Having the courage and ambitions to expand your business to Western Europe? Great, then you’ll probably need in-depth information on the specifics of e-commerce and payments in this region. We’ll explain to you all the details of entering the Western European market and share some tips on effectively gaining a foothold in it.
Western Europe market trends and specificities
Let’s start with general information. Western Europe has a population of 196 million. The urbanised population is 80% of this number. While determining which countries geographically fall under Western Europe is still controversial, we will stick to the following list: Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, Monaco, and Liechtenstein.
While e-commerce has just started to gain traction in other regions, the Western European e-commerce market is quite mature. This can be explained by the fact that the large expansion of the internet took place here earlier than, for example, in post-Soviet countries of Europe. Western European countries currently have the highest internet penetration rates in Europe, starting from 92%, which means online shopping is available to almost everyone.
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What is the most developed market in Western Europe?
Currently, Ireland is the country with the fastest-growing e-commerce market in Western Europe (26% e-commerce growth rate). The rest of the countries lag behind in this indicator, but only because e-commerce was established there earlier. France ranks second after Ireland with an e-commerce market growth rate of 13%, followed by the UK with 11%. The UK has the strongest e-commerce market in Europe — 95% of UK residents are e-commerce consumers. Also, the Brits spent €52.4 billion on online purchases in 2020.
There’s little information about e-commerce development in small-sized countries like Luxembourg, Monaco, and Liechtenstein. However, the high solvency of local consumers makes these countries a tasty morsel for businesses.
The commonest e-commerce segments in Western Europe
What about the most popular e-commerce segments? Nothing unusual here. Clothing and footwear are in the greatest demand among Western Europeans. Then comes cosmetics/skincare and home electronics. The pandemic has also forced more people to buy groceries and pharmaceuticals online. The trend toward online shopping is growing every year, and even the categories of goods that consumers used to buy in physical stores have become extremely popular in e-commerce.
Times are changing, but shopping habits in Western Europe after the pandemic are unlikely to return to their origins. The e-commerce market will only grow with more brick-and-mortar stores moving online. Considering that the Western European e-commerce market is already well-established, it is not surprising that consumers’ expectations about the quality of goods, speed of delivery and convenience of payments are quite high. But if you can offer all these things, you are guaranteed to win customer loyalty and successfully gain a foothold in Western Europe.
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Preferable payment methods in Western Europe
Despite rapid innovation in online payments, Western European consumers remain loyal to traditional payment methods. The latest e-commerce and payment research shows that debit and credit cards are still the most popular e-commerce payment options in Western Europe, in particular in the UK (preferred by 56% of local consumers), France (55%), and Belgium (51%). The exceptions are the Netherlands and Austria, where bank transfers are preferable.
While traditional payment methods are still in vogue, digital wallets rapidly strengthen their positions in the top three most popular payment methods among Western Europeans. Thus, e-wallets are used by 25% of e-commerce consumers in the UK, 22% in Ireland, and 20% in Austria. There’s no doubt that this figure will grow significantly in the coming years.
Here’s a list of the leading payment options in Western European e-commerce:
- Mastercard (in the majority of countries)
- Visa (in the majority of countries)
- Cartes Bancaires (France)
- Bancontact (Belgium)
- iDeal (Netherlands)
- PayPal (Monaco, UK, Liechtenstein)
Even if traditional payment methods remain relevant, more and more consumers in Western Europe choose mobile payment solutions' convenience and robust security. As the older generation adapts to smartphones, this payment type will become firmly rooted in e-commerce. To make their business accessible to everyone, you need to set up all payment methods preferred by your target audience.
How to reach the Western European market faster
Western Europe has been having a well-established e-commerce market for many years now. However, local consumers are still hungry for marketplaces with quality and affordable products. Quality of service and delivery also matter. Since Western Europeans make online purchases mainly from large foreign marketplaces, delivery delays or payment problems can often occur. Payment issues or inability to pay in their preferred payment method may discourage consumers from online shopping. That’s why creating the best payment experience is your key to entering the Western European market.
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