Europeans' Trust in Cross-Border Ecommerce Is on the Rise

Consumer confidence boosted, but retailers still struggling to get on board

Author: Cliff Annicelli

July 25, 2017

Trust in cross-border ecommerce is spreading in the EU, according to a study by the European Commission. But many retailers in the 28-country confederation remain reluctant to sell to online buyers in other member states.

According to the latest edition of the European Commission's "Consumer Conditions Scoreboard," nearly 58% of adults polled in May 2016 in the EU-28 were confident in online purchases from other EU countries, up 21.1 percentage points from 2014’s figure. It also marked the first time that more than half of respondents were confident in cross-border ecommerce.

The UK had the highest level of consumer confidence in cross-border ecommerce, at 77.0%. It was followed by Ireland (76.0%), Austria (75.6%) and Luxembourg (75.0%). The countries with the lowest proportion of consumers confident in cross-border e-commerce were Lithuania (31.5%), Portugal (33.6%), Greece (34.3%) and Latvia (34.9%).

A study conducted by the Centre for Retail Research for RetailMeNot predicted that cross-border ecommerce will rise this year in each of the countries it investigated. Germany and the UK will lead the pack with sales of €10.90 billion ($12.06 billion) and €9.70 billion ($10.73 billion), respectively.

The growth in trust in cross-border ecommerce among EU consumers mirrors a rising level of comfort with ecommerce in general. According to Eurostat figures, the share of the EU-28 population that bought something online for private use swelled to 55.1% in 2016, almost double from 29.7% in 2007. Moreover, in 2016, 45.3% of the population had made a personal online purchase within the previous three months.

A study conducted by the Centre for Retail Research for RetailMeNot predicted that cross-border ecommerce will rise this year in each of the countries it investigated. Germany and the UK will lead the pack with sales of €10.90 billion ($12.06 billion) and €9.70 billion ($10.73 billion), respectively.

Those figures could be even higher, but the European Commission's study found consumers face some obstacles when trying to buy online from retailers based in other EU countries. For example, nearly 13% of respondents said the retailer did not accept payment from their country, while about 10% said the merchant did not deliver to their country.

Moreover, the study found cross-border sellers were a rare breed in Europe. Less than four in 10 businesses with at least 10 employees sold their goods online at all. And less than half of those (44.1%) planned to offer cross-border sales in the coming year.

The most common reason merchants cited for abstaining from cross-border sales was the threat of fraud, but complications related to tax laws and contracts also figured prominently.

The European Commission is currently working to address some of those obstacles as part of its Digital Single Market initiative. In May, it proposed legislation to remove several hindrances it believes are limiting the EU's cross-border ecommerce activity.


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