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Report: State of European e-commerce 2021

With much of the world reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, trends in online shopping are slowly starting to normalise again.

But several of the seismic shifts seen across online spaces during this period are still hanging around – and many might be here to stay.

Overall, European e-commerce is still experiencing strong growth in 2021. The fastest regional growth is in Germany with 18%, followed by Denmark (11%), Sweden (10%), and Norway (3%). Only Austria is showing negative growth with -0.3%.

To gain some insight into the value of online shopping in 2021, it’s useful to take a look at the year’s numbers. The Nexi survey shows that Finland spent €8.7 billion; Denmark €14 billion; Norway €15.7 billion; Sweden €22.5 billion; Austria €23.2 billion; and Switzerland €31.4 billion.

The real outliers for online spending were Italy with €186.7 billion and Germany with €190.8 billion.

In many markets, the acceleration in e-commerce seen during 2020 has been sustained or increased in 2021, although some segments have seen a normalisation of numbers since the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

European e-commerce: It’s still good to sell goods

Physical product purchases remain the main share of the online market in 2021. 2020 peaks saw online spending going towards goods approach 75% in some European markets.

In 2021, consumer spending on physical goods ranged from 65% of total spending in Germany to 49% in Norway. For all countries, roughly half to two-thirds of their total spending went to the purchase of physical goods.

Within the physical goods category, the most-purchased item in all countries was clothing.

The rest of consumer spending on physical goods is more scattered now than it was when lockdowns made it hard for shoppers to visit grocery stores and pharmacies for supplies in 2020.

European e-commerce: Travel is, kind of, making a comeback

The travel category has historically been one of the most mature in the online shopping market. But now, thanks to COVID-19, it has some way to go before catching up to physical goods.

The survey shows that not everyone is ready to travel again – or, at least, to purchase travel services online. Consumer spending on travel ranged from a high of 28% of total spending in Norway to a low of 17% of total spending for Swedish consumers.

Spending in the travel industry will continue to recover as the world opens up and people become more comfortable moving around. Still, the most dominant category across most countries in the travel segment was parking and train tickets, which indicates the appetite for long-haul trips and holidays is still recovering somewhat.

However, some countries like Italy, Norway, and Switzerland are seeing solid spending on flights and hotels.

The online world still not quite at your service

There’s also not too great a country-by-country distinction in online consumer spending on services.

Most spent between 13% and 25% on this category during 2021, with Italy showing more likelihood to purchase services online, compared to the lowest-percentage country in this category, Germany.

Streaming TV and movies accounted for the largest category within the services segment in all countries. Although in some countries spending is at a low of 35% in Switzerland, many regions are comfortably over 50% – with Norway the highest at 59%.

Summing up the market tendencies in 2021, it appears clear that some markets are still normalising after a year of grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rise in spending on physical goods and the decline in traveling spending may still take some time to level out.

But it’s also likely that consumers now have greater trust in purchasing products online than before – and so it’s possible many of the new trends thought to be temporary during COVID-19 in 2020 have, in fact, done something to democratise online purchases across all categories in Europe.

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