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Cross-border ecommerce in Europe

Cross-border ecommerce is popular in Europe. An EU study from 2021 has shown that 30 percent of online buyers in the European Union made purchases from sellers in other EU countries. But there is still a long way to go for cross-border ecommerce in Europe.


Many shoppers are often still afraid to shop across the borders, because they are worried they don’t get the goods or that they need to put way too much effort in returning the products if they don’t like them. The European Commission is trying hard to make cross-border ecommerce easier for both consumers and sellers.

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Europe is not only a popular ecommerce destination for consumers and retailers in other European countries, Payvision’s report from 2014 showed that in North America, Europe was the first region of choice for cross-border expansion for two in three respondents.

In North America, Europe is the number one choice for cross-border expansion.

Cross-border ecommerce in Europe in 2020

A study in 2018 shows that for many online shoppers in Europe, China is a popular destination for their cross-border ecommerce purchases. In almost every country in Europe, China is the number one country from which online shoppers bought their most recent online cross-border purchase. In Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the UK, Denmark, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Latvia, Germany, Hungary and Slovenia this is the case.

Cross-border ecommerce destinations for shoppers in Europe.
Cross-border ecommerce destinations for shoppers in Europe.

In 2020, the organization Cross-Border Commerce Europe presented the third edition of its Top 500 Cross-Border Retail Europe study. This showed that 25.5% of ecommerce in Europe is cross-border. The study also showed that cross-border ecommerce in Europe (travel not included) accounted for 146 billion euros.

25.5 percent of ecommerce in Europe was cross-border in 2020.

Geo-blocking in Europe

In March 2016, the European Commission wrote a report about geo-blocking practices in ecommerce, a topic that’s of course strongly connected to cross-border retail. “Geo-blocking mainly takes the form of a refusal to deliver abroad. Refusals to accept payment, and, to a lesser extent, re-routing and website access blocks are also used”, the Commission wrote. “While a majority of such geo-blocking results from unilateral business decisions of retailers, geo-blocking may also stem from contractual restrictions in agreements between retailers and suppliers. More than one out of ten retailers reports contractual restrictions to sell across borders.”

Proportions of domestic and EU cross-border visits

The European Commission asked retailers to provide them information about the number of visits to their websites that were made in 2014 from users located in each Member State. The average proportion of visits coming from other EU countries compared to domestic visits is approximately 20 percent.

When we look at the share at member state level, the proportion of cross-border visits varies greatly. According to the Commission, this is also due to the fact that the number of visits is partly influenced by size of the population. “Therefore, even in traditionally larger ecommerce markets such as Germany and the UK, the proportion of visits from abroad is relatively modest compared to the proportion of domestic visits. A high proportion of cross-border visits were reported for some of the Nordic countries as well as Spain and Portugal.”

Cross-border ecommerce in Europe in 2014

Proportions of domestic and EU cross-border purchases

The figure above looks only at visits, but when we dive into the actual purchases, it shows that 55 percent of respondents reported that all their users were located in one country, while 12 percent sold to users located in 26 or more EU countries. On average, the proportion of cross-border purchases is 20 percent.

Proportions of domestic and EU cross-border purchases out of all purchases in 2014 per Member State

Read more about cross-border ecommerce in Europe

If you want to read more about cross-border ecommerce in Europe, you should check out our cross-border category, which lists all the articles we’ve written about this topic.

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