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).
There is significant variation in the levels of e-commerce across EU Member
- 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. According to the
Fédération du e-commerce et de la vente à distance
- In Germany in 2007, 58.3% of individuals who had used the internet in the
previous three months shopped online occasionally or
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
 Source: eMarketer
(2007), quoted in ACSEL (2008).
 Nordic e-trade index,
 FEVAD, ‘Chiffres
Clés vente à distance et e-commerce’, 2008.
 Bvh, ‘Entwicklung
des E-commerce in Deutschland (BtC)’, October 2007.
 Flash Eurobarometer
224: ‘Business attitudes towards cross-border sales and consumer