The Belgian e-commerce market has continued to expand, growing by a third in 2021. The whole market is now worth an estimated €11.7 billion, according to data from Safeshops, Belgium’s e-commerce association.
Safeshops director Greet Dekocker says that this year's results have exceeded all forecasts. “We expected growth figures, but these results are completely remarkable.”
There are now 56,642 different online stores registered in Belgium, up 17.5% from the year before. The majority of online businesses that were established last year were “micro” and “small” online businesses, making up 97% of the total market.
Medium and large e-commerce companies accounted for around 84% of total transactions, or around €9.8 billion. The biggest player in the Belgian e-commerce market is Coolblue, with a total revenue of €600 million in 2021, according to market analysis site ecommerceDB.
Big growth despite Covid
In 2021, Belgian e-commerce companies carried out over 150 million transactions.
The pandemic has given the market an enormous boost with lockdowns and Covid restrictions forcing many Belgians to rely more on online shopping and online transactions. Even now, the effects are being felt in the sector, Dekocker explained.
“Not all sectors are running at full speed again since the Covid crisis… there is not an issue in the slowdown of growth. The change of online consumer behaviour is continuing and is even amplifying. This is reflected in both the volume and number of transactions.”
New payment systems
The way consumers pay for products and services online is also evolving.
73% of online sales are still paid for with debit cards and 20% with credit cards. But the market is seeing an uptake in new payment methods such as online meal tickets, eco-checks, Google Pay, and “buy-now-pay-later” services.
“The growth in volume of transactions, number of transactions, and the number of online stores are very strong and positive signals. Webshops are moving from strength to strength and attracting more and more consumers," Dekocker noted.
But not everyone welcomes this shift in consumer behaviour. Last month, leader of Belgium's Socialist Party Paul Magnette was vocal in his plea for a return to more traditional forms of shopping on the grounds that this would reinvigorate towns and cities already hit hard by the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.
His comments provoked a mixed response but highlighted the plight of in-store retailers, especially small independent businesses.