Centre for Economic Transformation | CET

What is the current state of cross-border e-commerce in Europe?


The number of online purchases consumers make across national borders is growing rapidly. In e-commerce, consumers use information on the website for support and to make rational purchase decisions. To gain insights in how online shops in Europe display information on their websites for (foreign) customers, the professorship of E-business conducts a large pan-European study: 75 native speakers student-researchers are content-coding over 10,000 websites from 31 European countries.

Cross-border e-commerce

To date, the e-commerce sector is one of the fastest growing industries. About 40 percent of the worldwide internet users have bought products or goods online. In Europe, B2C e-commerce sales are expected to reach €4.62 billion in 2018. With growing competitive pressure, and the maturity of domestic markets, global e-commerce is expanding rapidly. By 2020, cross-border transactions are estimated to account for one-third of all worldwide trade.

Cross-border e-commerce

Cross-border e-commerce (CBE) is defined as retailers selling via the internet to customers located in other countries and jurisdictions. Although the internet provides the opportunity to sell to consumers worldwide via one website, reality shows that retailers engage in CBE in various ways and with varying success. For example the independent stockist Wellgosh from the United Kingdom, targeting consumers worldwide with one website, versus the German online fashion retailer Zalando, employing fifteen websites, each targeting customers in a specific country. This leads to the main research question of this project: what factors determine the success of cross-border e-commerce (CBE) strategies of online retailers in Europe?

Focus of the project

The project focuses on the EU as it represents multiple cultures and languages on one continent with relative short distances between neighbouring countries. It includes countries with both mature and emerging e-commerce markets, of which a large share uses the same currency. It is of high interest to see what the effect is of other online shop features if different currencies are not an obstacle.

The project is divided into three phases (sub-projects):

Phase 1

Content analysis of online shops with one-website-strategy varying from domestic to cross-border sales

Phase 2

Content analysis of online shops with country-specific-pages and country-specific-websites

Phase 3

Survey among 10,000 online retailers in 31 European countries about the success of their cross-border e-commerce strategy

Gepubliceerd door  Faculteit Business en Economie 8 september 2015

Project Info

Startdatum 05 jan 2015