E-commerce in Europe is growing by €9bn and delivery is becoming an ever-more important factor, says PostNord

Europeans are shopping online in increasing numbers. In the past year, 253 million European consumers made online purchases to a total value of EUR 189 billion, an increase of EUR 9 billion on the previous year. Significantly, 176 million of those consumers bought online from abroad, an increase of 17 million in a year.

These are the highlights from the annual report from PostNord charting the e-buying habits and preferences of Europeans. Tellingly, this survey also showed that British consumers spent EUR 56.4 billion shopping online, almost a third (29.8%) of Europe’s total spending.

As consumers become more and more mature in their online buying behaviour, their demands are increasing – especially in terms of delivery. According to consumers in the UK, the top three most important factors are delivery cost (63%), choice of delivery options (56%) and speed (52%).

“Consumers today want a range of different delivery options – and the need for updated information on the delivery status of their packages is paramount. We understand that this has made delivery an important issue in creating value for online businesses.  We also know that it’s absolutely vital to be able to offer customers locally-adapted and seamless delivery arrangements,” says Karin Falkentoft, managing director of Direct Link Worldwide, a PostNord company offering borderless e-commerce solutions and global distribution.

There are still clear differences in how European consumers want their orders delivered. Delivery to door is still prevalent in many European countries, but in the Nordics, Germany and France, mailbox deliveries by the mail carrier are the main preference. Delivery to a collection point is relatively unusual in most European countries, but to consumers in the Nordic region and France it is the second most-popular delivery method.

Expectations of fast deliveries in one to two days are rising in most markets. The Dutch are the most impatient; in the Netherlands, nearly four out of ten people want their orders delivered in two days max. Nordic citizens are the most patient. They are prepared to wait for up to six days or more, but the expectation is still delivery within 3-5 days, just as in every other market.

The proportion of people who made online purchases from abroad is rising steadily in all markets. The keenest of all are shoppers in the Nordics, followed by consumers in the UK and Belgium. The biggest increase from last year was recorded in Poland, up by 12 percentage points. The UK and Germany are the most popular countries to buy online from. Of the non-European countries, China is the country showing the strongest growth.

“In practically every market, it’s the quest for lower prices driving consumers to buy from other countries. Gaining access to a far wider range and choice of products is another key driver for increased cross border online purchases” says Karin Falkentoft.

How people want to pay for their online-bought goods varies from country to country and so locally-adapted payment systems are an important key to success for e-commerce businesses.

Italian and Spanish customers prefer to use PayPal or similar services. These are also popular among UK and French buyers but their preferred option is still to pay using a debit or credit card. In Germany and the Nordic region, paying via invoice is a popular option, while in Poland, Spain and Italy online shoppers also want the option of being able to pay cash on delivery.