Belgian online retailers are looking at the future with confidence. The vast majority of traders are expecting that the number of online purchases will increase in 2013 and that the online businesses will further grow. Two-thirds would recruit more staff this year. This success is partly due to the tripling of the number of purchases via smartphone. These were the results from the annual online trends survey which BeCommerce, the Belgian association of online retailers, has conducted for 2013 with 550 online shops.
Confidence in e-commerce is growing
The online merchants are exuding confidence. Nearly all (90%) managers think that the number of electronic purchases in 2013 will increase. The level of confidence has never been higher. In 2009, for example, only 65% thought that the number of transactions would increase. The overwhelming majority (84%) expects that this trend will continue in the next two years, against only 60% back in 2008.
Patricia Ceysens, chairman of BeCommerce: “Slowly but inevitably online shopping in Belgium is becoming a full-fledged branch of our economy. We see that an integrated multichannel approach is becoming increasingly important. This means that the traders must even better coordinate their online and offline offer. ”
Online businesses have more staff
The growth of the online business is also reflected in the size of the online companies. Most online retailers (26%) have a staff of between 6 and 10 people. Last year the smaller companies with two to five staff) most active. 63% of online managers will hire new staff in 2013, especially IT and online marketing personnel.
E-Shops are increasingly independent companies, no longer depending on a Belgian or foreign parent company (from 27% in 2007 to 67% in 2012).
Online retailers sell more internationally
Belgian online retailers are increasingly fear the competition from foreign companies which are settling in Belgium: 63 per cent this year against only 49 per cent last year.
The Belgian online retailers are themselves looking further than the national borders. In 2012 22.2 per cent of all goods were exported worldwide against 10.6 per cent in 2007.
M-commerce to increase sharply
M-commerce, or making purchases via your smartphone or tablet, is becoming increasingly popular in Belgium. In 2012, consumers purchased three times more using their mobile phones than in 2011. More often (38% vs. 29% last year) they used mobile App.
The web-traders are fully aware of the benefits of m-commerce: 75% (vs. 57% last year) of the traders are happy with the results. M-commerce is mainly used to better serve their customers, rather than to increase their sales. Online retailers who did not so far offer the opportunity to buy via a mobile phone, 27% said to start within a year.
Jan Huysmans, Belgian manager at bol.com: “Today 13.5% of all visitors join bol.com via their smartphone. That is more than double the number in 2011. In order to offer a maximum of convenience to these customers we opened in September 2012 a new mobile store. The number of customers using their tablet to shop has doubled and amounted to 15.1%. Bol.com expects the shift to mobile devices to continue. Besides a strong mobile site, the availability of more apps are stimulating this shift. Presumably near the end of 2013, more than 40% of all customers will shop at bol.com via their smartphone or tablet”.
Consumers are purchasing mainly clothes, pay with a Visa card and are getting the goods delivered through Bpost. The survey reveals that clothes (37%), home decoration (36%), toys (32%), books (26%). hardware (26%), software (26%) and digital cameras (26%) are most popular. Online purchases are mainly paid with a Visa card, Master Card or with a conventional Bankcard. American Express is becoming increasingly popular (from 34% in 2011 to 57% in 2012).
Bpost, the incumbent postal operator, delivers most (63%) orders to the consumers. But pickup points such as Kiala are doing well: their share increased from 32 to 42%. Courier companies are less popular (from 45% to 37%), probably due to the higher shipping costs.