The very first PostNord/Direct Link report “E-commerce in Europe” was published in 2014. Since then, the entire concept of online shopping has developed at a remarkable speed. Here are the first four of eight trends that have emerged during this period (the remaining four trends will be published in a post in January).

E-commerce has become increasingly global

Cross-border e-commerce is increasing every year. In 2014, 4 out of 10 online consumers stated that they had shopped from abroad. In this year’s report, the figure is 7.5 out of 10. E-commerce from China has grown the most, driven primarily by low prices. Online shopping from the UK and Germany has also increased, but here consumers are driven more by strong brands and unique products.

Growing marketplaces

Marketplaces were not part of the report back in 2014 because they were not really a phenomenon here in the Nordic countries at the time. However, in recent years they have become ever more important. One advantage is that most products can be found in a single place. Yet at the same time, some marketplaces are emerging that only sell certain kinds of goods. For example, Zalando has developed into a marketplace dedicated only to fashion.

New product categories

Clothing and footwear, home electronics, and books have been the most popular product categories to purchase online ever since the report was first published in 2014. However, a few newcomers have arrived that are believed to grow continuously in the future, including home furnishings, and products in the beauty and health segment.

Returns are on the rise

The return rate was not measured when the first report was published, but in the next year, 2015, 24 percent of shoppers made a return. In 2019, the corresponding figure was 43 percent. One reason for this development is that online stores have improved their return processes and the way they explain the terms and conditions that apply. As a result, consumers feel more confident that everything will work smoothly and they dare to order more products and then return what they don’t want to keep.

Interested in the latest report from 2019? The “E-commerce in Europe” report can be ordered free of charge.

Olof Källgren, Market Information Manager, Direct Link

PostNord/Direct Link has conducted studies of the European e-commerce market since 2014, presenting its findings in the report “E-commerce in Europe”. The report is based on interviews with consumers in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In a series of blog posts, we will take a closer look at the individual e-commerce markets covered by this year’s “E-commerce in Europe 2018”.

Focus on Germany

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Germany is one of the largest e-commerce markets in Europe. In terms of online consumers, it is in fact the largest market with around 41 million active e-shoppers. The country has a strong tradition of distance-selling and mail orders, yet at the same time, its Internet penetration still lags behind the most successful e-commerce countries. This in turn means that there is still a large potential for growth as more consumers get connected and do their shopping online. The products most commonly bought online in Germany are clothes & footwear, home electronics and books.

Efficient deliveries important

The factors that German consumers value most highly in their choice of online shop differ somewhat from most other European markets. In Germany, price is less important than in all other countries in the survey. To Germans, the most important factor is transparency regarding an order’s total cost. Furthermore, they also look for speed and efficiency in deliveries. Few Germans demand same-day delivery, but it must not take more than three days according to a majority of online consumers.

Highest levels of returns

German consumers have the highest levels of returns among the countries studied in this report: 53 percent say that they have made at least one return during the past twelve months. The most returned category is, not surprisingly, fashion goods followed by home electronics and sports & leisure products.

The new 2018 report can be ordered free of charge.

Olof Källgren, Market Information Manager, Direct Link

E-commerce is growing at a very rapid pace in Australia. There are many reasons why your company needs to explore selling internationally into Australia, and this post will explore those details.

First, a look at the Australian shopper. With a population of just 23 million, e-commerce in Australia is largely fueled by a stronger economy and infrastructure, rather than the number of consumers. In 2017, e-commerce sales surpassed USD 10.6 billion and sales are projected to grow to USD 15.49 billion in 2021.

Australian e-commerce and cross-border shoppingAustralian shoppers are also not shy about buying from global e-commerce sites. As many as 33 % of Australian e-commerce shoppers buy abroad due to better availability of products while 32 % buy due to the appealing offers, according to Australian digital marketing firm Contevo. With 4.6 million users, Amazon US was the second-most-popular e-commerce site accessed in Australia in October, according to Nielsen Digital Ratings.

More than four out of five Australians (85 %) have internet access and the number of users is increasing at a rate of 1.7 %. What’s more, the growth of social media use in Australia has brought new ways to connect with prospects. Additionally, there are nearly 20 million smartphone users in Australia. What makes this statistic a reflection of the opportunity in this country is the high adoption of buying online with mobile devices.

Furthermore, last May, the Australian government announced plans to invest another USD 55 billion in more infrastructure “to kickstart Australia’s next growth phase”. The investment will be spread across multiple initiatives including upgrading broadband networks.

E-commerce merchants that want to start selling into Australia do need to be aware of a few upcoming changes. To start, the Australian government’s goods and services tax (GST) of 10 % on low value imported goods will go into effect on July 1. International sellers will need to collect the 10 % GST from the Australian customer at the point of purchase. This means low value goods with a customs value of less than or equal to AUD 1000 (USD 757) will also be subject to GST. It also means that international sellers must register for GST with the Australian Taxation Office if they make or facilitate the sale of more than AUD 75 000 (USD 56 805) of low value goods to consumers in Australia in any 12-month period.

