Online shopping behaviour in the Nordics

Cross-border shopping

As a target market for international merchants, the overall size of the market is viable and made more so by the fact that the selection of brands and products available locally to customers might be limited. As a result and, combined with the geographical challenges, Nordic consumers are used to shopping at a distance (including cross-border).

In their latest Nordic ecommerce report, PostNord have shown cross-border purchases were worth over €5.36bn with Finns at 42%, the most likely to purchase from a merchant based in another country.

Table 2: "What total amount do you estimate that you have spent purchasing products online from international sites in the past month" - Calculation - 2016 Source: PostNord E-commerce in the Nordics 2017

The same report also highlighted the penetration of online shoppers who shop cross-border. Finland has the largest proportion of cross-border shoppers, perhaps reflecting domestic choice. Sweden at 29% perhaps shows the most potential for growth although the availability of domestic brands might be a reason for the lower levels of cross-border shopping.

Table 3: Percentage of Nordic online consumers who have purchased from a foreign website in the past month (Jan - Dec 2016) Source: PostNord E-commerce in the Nordics 2017

For general imports the Nordics’ main trading partners are Germany, China, Russia, the Netherlands and (for Norway) the UK. However, for online shopping, according to PostNord, the UK is the most popular international shopping destination followed by China, which has pushed Germany into third place with the US in fourth position. It is interesting to note that in the past 12 months China has taken share from all three of the other markets.

This is important as it indicates that Nordic consumers are more likely to purchase from brands outside of the region, whereas it might have been assumed that the local market would have been more attractive. Part of the reason for this is that Nordic brands are more likely to have a local presence in each of the four countries, so sales with these companies do not necessarily register as ‘cross-border’.

Table 4: Graphic showing most popular international shopping destinations for online customers in the Nordics with 2015 and 2016 comparison. Source: PostNord E-commerce in the Nordics 2017

Providing more detail, the PostNord report also highlighted the country preferences by each of the Nordic states. The marked difference in the amount of cross-border trade between Norway and the US can perhaps be explained in part by the number of expat US citizens working in the oil, gas and shipping industries.

Figure 34: Online consumers preferred cross-border shopping destinations. Source: PostNord E-commerce in the Nordics 2017

With regards to the age of Nordic online consumers who are happy to shop cross-border, there is little difference between them according to research by Bring.

Table 5: Breakdown by age of Nordic online consumers who shop cross-border. Source: Bring 2014

As might be expected, price is a key motivator for purchasing from a foreign merchant’s website. While 63% of the survey sample questioned by DIBS indicated that price was the main reason for cross-border shopping, only 10% purchased cross-border because of lower taxes; indicating a disconnect between product price and taxes / duties by consumers. This could have an impact on post-sale customer service if customers end up being charged more than they expected, especially at point of delivery.

Reflecting overall online trends, the most popular cross-border categories include fashion and consumer electronics. Finnish consumers are particularly keen on purchasing fashion, with 38% of online consumers having done so. Norway leads the way in media consumption, with 24% having made a purchase in this manner. Interestingly, this category includes books which have still performed strongly in previous years and many of the big media providers, such as Apple, are international.

Figure 35: Product categories purchased online by Nordic shoppers from abroad - excluding grocery - 2016 Source: PostNord Nordic E-commerce in the Nordics 2017




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