Western Europe: a Great E-commerce Opportunity for Ambitious UK Merchants?

Western Europe: a Great E-commerce Opportunity for Ambitious UK Merchants?

Ralf Ohlhausen

Business Development Director at PPRO Group

Views 556

Western Europe: a Great E-commerce Opportunity for Ambitious UK Merchants?

18.10.2016 12:30 pm

Western Europe is thriving, thanks to the region’s highly developed banking infrastructure and the growing maturity of the market.  It’s home to 19 different countries that boast an average annual income of around $55,000 (compared to a world average of below $10,000) as well as a wealth of diverse cultures and payment methods to match.  Western Europe’s more sophisticated and established banking infrastructure enabled shoppers to purchase an incredible $475.7 billion worth of goods and services online last year. 

There is so much opportunity in this region for UK merchants to boost their cross border sales, but only if they understand that the payment culture in each country across Western Europe is very different.  Of course, credit cards are still a common way to pay for goods and services online, but they are not equally favoured in all countries as alternative payment methods are becoming more and more prevalent across this region. 

A fountain of ‘payments’ knowledge

It’s so crucial that UK merchants understand the alternative payment options across this region.  As such, we’ve taken the liberty of producing a comprehensive global alternative payments guide, which sheds some light on how differently shoppers behave at the online checkout in each country.

Take the Netherlands, for example, around 65 per cent of all transactions are carried out using the iDEAL online banking system.  German and Austrian shoppers on the other hand prefer payment on account, via direct debit and PayPal while in Finland around half of online purchases are made by online bank transfer, and almost one in five online transactions in Portugal are paid by offline bank transfer.

What’s clear from our research is that Western Europeans are sticking with their preferred local established payment methods and providers such as Sofort, enter cash and iDEAL rather than paying for goods with their credit or debit cards, or even embracing newer payments methods such as e-wallets (only 19 per cent of Western Europeans use e-wallets).  The exception to this is that nearly a quarter of Norwegians (23 per cent, so higher than the Western Europe average) use e-wallets to pay online for goods.  The Swiss, however, are dismissing digital wallets in favour of paying by credit cards, and are big spenders, with the average online shopper spending $3,190 year.    These are all key factors for UK e-commerce merchants to consider before selling cross-border in this region.

Mobile optimisation is key

It’s also incredibly important for these merchants to ensure that every online customer touchpoint is mobile-optimised as smartphone penetration is high across Western Europe.  In fact, 70 per cent of Western Europeans now own a smartphone, considerably higher than the global average of 42 per cent.  Any UK e-commerce merchant preparing to enter the Nordics or Dutch markets especially need to ensure their online check-out procedure is mobile-optimised, as 77 per cent of Norwegians and 76 per cent of Swedes and Dutch people currently own a smartphone that will be used frequently for online purchases.

Looking to warmer climes? 

UK merchants shouldn’t dismiss credit and debit cards though as 87 per cent of Spanish online shoppers favour these payment methods. The same goes for the Swedes, with 53 per cent preferring to pay with this method but also useful to bear in mind is a growing popular alternative payment method, Klarna, a Swedish company that allows shoppers to pay for their purchases through online banking, invoices and instalments.

Thanks to the European Single Market, consumers are very comfortable with making cross border purchases online, so the opportunity for UK e-commerce merchants to succeed across the channel in Western Europe is huge, but local knowledge and engagement are crucial. 

Readers who would like a clearer insight into the 12 biggest markets in this region and the characteristics and behaviour of its 247 million online shoppers please click here.

Latest blogs

Nóra Bézi Bitrise

The future of finance and banking apps: balancing security and innovation

The fintech revolution in the mobile space Fintech mobile applications are rapidly becoming the norm when it comes to handling our personal finances. As these apps grow in popularity and continue to define our relationship with money, the number Read more »

Will Hurst Monevo

How can lenders leverage open banking data to tackle Covid-19 pandemic challenges

We have seen extraordinary levels of Government-backed support made available to the public and businesses alike in responding to the health crisis by our banks through payment holidays, grants and the furlough scheme. While we keep collective Read more »

Nish Kotecha and Noslen Suárez PhD Finboot

How blockchain can help us have trust in the food we eat

Today’s food supply chains are global, connected and generally efficient, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on areas of weakness. The urgent need for robust and resilient systems and processes has been brought sharply into focus, and Read more »

Chris Miller RSA Security

Back to Normality: Five Steps to Stay Resilient After Disruption

The financial services sector has lived through many global disruptions, but the nature of recent events has put an unprecedented strain on operational resilience; from needing to ensure critical functions could continue with skeleton staff and Read more »


How Technology Has Disrupted the Used Car Buying Experience

We’ve seen many fields change rapidly as a result of the integration of modern technological advancements over the last couple of decades. And it looks like more is coming on the horizon as well, judging by current trends. One of the markets that Read more »

Related Blogs

Denise Dunne Ding.com

Riding the Wave of Demand for Online

Undeniably businesses all around the world today find themselves grappling with the profound changes we are experiencing as the world comes to terms with the impact of the first wave of this pandemic.  All across the world, businesses - from the Read more »

Tristan Chiappini PPRO

Tigers versus Dragons - Asia’s booming e-commerce market and the challenge to China’s regional dominance

E-commerce is one of the greatest business success stories of the last decade. It has created jobs, injected new dynamism into our economies, created countless ‘unicorns’ and given people, who wouldn’t otherwise have had it, access to goods and Read more »

André Stoorvogel Rambus

5 Reasons Why E-commerce Sites Need a Token Gateway

Card-on-file (the process of collecting and storing payment card credentials) is fundamental to the card-not-present (CNP) ecosystem, facilitating the delivery of popular payment methods such as one-click ordering and recurring payments. Growing CNP Read more »


Getting the Ball Rolling Again! England vs Russia

Once again, the UEFA European Championship is just a round the corner, and Europe will spend four weeks going football crazy as each team  takes  its turn on the international pitch. A UEFA European Championship, of course, means an entire month of Read more »

William Laraque US-International Trade Services

E-Commerce as an Economic Development Tool -II

E-commerce can be an extraordinary job and economic development tool. Regrettably, the initial cross-border forays of Amazon and Alibaba have been debacles but they provide valuable tactical and strategic lessons in "how to do it right."  The 50 Read more »

Free Newsletter Sign-up
+44 (0) 208 819 32 53 +44 (0) 173 261 71 47
Download Our Mobile App
Financial It Youtube channel