Fast e-commerce growth in Scandinavia boosts market desirability

Scandinavia might not seem like an obvious target market for e-commerce expansion plans, with its population of fewer than 27 million people spread across 3.4 million square kilometres. The Nordic countries and their associated territories also have distinct languages only spoken within the region.

Despite this, other nations will struggle to match the region’s impressive internet penetration, and inclination to adopt new technologies. Across the Nordic countries, an average of over 96% of the population has regular internet access, with upwards of 60% of consumers buying products online. The countries also rank highly for mobile broadband usage, with Finns averaging the most mobile data usage world wide in 2019.

With a combined £20.88 billion spent on e-commerce purchases in 2019, the opportunity Scandinavia offers for retailers cannot be overlooked. Sweden has the largest e-commerce market in the region with £8.16 billion, while Finland has the highest demand for products from outside the Nordics.

For businesses that are seeking to expand into the £20.88 billion Scandinavian e-commerce market, it is important to understand the ways in which each Nordic country’s markets differ from one another.


Denmark: the most consumers buying from the UK

At a staggering 98.1%, Denmark has the highest internet penetration rate in the Nordic region, as well as the second highest globally. This is reflected in its B2C e-commerce market, with 62% of Danish consumers purchasing goods online in 2019. Though only 26% of online shoppers in Denmark used web shops from outside the Nordic countries, almost half of that number purchased from UK based companies. Their total of 45% far outstripped Germany’s 31%, which was the next highest. As with Sweden and Norway, Denmark’s most popular e-commerce market is fashion, making up around a third of their £4.9 billion total.


Finland: the highest demand for overseas products

Finland ranks number one worldwide for mobile data use, averaging 23.5GB of monthly data use per mobile subscription. Indeed, the latest records show that Finns most commonly access the internet via their mobile phone. This trend has translated to mobile shopping, with 25% of the population having purchased goods online via their phones in 2018. Finland differs from their Nordic neighbours in terms of their most popular markets for e-commerce. Both Toys, Hobby and DIY (30%) and Electronics & Media (23%) rank ahead of Fashion as Finland’s favoured markets. Finland’s demand for products from outside the Nordics makes them an attractive prospect for foreign sellers, as 35% of e-commerce consumers purchased goods from outside Scandinavia in 2019. This is the highest percentage of any of the Nordic countries.


Norway: the highest e-commerce spend per capita

Though Norway currently ranks second in terms of Scandinavia’s e-commerce purchases, they are number one for revenue per capita. They also rank first for internet penetration rate in the Nordics, with 98% of the population having access to the internet in 2020. This has lead to Norway having a 67% share of consumers purchasing goods online in 2019, with 33% of them purchasing goods from overseas. Unlike their Scandinavian counterparts, Norway’s most favoured foreign market for online shopping came from outside Europe, with 43% of those who buy from abroad purchasing goods from China.


Sweden: the largest e-commerce market in the Nordics

As of 2021, Sweden boasts a 98% internet penetration rate, ranking as the third highest globally. At around £8.16 billion, their B2C e-commerce market is the largest of all the Nordic countries – almost double that of Norway, the next biggest. Sweden also have the highest percentage of consumers who purchase goods online of all their Nordic neighbours. Despite this, they have the lowest share of consumers who purchased products from outside Scandinavia in 2019. This indicates that Sweden’s strong domestic market provides enough choice to satisfy most customers. Those that do choose to buy from foreign web shops tend to favour those from the UK, whose 36% share again beats out Germany’s 27%.


Unifying factors

Nordic consumers exist in mature e-commerce markets with some of the highest internet penetration worldwide, strong economies and well-developed infrastructure. Scandinavian consumers rate convenience as the most significant benefit of shopping online over cheapness, choice and time saved.

Security is a concern, and good communication is especially important – in Sweden, Denmark and Norway nine out of ten consumers said that it was important to have continuous delivery status updates. Weekend delivery is also high on consumers’ expectations – websites who do not offer this risk seeing their customers spend their weekends in physical shopping centres as they prefer not to wait until Monday for delivery.

Tailoring strategies for individual Nordic countries while understanding their shared needs will help retailers looking to effectively and efficiently grow their businesses in this wealthy region.


Scandinavia Stats

• Finland rank number 1 for mobile data usage in the world – average of 23.5GB of monthly mobile data use per subscription

Value of Nordic consumers’ e-commerce purchases in 2019, by country

• Sweden – £8.16bn

• Norway – £4.98bn

• Denmark – £4.9bn

• Finland – £2.84bn

Internet penetration rate 2020

• Norway 98%

• Denmark 98%

• Sweden 96%

• Finland 94%

Share of Nordic consumers who purchased goods online in 2019

• Sweden – 70%

• Norway – 67%

• Denmark – 62%

• Finland – 50%

Foreign web shops used by consumers in Denmark in 2019, by country

• UK – 45% (highest percentage)

• Germany – 31% (next highest)

Foreign web shops used by consumers in Finland in 2019, by country

• UK – 31% (3rd highest percentage)

• China – 41% (highest percentage)

Foreign web shops used by consumers in Norway in 2019, by country

• China – 43% (highest percentage)

• USA – 34% (2nd highest percentage)

• UK – 33% (3rd highest percentage)

Foreign web shops used by consumers in Sweden in 2019, by country

• UK – 36% (highest percentage)

• Germany – 27% (second highest percentage)

• China – 26% (third highest percentage)

Share of consumers who purchased products from abroad the Nordic countries in first half of 2019

• Finland – 35%

• Norway – 33%

• Denmark – 26%

• Sweden – 17%

Nordic eCommerce trends – first half of 2019

• Sweden biggest online spender overall, but Norway has the region’s highest e-commerce consumption per capita

• Sweden have overtaken Denmark as biggest consumers for online grocery shopping in 2019 – Nordics eager to commit to online grocery shopping as long as the quality is forthcoming.

Internet used ever more commonly on mobile phone in Finland – even for shopping


Disclaimer: This article was originally published on 31/10/2018 but was updated on 19/3/2021

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