The FINANCIAL — Last year, 16% of enterprises located in the European Union (EU) and employing at least 10 persons had received orders via a website or via apps. Web sales include both sales to individual consumers and to other enterprises.
The share of EU enterprises making web sales rose from 12% in 2010 to around 16% in 2014, since when it has been relatively stable. Among those EU enterprises with web sales in 2016, nearly all (97%) sold to their own country, while less than half (44%) sold to customers located in other EU Member States and over a quarter (28%) to non-EU customers.
Web sales may offer businesses the means for expanding beyond national borders and reaching customers (businesses or consumers) regardless of their geographical location. The European Commission aims at creating a Digital Single Market where e-commerce among Member States is as smooth as the sales of a traditional brick and mortar outlet within any country. Yet, almost 2 in every 5 EU enterprises with web sales to other EU Member States in 2016 reported difficulties in doing so, notably due to the costs of delivering and/or the linguistic barriers.
1 in 4 enterprises sold via the web in Ireland, Sweden and Denmark
Among the EU Member States in 2016, web sales were used by about a quarter of enterprises in Ireland (26%), Sweden (25%) and Denmark (24%), ahead of the Netherlands (22%) and Belgium (21%). At the opposite end of the scale, web sales concerned 1 in 10 enterprises or fewer in Romania (7%), Bulgaria and Poland (both 9%), Italy and Latvia (both 10%).
Cross-border web sales within the EU most common for enterprises in Cyprus and Austria
Almost all enterprises in the EU with web sales sold to national customers, but there are significant differences between Member States for the sales abroad (“cross-border e-commerce”).
The largest proportions of EU enterprises with web sales in 2016 that sold to customers located in other EU Member States were recorded in Cyprus (71%) and Austria (69%), followed by Luxembourg (61%), Lithuania (57%), Italy, Greece and Malta (all 55%). In contrast, this concerned a third or less of enterprises in the three Nordic Member States – Finland (24%), Denmark (30%) and Sweden (33%) – as well as in Romania (28%).
Regarding commerce with non-EU countries, only in Cyprus did over half (62%) of enterprises with web sales sell to non-EU customers, followed by Malta (44%), Ireland (41%), Portugal (40%), Greece and Austria (both 39%).
Transport charges main obstacle to cross-border web sales within the EU
The majority (59%) of EU enterprises having received orders via a website or via apps during 2016 reported no difficulties for their web sales to other EU Member States. However, almost 4 in 10 (38%) reported hampering factors. These mainly concerned economic reasons such as the high costs of delivering or returning products (27%), technical barriers such as the lack of knowledge of foreign languages (13%) or adapting product labelling (9%), and/or judicial reasons related for instance to resolving complaints and disputes (12%).