Belgium flag Belgium: Buying and Selling

E-commerce in Belgium

E-commerce

Internet access
Belgium has a population of 11.4 million people of whom 10 million (87%) have internet access. Around 8.9 million persons are considered to be e-shoppers. The internet infrastructure has developed fast in recent years and the country has now a quality and wide network. According to the IMF ranking, Belgium is the world’s 25th richest country in terms of GDP and 35th in GDP per capita. The most visited websites on the internet in Belgium are Google, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter and Instagram.
E-commerce market
2017 was a very good year for e-commerce in Belgium. The total turnover grew by 34.2% compared to 2016, and amounted to US$ 9.53 billion. In terms of revenue, it amounted to US$ 4.9 billion in 2017, and is expected to reach US$ 7.1 billion by 2021. Fashion is the leading e-commerce category, accounting for a US$ 2.3 billion share of the market, followed by electronics, which was USD 1.3 billion in 2017. In the 2015 Global Retail e-commerce index produced by AT Kearney, Belgium was considered the 9th most attractive online market in the world. This report highlighted the good infrastructure network and the potential for growth in the country. Like in many European countries, Amazon is the main online store in Belgium. The most visited online stores besides Amazon are Coolblue (generalist), Bol (generalist, not in French), Zalando (clothing), MediaMarkt (multimedia and home appliances), Vente-Exclusive (flash sales, private community), Colruyt (food), Unigro (generalist), Vanden Borre (multimedia and home apliances) and H&M (clothing). In terms of second-hand buying and selling, 2dehand.com is one of the most popular websites in Belgium. The country’s market is strongly affected by the existing language dichotomy. Almost every website mentioned above has French and Flemish versions, and sometimes English and Dutch versions as well. This is an essential criterion for any online shop in the country. Given that Belgium is situated at the European crossroads, and has good infrastructure networks, cross-border online sales are normal in the country. According to Eurostat, cross-border sales represent 40% of all online sales, and mostly come from neighboring countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany, but also from the USA and the UK.
E-commerce sales and customers
There are currently 6.4 million e-commerce users in Belgium, and 1.5 million new users are expected to be shopping online by 2021, which will represent 87.7% of the total population. Belgium is characterised by its division in two regions: Flanders, which is Flemish-speaking and Wallonia, the French-speaking region. Therefore, in order to reach as many customers as possible, it is indispensable for online stores to build their websites in both languages. Additionally, marketing campaigns for these shops must also aim to reach both Flemish-speaking and French-speaking individuals. In 2016, the World Bank Logistics Index placed Belgium at the 3rd place, based on customs efficiency, quality of trade, transport infrastructure and logistics services. The most popular product categories in Belgium’s e-commerce market is fashion (clothing, including shoes), followed by electronics and media, furniture and appliances, toys, hobby and food and personal care. The average user spends US$ 766 online, a figure that is expected to grow to US$ 872 by 2021. Customers in the Flanders part of Belgium tend to buy products online more often than those from Wallonia. Credit cards are by far the most used payment method in Belgium, with 32% of all online purchases being paid using one, although debit cards are closely behind, accounting for 30% of all payments. Debit card payment company Bancontact is developing its online payment services which is expected to close the gap with other credit cards services. Other popular payment options are PayPal and bank transfers. In terms of sales, travel (flight tickets, hotel bookings) is the most popular online service, before event tickets and insurance services. Belgians essentially buy from their desktop devices, but mobile and tablet use for e-shopping is increasing.
Social media
Social media as a whole are very popular in Belgium. Nearly all internet users in Belgium use social media of some kind, so there are about 10 million social media users in the country. Facebook is the most popular social media by far, with 6.6 million users. Instagram counts 2.5 million users, and is particularly popular among younger generations, as nearly 85% of them are under 45 years old. WhatsApp is also widely used, and between 2016 and 2017, daily users in Flanders rose from 25% to 31%. The increase was noticeable in all age groups, but was particularly significant among those aged over 65, as the number of users in that group tripled in the period. Youtube, Twitter and Linkedin are the other main social networks. In particular, LinkedIn has been growing at a fast pace during the last couple of years. Swarm, an app developed by Foursquare that allows users to share the places they have visited, is also quite popular in the country. As of August 2018, the most popular social media platforms in the country by market share were Facebook (63.82%), Pinterest (21.5%), Twitter (4.37%), YouTube (4.13%), Instagram (3.85%) and Tumblr (1.26%).

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Latest Update: December 2022

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