5 e-commerce tips for (Belgian) e-retailers

For the fourth time in a row, InSites Consulting and Comeos have composed an annual report on Belgian e-commerce, focusing on the main trends and future developments among 1,000 Belgians (representative on region, gender and age). I presented the results of the study last week at the eTrade Summit and I’ve shared the key learnings in this blogpost.

Belgian e-commerce remains a growth market

In 2014, a late majority got convinced of purchasing new products and services online, taking penetration from 52% to 59%. Several KPIs indicate a continuous growth of the Belgian e-commerce market. The buying frequency is on the rise, ticket sizes become bigger and overall, people feel they have spent more online compared to the previous year.
Hotel bookings, events, transport ticketing (i.e. plane, train, etc.) and especially fashion (number 1 since 2013) remain the driving categories. The latter seems to have found its own sweet spot. Similar to last year, half the Belgian online purchasing population buys clothes and shoes online, but they do it more often. A similar pattern is found for personal care and catering / food. Furniture and home decoration, sports products and toys are potential winners for 2015, having risen both in penetration and in frequency for the third time in a row.

Reaching for the stars

While embracing e-commerce, Belgian retailers need to be aware of the high expectations consumer have in relation to e-commerce. There are 5 things to keep in mind when reaching for the stars:

  • Trust is a must. After an increase in trust over the past few years, the consumers’ faith in e-commerce dropped to 60%in 2014, coming from 66% in 2013. Today, the Belgian e-tail market has not managed to reinstall that trust. Key areas for improvement are offering clear and correct information as well as facilitating the effective buying process (delivery and payment in particular).
  • The Belgian heritage. The Internet has no boundaries and for consumers it’s key to get the best product as cheaply and as quickly as possible. As online purchasers have built their experience through international web shops, they are rather skeptical towards Belgian e-commerce websites. In their perception, the offer is more limited, the prices are higher and the service is of lower quality. Only 43% prefers an online purchase through a Belgian website to one through a foreign website, which was still 50% in 2013.
  • Emerging m-commerce. Almost 1 in 4 Belgian online shoppers is willing to use mobile devices for making purchases, which is a lot higher compared to the previous years (2012: 15%, 2013: 17%). M-commerce is following a similar growth path as e-commerce, accelerating after a steady growth. Difficulties with payment and usability are barriers that need to be overcome in order to truly convince the buyer.
  • Commercial de-friendship. Belgians are less reluctant to discounts and commercial actions through social media. Disinclination dropped from 51% in 2012 to 39% in 2013 to 35% in 2014. (Big) brands should be aware of this though, as consumers do feel they’re entering their environment much more. In this case, less is more in order to successfully use social media as a way to boost online sales.
  • Offline e-commerce. With the rise of e-commerce, expectations related to the offline world are higher than ever. Consumers have higher expectations of the offer (40%), the overall in-store experience (31%) and even the staff’s expertise (30%).

Findings are based on the annual e-commerce research study executed by InSites Consulting and Comeos. Full details are available online.

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