Cross-border ecommerce in Europe

Cross-border ecommerce means the sales of online goods across borders. A study from 2021 has shown that 30 percent of online buyers in the European Union made purchases from sellers in other EU countries. This makes it an interesting way for online sellers in Europe to target a larger audience.


cross-border ecommerce in europe

The amount of online sales across Europe is growing rapidly. While there are many online sellers in each country, consumers sometimes also buy cross-border. According to research in 2021, up to 55 percent of online shoppers around the world are interested in placing cross-border purchases.

Cross-border sales do not only take place within Europe.

The European Commission is trying hard to make cross-border ecommerce easier for both consumers and sellers within the EU. However, cross-border sales do not only take place within Europe. European consumers often place orders on ecommerce platforms with sellers from other continents, such as AliExpress or Wish.

Looking for ecommerce software to start selling in Europe? Webador and Shopify are platforms that are well optimized for cross-border ecommerce.

Cross-border ecommerce in Europe in 2021

The cross-border ecommerce market was worth 171.2 billion euros in 2021. According to Cross-Border Commerce Europe, this was a growth of 17 percent compared to 2020. In that year, 25.5 percent of all online revenue in Europe was generated cross-border.

European online sellers generated a cross-border revenue of €100 billion in 2021.

Online sellers in Europe generated a cross-border revenue in ecommerce sales of 100 billion euros in 2021. This was a year-on-year growth of 14.6 percent. This was a record high, because a year earlier they generated a revenue of 87.2 billion euros.

The top 5 European cross-border markets

In 2021, these countries generated the highest cross-border revenues in Europe:

Germany 32 billion euros
United Kingdom 29 billion euros
France 23 billion euros
Spain 11.3 billion euros
the Netherlands 4.8 billion euros

In 2021, Germany generated the highest revenue in cross-border sales.

expanding your online store internationally

Geo-blocking in Europe

In an effort to make buying across borders in Europe easier, the EU has ended geo-blocking. As of 2018, an ecommerce business can no longer block website visitors from other EU countries. The EU wanted to create a barrier-free Europe, which includes removal of barriers in ecommerce. This does not mean that sellers have to deliver to international customers in other countries. 

Expanding your online store

localizing your online storeAre you interested in selling internationally to stimulate business growth? How do you get started? If you already have an online store in your local language, you could expand it by translating it to English or another language. Sometimes, ecommerce software has built-in tools to help you get started with that. To attract customers, you could start an advertising campaign targetting them. However, this takes a lot of time.

An easier option is to use platforms or online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Alibaba. You can relatively easily piggyback on their third party logistics, payment services and marketing. It also helps to make sure you don’t violate local ecommerce laws. Especially in cases where you don’t know the market very well yet, it can be wise to start on a marketplace as a test case. If the outcome is positive, you can always set up a localized online store.

Becoming successful at international sales

Whether a cross-border business becomes successful often depends on the extent to which entrepreneurs tailor their ecommerce store to the needs of customers in their target market, such as local payment methods, a local (return) address, a local phone number and local labels. After all, consumers need to gain trust in your shop and not going along with the local, familiar way of doing business can be very detrimental. However, there are also examples of companies that base their crossborder operations on the similarities between the countries and localize only some aspects so that everything remains as scalable as possible.

challenges of selling cross-border

Challenges selling cross-border

Though consumers are interested in purchasing products from international markets, some factors can dissuade them from doing so. Customers are often concerned that packages will not arrive in time (48 percent).

If sellers are considering a cross-border expansion for their ecommerce strategy, they should try to take away these factors. They could offer online tracking of the package or estimated delivery times in their website. This could convince 69 percent of consumers to buy overseas, instead of in their local market.

Withholding information about additional cross-border costs can result in lower conversion.

Additionally, customers want to be able to return products easily. Being clear upfront about delivery costs and any taxes would also impact the consumer’s decision to buy from a seller in another country (61 percent). Online sellers that aren’t clear about these additional costs could cause lower customer satisfaction and thus negative reviews, which will result in lower conversion.

News about cross-border ecommerce in Europe

You can read the latest news about European cross-border ecommerce here: