The Oban Blog

International e-commerce in the Nordics

The Nordic countries – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland – are an attractive group of markets for international e-commerce businesses for a number of reasons. Their increasing sophistication and adoption in online shopping has driven curiosity with the quest for good deals and unique products. Fundamentally, it means that Nordic consumers are buying more and more from foreign sites.

At a glance, one might presume the buying behaviour of all Nordic consumers is the same. However, despite their close proximity geographically these four countries have four different languages, four currencies, various payment preferences and unique consumer habits. With more than 15 million consumers online in the Nordic region, we discuss the factors you should be aware of when entering the e-commerce market in the Nordics.

Online purchase motivations

There are several reasons why Nordic consumers choose to buy goods online rather than in a traditional shop. For Scandinavians, convenience is the primary motivator for shopping online. The second most common reason is lower prices, followed by a bigger and better selection than what is offered in-store. When it comes to the key factors for purchasing online, Norwegian and Danish consumers believe selection is the most important reason while Swedes and Finnish are more motivated by price.

Purchasing behaviour

There is an increasing interplay between physical and digital stores during the consumer’s buying cycle. Almost one in five Nordic consumers – that’s 17 percent – have, at least once in 2013, looked at or tried a product in a store first and then bought it online to secure better value. This behaviour is significantly more common in Sweden and Denmark where the figure is around 20 percent, than in Norway and Finland where the corresponding proportion is 12 percent. This behaviour is most common when buying clothes, home electronics and footwear.

Meanwhile. more than half of Nordic consumers researched a particular product online and then bought it in a physical store at least once in 2013. With 58 percent of Norwegians being the most common group of Nordic consumers doing this regularly.

Popular products bought online

Clothes, books and home electronics are the three most popular product categories bought online in 2013. Almost one in three consumers in the Nordic, the equivalent of about 6.3 million consumers, bought clothes online in 2013. Books were bought online by 38 percent of Swedish consumers and home electronics were most commonly bought by Norwegians.

The cosmetic industry is seen as an area of potential growth in the Nordic region as it becomes increasingly common for Nordic consumers to purchase hair and skincare online. In all countries, around 15 percent of the population bought cosmetics online at some point in 2013. The highest proportion was in Norway, where 17 percent bought cosmetics online.

Payment solutions

There are major payment differences when it comes to how consumers wish to pay for a product online. In Denmark and Norway, a distinct majority (80 percent and 67 percent respectively) prefer to pay by debit or credit card. While the majority of Swedes like to pay by invoice after having received the goods. However the proportion of Swedes that prefers this payment method has been decreasing in Sweden for several years with debit and credit cards gaining popularity. The Finnish, on the other hand, choose in the first instance to pay directly through their bank.

UK – the most popular destination for Nordic e-shoppers

When it comes to buying from foreign websites the UK and US are the most popular, followed by Germany and China. In Sweden, Denmark and Norway, British sites are the most popular when shopping online. Whilst in Finland, German and UK sites are of equal favourability when it comes to online shopping. In 2013, an overwhelming 49 percent of Nordic online shoppers bought goods from the UK, making the UK the most popular e-tail destination for Nordic consumers.


Last year Sweden’s smartphone usage was more than double the European average, with more than half its population owning a smartphone. In fact every tenth customer in the Nordic region shopped online with their mobile phone in 2013. So, if you’re e-commerce site is not built for handheld devices then you could be missing out on a lot of sales. In order to target the Nordic region effectively, your website might benefit from a responsive design site to allow true optimisation and contextual content for mobile.

Be Social

Social media should not be underestimated when it comes to the power of attracting new customers and creating brand loyalty. Facebook takes the lead as the most popular social media platform in Sweden with approximately 55 percent of the population using it regularly and more than 61 percent of Norwegian users having an account. Twitter is less popular in the Nordic region which may be attributed to some of the hiccups the platform encountered when entering some of these territories. For example when launched in Norway in 2011, it made the error of crowd sourcing a translation of key terms, resulting in incorrect language use and complaints.



Source: PostNord E-commerce in The Nordics Study 2014