COVID-19 has been difficult for the European economy, but one sector of retail sales is actually thriving: ecommerce.
Since brick-and-mortar shops have been forced to close their doors and people have been encouraged—and in some cases required—to remain home, the online market has become a place of refuge. But just how much is COVID-19 fuelling e-commerce growth in Europe?
Online Sales Are Surging in Europe
A comprehensive survey from Ecommerce Europe uncovered some compelling data. The survey included respondents from 19 European nations, all of which reported ecommerce net growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For some European countries, the growth was marginal; for instance, Poland’s ecommerce growth was only 5-10%. For other countries, though, the growth was profound; in Finland, for example, the ecommerce market grew by as much as 75%.
In addition, each of the respondents reported that they were either “very confident” or “rather confident” about continued ecommerce growth throughout 2021. The majority even expressed confidence that the positive COVID-19 effect will have a lasting impact on the ecommerce market, long after the pandemic has subsided.
Statista notes that the following European nations have seen the most ecommerce growth during COVID-19:
- Spain (44% of consumers increased their online spending during COVID)
- Belgium (41% of consumers increased their online spending during COVID)
- Italy (37% of consumers increased their online spending during COVID)
- Netherlands (33% of consumers increased their online spending during COVID)
- Poland (33% of consumers increased their online spending during COVID)
Certain European Ecommerce Markets Are Faring Better Than Others
A 2020 Nets-e-commerce survey found that European consumers are spending the most on clothes and food. This was true for all countries surveyed and is likely driven by the limited availability of in-person shopping during various countries’ lockdowns.
The following markets saw the most growth in countries throughout the European Union:
- Pharmacy items
But while the lockdowns may be temporary, the ecommerce effect may be lasting. For example, many consumers who purchased groceries online did so for the first time. Now that online food shopping is something that consumers are better acquainted with, many will likely continue to place orders merely for the convenience of it.
European Consumers Have Varied Reasons for Online Shopping
In the aforementioned Nets survey, consumers listed the following as their primary reasons for shopping online:
- Lower prices found online
- Wider product availability
- Saving time
- Easy price comparisons
- Avoiding crowds and long lines
But while the above motivations have always played into people’s online shopping habits, there’s a new predominant factor that plays into the pandemic shopping experience: fear.
A 2020 report from McKinsey found that buying habits are shifting from brick-and-mortar shops to digital marketplaces because consumers are afraid of the infection risks associated with crowded spaces.
This is apparent in the United Kingdom as well. A survey by Wunderman Thompson Commerce reveals that 62% of UK shoppers feel less positive about shopping in person and 48% are fearful of shopping in person.
And while this fear may be subsiding a bit in light of available vaccinations, it nevertheless remains a factor as the delta variant emerges as the dominant COVID strain in most parts of Europe.
New Transaction Methods Are Influencing the COVID E-commerce Boom in Europe
Simultaneous technological advancements may also play a role in the sudden growth of ecommerce throughout the EU. According to one report, a majority of shoppers in Europe now prefer to pay for goods using digital wallets like PayPal and Alipay. About 42% of European consumers prefer digital wallets compared to 35% who prefer major credit cards like Visa and Mastercard.
Ecommerce sites and mobile apps tend to be more accommodating of these up-and-coming payment methods, and it’s easy to see why they’re popular: the transactions are instantaneous. There’s no lengthy checkout process, and the funds are deducted directly from the consumer’s wallet or bank account.
If you manage an ecommerce business, it’s becoming increasingly important to choose a merchant services provider that supports alternative payment methods.
Consumers Are Remaining Loyal to Brands Discovered During the COVID-19 Crisis
One encouraging bit of news for up-and-coming brands is that the COVID-19 ecommerce surge seems to be correlating with brand loyalty.
Research from Bazaarvoice found that 88% of consumers worldwide plan to continue buying from brands discovered during the pandemic. In addition, nearly 40% of those surveyed confirmed that they did in fact purchase from a new online brand during the pandemic.
This is good news for ecommerce stores, as additional research has found that retention is now viewed as more important than conversion and acquisition. Establishing a loyal customer is far more valuable long-term than simply making a sale.
Ecommerce Data Breaches Are on the Rise in Europe and Worldwide
Of course, every positive trend has its downside. Just as ecommerce is booming, so are ecommerce data breaches. The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity reported that there were 304 “significant, malicious attacks against critical sectors” in 2020—that’s more than double the number recorded the year prior.
If you run an ecommerce business, you have to be diligent about protecting your—and your customers’—data. Keep your website PCI-compliant, ensure that your payment processor has fraud detection tools available, and audit your web security on a regular basis. Your payment gateway must also be encrypted and PCI-compliant.
How to Benefit From the COVID-19 Ecommerce Boom
Now is the time to ensure that your business is positioned to reap the rewards of this growing trend:
- Make online sales available, even if you run a traditional brick-and-mortar store.
- Make your website attractive and user-friendly. It may be time for an upgrade.
- Consider developing a mobile app for your website.
- Offer as many payment options and currencies as possible, including alternative payment methods.
- Offer exemplary customer service to facilitate brand loyalty. If you can offer live chat, phone service, and email, do it.
- Ensure that your website is secure: firewalls, antivirus protection, secure passwords, a strong SSL certificate, and a PCI-compliant gateway with fraud detection tools–just to get you started.
The most important thing is to think long-term. While COVID-19 may soon be a thing of the past, the economic shift toward ecommerce is here to stay.