Online retail sales in Europe are expected to double by 2018, reaching €323 billion. This year online retail should hit €188 billion and some companies like Amazon are expected to see even faster growth, according to market research firm Mintel.
Mintel’s survey covered 19 markets in Europe and it was made exclusively available to Reuters. The survey found that Germany, Britain and France would remain by far the largest markets for online retail. However, the Netherlands, Spain and Poland should see fast growth, while Norway and Sweden already have the highest online per-capita spend.
Mintel analyst John Mercer said there is a big North-South divide in e-commerce in Europe. French participation levels lag Britain and Germany, but Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain are even further behind, which is hardly surprising since they can barely afford Molotov cocktails now.
Amazon is expected to maintain its lead and double its market share in the next three to four years. Amazon currently has just five dedicated websites in Europe, in Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Mercer reckons Amazon would be better off with localised sites for the Nordics than Italy.
British grocers are doing surprisingly well. Tesco’s market share is 2.3 percent, Asda and Sainsbury’s have 1.1 percent and 0.9 percent respectively. However, online grocery shopping is not popular in the rest of the continent.
Although online retail sales are still growing, new research from Mintel has revealed that growth is slowing quite rapidly. The online retail sector expanded by about 50 percent in 2008, but last year growth slowed down to just 15 percent. However, this is still much better than the rest of the retail sector and it means the UK online retail sector will double by 2018, with double-digit growth rates.
On the other hand, the slowdown means new players will have a much harder time gaining market share. Established operations only need to maintain their lead, which was gained with little or no competition. The next big frontier is mobile retail.
Mintel retail analyst John Mercer believes online only retailers have possibly picked all the “low hanging fruit,” so new outfits will have to get more creative. However, he notes that the market is still very dynamic.
“In a low growth market [for retailers generally], double digit growth [in online sales] is nothing to be sniffed at,” he said.
Although online-only outlets seem to have grabbed an early lead, they are about to face a lot more challenges. They currently account for less than half of all online sales, but Mintel believes they won’t see much more growth, as high street retailers enter the online space, reports the Financial Times.
New services like click and collect, coupled with new POS and payment technologies might help the high street gain a competitive edge over online-only retailers. After all, many people still like to touch and feel products before they pull the trigger and this is something the convenient online channel simply can’t deliver.