Online shopping: How European customers differ

30 per cent of European consumers shop online at least once a month, 28 per cent at least once a fortnight. But their online shopping requirements sometimes differ significantly depending on their home country.


| Reading time: 3min.

Fashion and accessories above electronics

Consumers from Germany spend the most on online shopping compared to other Europeans: the average purchase value per order is over €152 – more than €42 above the European average. At €233, millennials are willing to pay even more for an online purchase. 

The French spend an average of €113.60 per purchase, while millennials there have an average order value of €143. In Great Britain the value was calculated at £89.50 (just under €105), or £139.70 for the millennials there.

However, online shoppers across Europe share one thing in common:

  • Most of their money was spent on fashion and accessories.
  • Next came electronic goods.
  • In third place were toys, books and games.

These were the findings of a study by Sendcloude. The all-in-one shipping platform partnered with the market research company Nielsen to survey almost 8,000 consumers from eight European countries.

Germans spend a lot, but stay distrustful

Although Germans dig deep into their pockets when shopping online, they are also particularly distrustful of it. For example, the proportion of consumers across Europe who would like to have accurate package tracking by email when ordering online is highest in Germany at 79 per cent. The European average is 7 percentage points lower at 72 per cent.

  • For 29 per cent of German and 24 per cent of French consumers, tracking is a must even for a online shop they’ve ordered from before.
  • British consumers definitely bring up the rear here at 11 per cent.

German online consumers also buy from foreign shops significantly less often than the average European consumer due to concerns about fraud.

Shipping costs: French most likely to cancel

Online shoppers are characterised by a particular price sensitivity – after all, a comparison with the next supplier is just one click away. High shipping costs are also a deterrent.

At 78 per cent, French people are the most likely to cancel an order if shipping costs are too high.

  • Across Europe, 68 per cent of customers would cancel the purchase process for this reason.
  • 40 per cent of European consumers are not willing to pay any shipping costs if the value of their order exceeds €150.
  • At the same time, however, only 23 per cent of retailers offer general free shipping on their goods.

Having said that, French consumers have more patience than the rest of Europe. They only expect next-day delivery for goods ordered before 3 p.m., while the Dutch still expect next-day delivery for orders placed by 7 p.m.

For all European consumers, shipping costs (91 per cent), speed of delivery (78 per cent) and previous experience of a delivery service (77 per cent) are the most significant criteria for choosing an online shop. Providers who are ahead of the game here can secure a crucial competitive advantage.

Decline due to Brexit and EU regulations

45 per cent of European consumers have ordered from an international online retailer in the last twelve months. Goods from China in particular are in the lead. However, the share of consumers who ordered goods online from outside their country was 53 per cent in the year running up to that.  The authors of the Sendcloud study attribute this to Brexit and the expiry of the VAT waiver for non-EU countries.

The UK in particular stands out with a dramatic drop from 45 per cent of consumers ordering imported goods online in 2020 to just one third in 2021. A look at the most important shipping-related reasons why British consumers did not order from international online shops shows that the impact of shipping costs, customs and returns in particular has sharply increased.

What does this mean for companies?

Customers are frequently willing to spend a lot of money online. But only companies that respond to the sometimes very different regional customer needs can secure a competitive advantage. Smooth, fast delivery plays an essential role in this. When it comes to shipping – which is offered for free above a certain threshold value by 46 per cent of companies, and generally free by only 23 per cent of companies – the Sendcloud authors believe that the introduction of free shipping over a threshold value could be a long-term solution for a great majority of companies. Customers are also more likely to order if returns are free. While environmentally friendly delivery is preferred, it should not cost much more from the customer's point of view.

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