEVAD).
  • In Germany in 2007, 58.3% of individuals who had used the internet in the previous three months shopped online occasionally or frequently.[4]
  • In the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland), 91% of internet users had traded over the internet in the previous six months.
  • In the two newest Member States, Bulgaria and Romania, however, the figure was respectively 3% and 4%. Estonia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Portugal saw around 10% of individuals purchasing online for private use in 2008
  • In 2008 the most purchased items online were: travel and holiday accommodation’, which ranks first in terms of the percentage of individuals shopping online (42%), followed closely by ‘clothes, sports goods’ (41%) ‘books/magazines/e-learning material’ (39%). Most major online sectors have been displaying impressive growth
  • Internet sales are also affecting high street shopping. In 2008, 3 in 5 of all internet users compared prices online before making a purchase, often using price comparison websites.
  • Internet is the fastest growing retail channel. In the EU27 in 2008, 51% of retailers made sales via e-commerce. Only direct retail sales were more common, used by 79% of retailers. Thus e-commerce is more popular than mail order (30%), sales through representatives visiting consumers in their homes (21%), and telesales (17%).
  • But the gap between domestic and cross-border e-commerce is widening. From 2006 to 2008, the share of all EU consumers that have bought at least one item over the internet increased from 27% to 33% while cross border e-commerce remained stable (6% to 7%).
  • The potential for cross border shopping is there. One third of EU citizens indicate that they would consider buying a product or a service from another Member State via the internet because it is cheaper or better.
  • 33% of EU consumers say they are willing to purchase goods and services in another language, while 59% of retailers are prepared to carry out transactions in more than one language (on average for all retail channels).
  • One third of EU citizens indicate that they would consider buying a product or a service from another Member State via the Internet because it is cheaper or better.
  • Business potential for cross border online trade is also failing to materialize. 51% of EU27 retailers sell via the internet, but only 21% are currently conducting cross-border transactions, down from 29% in 2006 (in the EU25). The same proportion (21%) advertises cross-border.[5]
  • Currently, three quarters of EU retailers only sell domestically. One in five EU retailers (21%) sell cross-border, via distance sales methods, to at least one other EU country. Retailers who conduct cross-border trade usually only sell to very few Member States: only 4% of those retailers trade with 10 or more Member States, most trade with one or two other Member States.
  • Market segmentation is source of increasing frustration for consumers online. In 2006, 33% of consumers reported that they had not been able to complete cross border purchases because they did not live in the same country as the trader. Again, Eurobarometer survey data published in 2008, indicates that of all consumers who had successfully made a cross border purchase in the previous year, 8% were prevented from completing at least one other cross border purchase.

[1] Source: eMarketer (2007), quoted in ACSEL (2008).

[2] Nordic e-trade index, May 2008.

[3] FEVAD, ‘Chiffres Clés vente à distance et e-commerce’, 2008.

[4] Bvh, ‘Entwicklung des E-commerce in Deutschland (BtC)’, October 2007.

[5] Flash Eurobarometer 224: ‘Business attitudes towards cross-border sales and consumer protection’ (2008).

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