Southern Europe catching up on e-commerce boom

Europe continued to hold the world’s largest share of the business-to-consumer e-commerce market, increasing its total revenue by almost one-fifth to €311.6 billion during 2012, according to a new survey seen by EURACTIV.

The Europe B2C Ecommerce Report 2013 showed the largest European countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and France dominating the market.

But the fastest-growing markets are in Central Europe and the austerity-hit Mediterranean, according to the findings.

Europe – defined by report compilers Ecommerce Europe as including the whole continent rather than the EU alone – continued to maintain a lead over the United States, the second largest market, which it first overtook in 2010.

In 2012 European e-commerce – including sale values of online retail goods and services such as travel bookings, ticketed events and downloads – grew by 19% to €311.6 billion, compared with €294.2 in North America. The EU comprised 88.7% of that total, or €276.5 billion.

The findings showed that during 2012 Europe’s strength in e-commerce continued to be dominated by the UK (€96 billion) Germany (€50 billion) and France (€45 billion) which between them account for 61% of Europe’s total share of sales.

Smartphones and tablets set to release new wave of on-line buying

But the relative growth of e-commerce is much faster in the Central and Southern Europe.

Whilst the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway increased their e-commerce tallies by between 10% and 15% last year, Germany, France, Italy and Spain were ahead with 20-25% growth. Meanwhile the fastest-growing states, with between 30% and 40% growth, included Poland and Greece.

Ecommerce says that 2013 will see a definitive break with the past as the relative share of e-commerce conducted over mobile phones and tablets – rather than conventional computers – reaches new highs.

So called ‘m-commerce’ (retail conducted through hand-held mobile devices) accounted for 5.5% of total sales in 2012, the report finds, forecasting that this share will jump during 2013 as smartphone and tablet ownership rises.

In an interview with EURACTIV, Wijnand Jongen, the executive committee chairman of Ecommerce Europe, said the buying behaviour of consumers in Europe’s largest countries was “like youngsters” in e-commerce terms, whereas in the emerging countries, “we are like toddlers learning how things work and what the opportunities are”.

“Over the next five-to-ten years, e-commerce will be immersed in every part of life, consumers will adapt, and this adaptation is exponential,” Jongen said.

The European Commission's 'Digital Agenda' for boosting the online economy set a target to raise the  proportion of consumers who shop online across borders at 20% by 2020.

Proposals to double the volume of e-commerce in Europe by 2015 were laid out in a communication published in 2012 (11 January) which are set to be followed up later this year.

>> Read our LinksDossier: Digital agenda: Connecting the EU

  • 2013: European Commission to organise a stakeholder conference on e-commerce and to propose various actions under the communication

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