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RESEARCH How European shoppers want to buy – and why

Europe: ripe for UK SME retailers? (Image: Fotolia)

European shoppers are confirmed ecommerce users, new research suggests. More than 92% of shoppers in 19 European markets say in a new RetailX study that they buy online at least some of the time. Why? Shoppers in most markets say that they mostly buy online because it’s convenient. 

RetailX questioned 9,600 people in 19 European markets about their online shopping habits, online via Pollfish. The 2021 RetailX Consumer Observatory surveys were carried out between March and May 2021. Researchers asked whether respondents shop online and why they do so – or don’t. It went on to ask those who shop online how often and why they shop online, what they buy, and what part of the customer experience is most important to them. The results offer useful insights into how people use the internet to buy in different European markets. Answers are rounded to the nearest %, with .5 rounded up. 

How much do European shoppers buy online – and why?

In every market surveyed, more than nine in 10 shoppers say they buy online to some extent. At the extremes, just over 1% (1.4%) of 500 Swedish respondents say they never shop online – suggesting that 99% do. In Ireland, 2% (1.5%) of 400 shoppers never buy online, while 98.5% do – but in Germany, 7% of 750 respondents say they never buy online, leaving 93% who do.

In most markets the largest group of respondents buys online more than once a month, although in the UK, the same proportion shop online once a week. In the UK, 3% of 1,000 shoppers questioned never shop online, but the largest groups do so more than once a week (32%), with the same proportion shopping more than once a month (32%). Some 10% say they shop online more than once a day. 

In Norway, only 4% of 400 respondents say they never shop online, while the largest group (37%) shops online more than once a month, and 8% shop more than once a day. In Austria, 6% never shop online, with the largest group shopping online more than once a month (44%). 

In Romania, 2% of shoppers never buy online, and 41% do so more than once a month, followed by 27% who shop more than once a week – and 9% buy more than once a day. In France, 3% never buy online, while the largest group shops online more than once a month (46%), followed by those do so more than once a week (25%). Some 16% buy online more than once every three months, and 3% say they buy more than once a day. 

In Germany, however, 7% of German shoppers say they never buy online, with the largest group buying more than once a month (37%), followed by those buying more than once a week (23%). In this market, 8% buy more than once a day. And in Portugal, 6% of shoppers never buy online, with 39% buying more than once a month, and 22% more than once a week. Just 3% say they buy every day.

When shoppers were asked how their buying habits would change after the Covid-19 pandemic, respondents for all but one market say they will remain the same. That one market is Portugal, where shoppers said they would buy slightly less online. 

Why do shoppers buy online? 

Convenience is the biggest ecommerce driver in almost every market, most notably in Spain, where 79% said this was most important reason they shop online. It is also the leading reason in markets including Sweden (76%), Ireland (74%), France (73%), Italy (69%), Finland (66%), the UK and Romania (both 62%). Exceptions include Norway, where shoppers most often cite price (67%), with choice (44%) and delivery options (34%) listed before convenience (30%), and Germany, where choice comes first (55%), followed by price (54%) and only then convenience (48%) and delivery options (40%). 

After convenience, other factors are more variable. In the UK price (47%) is just as important as choice (47%), while delivery options (43%) and reviews (20%) are also factors. But in Italy, price (63%) is the second reason to shop online, while fewer in that market cite choice (39%), delivery options (31%) or reviews (16%) and in Romania, price (61%) is cited more often than choice (50%) delivery options (35%) and reviews (17%). French respondents primarily cite price (63%) and choice (52%). 

Why not? 

Of those that don’t buy online, 39% of UK respondents say they buy in stores because they always have, 25% prefer shops, and 14% say someone else does their shopping for them. In Romania, 37% say that someone else does it for them, and in France 41% say they have always have bought in-store, as do 36% in Germany, 50% in Italy, and 40% in The Netherlands. 

What type of goods do people buy online? 

Across many European markets, shoppers most often buy fashion online. Some 

72% of 500 shoppers in Sweden buy fashion clothing and accessories over the internet, and it’s also the primary ecommerce category in markets including Poland (70%), France (65%) Italy (63%), the UK (57%) Romania (51%), The Netherlands (62%) and Norway (43%). But in Czechia, respondents most often buy consumer electronics (54%), followed by household goods (46%) and fashion (46%), and in Slovakia, shoppers primarily buy household goods (44%), closely followed by fashion (43%) and consumer electronics (43%). The second most popular category in Sweden, after fashion, is pharmaceuticals (54%), and 43% in that market buy consumer electronics. 

How do shoppers want to take delivery? 

The largest group of shoppers ‘strongly agree’ that speed of delivery is an important issue when buying in France (53%) – but merely ‘agree’ in Denmark (62%), the UK and Slovakia (both 63%) and Italy (55%). The largest groups of shoppers say next-day delivery is important for most purchases in Spain (43%), Portugal (39%), the UK (37%) and but only important for some purchases in markets including Finland (31%). 

More than a third of shoppers in Slovakia (35%) and Portugal (41%) are willing to pay for fast delivery only occasionally, but in Greece, 39% will usually pay for it. That said, more than half of Greek shoppers (52%) and 44% of Portuguese shoppers also agree with the statement that online retailers should not charge extra for next day delivery.

More half of shoppers have subscribed to a delivery subscription service such as Amazon Prime or Asos Premier Delivery in markets including the UK (76%), Spain (68%), France (59%), Italy (59%), Such services are used by significant numbers in The Netherlands (where 45% of respondents subscribe), Germany (47%) and Denmark (43%) while uptake is lower still in markets such as Romania (37%), Greece (35%), Portugal (27%) and (Hungary (26%). That may be because either subscriptions or fast delivery to those markets are less widely available.

This piece appears with graphics in the new RetailX Europe Top1000. To explore the report and RetailX European research further, click here

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