Despite additional regulations, Australia will remain a hot-spot for international ecommerce sellers.

Direct Link looks forward to helping your business thrive in the Australian ecommerce market.

We are in a period of transition regarding the last mile and new, fast, exact services. Never before has the last mile, the end delivery to the customer, been so important.

buying on tablet, delivery by truck, receiving packageForget drones and automated cars. Instead, take a good look at what consumers really want today. For them, it’s more about making their daily lives easier than pure shopping. E-commerce’s rapid development changes the requirements – and opportunities – regarding the last mile, the final delivery to the customer.

Consumer expectations on e-commerce deliveries are changing, and the speed of this change is increasing, not least because of new market participants specialized in handling the last mile, often based on digital platforms. Customers want speed, more choice, and home delivery in the evenings, but the logistics industry is designed to deliver to businesses during the daytime. Yet the new market participants are showing what is possible and are in many cases also good for the environment. In the future, there will be many more delivery services available. You may get five delivery options, with one of these being our own delivery service, another being a bicycle courier, a green option, collect-in-store, and so on. The logistics industry must think differently and open up. We sometimes compete against each other, but sometimes work together with others. From the customer’s perspective, it should be possible to share infrastructure more often.

Retail is now being forced to act and provide an omni-channel perspective. Studies show that people born after the year 2000 are not as fond of going to brick-and-mortar stores compared to older people. They use more digital services, and want to have access to a large range of products and be able to conduct comparisons online. Stores will look quite differently in the future. There will probably be more stores that target specific segments and we will see more temporary pop-up stores.

I’m looking forward to even more exciting changes in the very near future!

Kenneth Verlage, Head of Business Development, eCommerce & Logistics at PostNord

A recent International Postal Corporation (IPC) report* shows promising retail e-commerce sales numbers for global cross-border markets. Retail e-commerce sales worldwide is expected to grow 23 % to $2.3 trillion USD in 2017, with the U.S. and China together accounting for $1.6 trillion USD of that total. According to the IPC, this represents almost 70 % of the global e-commerce industry.

IPC’s major findings show that:

  • Western Europe will record the slowest e-commerce sales growth of any region, but still positive at 12%. This brings the expected e-commerce sales value to $337 billion USD in 2017.
  • The U.K. leads the way in the region with projected sales of $110 billion USD in 2017.
  • The Asia-Pacific region shows the highest e-commerce sale growth of any region at 30% compared to 2016.
  • Mobile e-commerce sales in China alone are expected to reach $882 billion USD, up 42% from 2016. This means that nearly three-quarters (73%) of all retail e-commerce sales in the country will occur via mobile – which is the largest share of any country in the world.
  • India’s share of e-commerce sales from mobile comes in a close 2nd at $16 billion USD, a jump of 61% from 2016 and equating to just over a 72% share of total sales.
  • South Korea ranks third in mobile e-commerce sales, with mobile generating 59% of retail e-commerce sales in 2017.
  • For comparison, the total use of mobile for e-commerce sales in the United States is projected to grow 34% in 2017, representing roughly $176 billion USD.


diagram retail e-commerce sales worldwide 2016-2021

Image: IPC Market Insights

The high growth trends in the Asia-Pacific region are mainly contributed to these mobile purchases. In this region, higher internet and mobile usage is allowing consumers to gain access more easily and on a more frequent basis. On the other side, retailers in this region are providing improved shipping and delivery methods to extend their reach.

Today, online cross-border consumers are using the power of choice forcing online retailers to make improvements to their consumer’s online shopping experience, via a mobile experience or elsewhere. This can be an important difference-maker this holiday season. For example, in 2016 47% of online shoppers experienced challenges to making a cross-border e-commerce purchase during the holidays that year (based on a survey of 1200 retailers from 8 different countries and 12 000 consumers from 12 global markets).

Basic consumer pain points such as a weak shipping and returns process, shipping the right item, accuracy in address and tracking, and proper duty and tax information were all listed as main reasons the consumer felt inhibited. India and Hong Kong experienced the highest percentage of dissatisfied consumers with 73% and 69%, respectively. In China, 64% of online shopper experienced challenges during the holiday season.

To meet your consumer’s e-commerce shopping and delivery expectations this holiday season be sure to sign up with a delivery partner that has a well-established global business and can find the best delivery solution for you.

Austin Whittenberger – Regional Account Manager in the U.S.
*The “State of E-commerce: global outlook 2016-21” report provided overall e-commerce figures and projections at global and regional levels, including forecasts up to 2021. This report draws from the IPC’s very own case studies, previous cross-border e-commerce surveys and annual carrier reports.