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Regional Spotlight: Consumers and E-commerce in Scandinavia

Scandinavia e-commerce

E-commerce in Scandinavia is blossoming, reaching a total value of €17.1 billion in 2015, an increase from €15.4 billion in 2014. Scandinavians love to shop online because they can do it whenever they like and online shopping is considered to be cheaper than shopping in physical stores. Consumers also feel they have a better selection when shopping online.

As an e-commerce merchant, Scandinavia is a region you’ll want to get to know.

Cross-border e-commerce in Scandinavia is very popular. Over one-third of online consumers in this region make purchases from international merchants every month. In 2016, purchases from cross-border merchants totaled €5.4 billion euros, 25% of the total e-commerce consumption in the region.

The most popular countries in Scandinavia to purchase from are the UK, Germany, the US, China, and Sweden. The most popular products purchased online are clothing and footwear, followed by media (including books, films, and video games), and home electronics.

If you plan to sell to consumers in Scandinavia, keep in mind that not all Scandinavian countries have adopted the Euro. Only Finland uses the Euro. Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes prefer to shop with their own currency: the Swedish Krona, the Norwegian Krone, and the Danish Krone (which all mean “Crown”).

Unless otherwise noted, figures in this article are sourced from:

Sweden

Sweden is the third-largest country in the EU by area and the most active e-commerce nation in Scandinavia. E-commerce in Sweden is widespread thanks to a strong Swedish mail order tradition and powerful retail brands. E-commerce accounted for 6% of the country’s total retail sales in 2017. Between 2013 and 2017, e-commerce in Sweden increased by 45%, from almost €8 billion to over €11.5 billion.

Online shopping is very popular in Sweden. Almost three in four Swedish households order something online every year and almost three in ten Swedes order something online at least once a month.

When targeting consumers in Sweden, it is important to know that most Swedes prefer paying by debit or credit card when making a purchase. The second most popular option is to pay by invoice, followed by direct bank payment.

The popularity of m-commerce is growing in Sweden, with more and more consumers using their smartphone or tablet for their online shopping. The number of mobile users increased by 79% in 2016! Payment methods and mobile websites have improved notably during a short period of time, which has helped m-commerce become more popular in Sweden.

It is important to be aware of certain customer protection rules in Sweden if you plan to sell here: online providers must indicate their contact details on their website, clearly identify any advertising, and protect against spam.

Consumers in Sweden

  • Total population: 9.98 million (2018)
  • Internet users: 92% (2016)
  • Online shoppers: 5.8 million (2016)
  • Average spending per online shopper: €1,668 (2016)
  • E-commerce sales: €9.7 billion (2015)
  • E-commerce annual growth rate: 12.0% (2015)

Norway

Norway is known as a wealthy country; in 2016, Norway was ranked as the 4th richest in the world per capita.

For international merchants, Norway is an interesting country to focus on. In a 2015 survey of European online shoppers, Norwegians were the most likely to shop on foreign sites, with 46% of the Norwegian population participating in international e-commerce.

Norway is one of the easiest countries to deliver to in the world, an important detail for merchants who want to expand to new markets. When deciding which payment methods to offer to Norwegian consumers, they prefer paying by credit cards, followed by paying by e-wallet, cash on delivery and bank transfer.

M-commerce sales are not as popular in Norway as it is in Sweden. Many people here (83% in 2017) still prefer to shop via desktop instead of via tablet or smartphone.

Consumers in Norway

  • Total population: 5.3 million (2018)
  • Internet penetration: 87.4% (2017)
  • Online shoppers: 3.2 million (2016)
  • Average spending per online shopper: €2,467 (2016)
  • E-commerce sales: €7.9 billion (2015)
  • E-commerce annual growth rate: 1.7% (2015)

Denmark

The Danish e-commerce market is small but mature. This country is among the world leaders when it comes to digital development and has the highest smartphone penetration in the world (77%). In 2016, Danish e-commerce saw an increase of 15.88% compared to the year before, but the online retail industry in Denmark accounted for only about 10% of the country’s total retail turnover. This number is growing each year though, and cross-border e-commerce in Denmark is also growing as Danish consumers buy more goods and services online.

Danes love to shop online. Not only does this country have a very high number of internet users, but data from Eurostat showed that 79% of all Danish internet users shopped online in 2012. In 2016, an estimated 32% of Danish online shoppers made international purchases. One reason Danes like to shop at foreign e-commerce websites is that they can find better prices than at Danish online stores.

In Denmark, the most popular payment methods are local ones such as Dankort, the national debit card of Denmark (which also functions as a credit card abroad), and MobilePay, a mobile payment solution by Danske Bank. It is important for merchants who want to do business in Denmark to be able to provide local payment options.

M-commerce in Denmark is growing. Owners of smartphones and tablets make online purchases more frequently than other consumers, which is why merchants should make sure they offer mobile-friendly websites for this market.

Consumers in Denmark 

  • Total population: 5.75 million (2018) 
  • Internet users: 5.4 million/96.1% (2017) 
  • Online shoppers: 3.7 million (2016) 
  • Average spending per online shopper: €3,111 (2016)
  • E-commerce sales: €13.84 billion (2016) 
  • E-commerce annual growth rate: 17.9% (2015)

Finland

Finland presents a large e-commerce market but still has some catching up to do. Finland lags behind in e-commerce in comparison to the other Scandinavian countries and Finns shop online less than their neighbors do. In 2015, Finland saw a 9.6% e-commerce growth but there is definitely more room for e-commerce in Finland to grow. Foreign retailers are a very important part of e-commerce in Finland, as Finns rely on foreign retailers for online purchases. Almost 50% of Finnish online shoppers made purchases abroad in 2017.

Internet penetration in Finland keeps growing: there is a steady increase here in internet subscribers, internet users and internet accessibility. The two biggest reasons for Finns to shop online are the greater variety of goods and the lower prices compared to brick and mortar shops.

The most popular payment methods in Finland are debit and credit cards, direct bank payment, invoice, and e-wallets or online payment options. Finns like having a range of different payment options to choose from, but the most important payment methods that merchants should offer are payment cards and direct bank payment.

As with Norway, m-commerce has not really taken off in the Finnish market yet. Mobile websites are still important for online retailers since mobile devices are often used for research and comparing prices, but three out of four online purchases in Finland are made from a computer. Less than 20% of Finns have used a cellphone or a tablet to purchase products. However, trends show that the Finnish m-commerce is increasing, especially among millennials, as trust in mobile payments grows.

On January 1, 2015, a reform of the Finnish regulation on information society took place. This Information Society Code sets regulations on e-privacy, consumer protection, communications networks, and data security. It is important that cross-border merchants are aware of these regulations before entering the Finnish market.

Consumers in Finland 

  • Total population: 5.54 million (2018) 
  • Internet penetration: 93.7% (2016) 
  • Online shoppers: 3.3 million (2016)
  • Average spending per online shopper: €2,170 (2016) 
  • E-commerce sales: €7.2 billion (2015)
  • E-commerce annual growth rate: 9.6% (2015)

E-commerce is showing strong growth in Scandinavia and consumers here have demonstrated a willingness to embrace online shopping. Scandinavian consumers love to buy online, especially from cross-border merchants, and the popularity of online and mobile shopping is growing each year. If you’re an international merchant looking to expand your business, this region could offer a profitable market for you.

Expanding into a new cross-border market is always a challenge, but it can be very rewarding if done right. For the latest news and information about how to scale up your e-commerce enterprise into an international success, subscribe to the Payza Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.