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16 top European countries for cross-border commerce

Find out which countries and online marketplaces/webshops are the best for cross-border commerce in Europe, and how this area of e-Commerce affects grey markets and your brand’s IP rights.

Cross-Border Commerce Europe, an organization researching and promoting cross-border commerce in the EU has released its latest annual report about the top countries for e-Commerce in Europe. According to their findings, Luxembourg tops the list again, with Germany providing the best online marketplaces and webshops.

CBCommerce takes both consumer opinion and business approach into consideration when creating the ranking. Four main parameters are examined: online cross-border sales, market share, consumer confidence and ratio of cross-border visitors at a webshop or marketplace.

Top countries for e-Commerce in Europe in 2021

Based on data collected and analyzed according to the above criteria, here’s the list of the best European countries for e-Commerce.


1. Luxembourg

2. Ireland

3. Austria

4. Denmark

5. Belgium

6. Switzerland

7. Sweden

8. Norway

9. Germany

10. Italy

11. Spain

12. France

13. Portugal

14. United Kingdom

15. Finland

16. The Netherlands

Let's take a look at the most interesting findings of the report in detail.

Most places moved

Compared to last year’s report, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, Finland and Portugal have jumped ahead in the ranking while Luxembourg, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Spain and the Netherlands have retained their places.

Luxembourg is a clear winner in the amount of cross-border market share, number of visitors and consumer confidence. Several factors have likely contributed to the country’s success, i.e. the fact that 99% of the population has access to the internet, and over 8% of people frequently shop online.

The biggest loser is the UK, having exchanged its fourth place in 2020 to fourteenth in 2021, no doubt due to Brexit and the resulting changes in cross-border trade regulations, including rising taxes, shipping costs and administrative tasks. In 2021 the turnover of cross-border commerce sank by 12% in the UK, resulting in a loss of ca. 29 billion euros.

Screenshot of cbccommerce.eu featuring a chart of the report’s main findings
Screenshot of cbccommerce.eu featuring a chart of the report’s main findings

Most popular products

Both the CBCommerce study and another recent survey by Statista indicate that the most popular product categories for cross-border commerce are clothing, footwear, sports and other types of accessories as well as consumer electronics.

The reasons behind this could be manyfold. Prices could differ significantly between countries, often so much so that it’s cheaper to buy from abroad, even with the added costs of shipping and taxes (in case you’re shopping outside the EU). Also, some products may not be available in one country but pretty much ubiquitous in the next.

And to top it all, some customers may not even realize they’re shopping from another country. International TLD’s like .com or .shop don’t give any hints about the country of origin, and if there are no large telltale shipping costs or taxes to pay, nothing will tip off the customer about the seller’s location.

Top cross-border marketplaces and webshops

From a business point of view, the study examines the most popular cross-border marketplaces and webshops. In this regard, Germany is the clear winner.

Three online marketplaces registered in the country do very well when it comes to cross-border commerce: Zalando is on the top of the list, closely followed by Lidl and About You.

While Zalando is a popular online platform for fashion and accessories, the appearance of Lidl on the list may cause some raised eyebrows. No wonder; just like Walmart in the US, Lidl is better known for its physical grocery stores all over Europe. However, Lidl operates a successful online marketplace as well, selling products from a wide range of categories, including fashion, electronics, toys, furniture, tools and machinery, and much more.

Screenshot of lidl.de’s homepage
Screenshot of lidl.de’s homepage

About You, on the other hand, is a Hamburg-based marketplace offering a personalised mobile shopping experience in mainly fashion and accessories. About You is currently present in 25 European markets and has big plans for itself: the company wants to grow its revenue by 25-35% in 2022.

Notable marketplaces in Europe

Several interesting online platforms have made it to the list. For example, Denmark’s first-ranked online marketplace is Lego.com. Besides the well-known building bricks and sets, shoppers can expect to find online games, tutorials and much more Lego-related information on this marketplace.

Decathlon.fr is one of the most popular e-Commerce sites in France. Visitors of the portal can shop the entire inventory of the sporting goods company, and even snatch last items of various collections not available in physical stores any more.

Finally, Nespresso.com by Nestlé is yet another noteworthy example of unexpectedly popular online shops. Based in Switzerland, shoppers of Nespresso can order coffee capsules, machines and various accessories like cups, chocolates and many other Nespresso products from the shop.

Screenshot of nespresso.com’s homepage
Screenshot of nespresso.com’s homepage

Issues with cross-border commerce

While the advantages of cross-border commerce are obvious for both consumers and brands (easy access to a larger array of goods/better prices and a wider market respectively), there are significant dangers as well.

For consumers, these mostly revolve around the speed and security of delivery, as well as damaged goods and a complicated return process. Annoying problems for sure, but nowhere near as devastating as the issues cross-border commerce may generate for brands.

Namely, grey markets.

Brands vs grey markets

A grey market is when your brand’s original products are sold outside your authorized distribution channel. This could happen for many reasons, e.g. when a supplier sells your products (or product parts) to unauthorized parties, a merchant sells them on a marketplace not greenlighted by you, or even a country they’re not supposed to sell in.

While a grey market doesn’t really have a negative effect on consumers, the same couldn’t be said for your brand.

Grey markets create unfair competition for your brand (imagine, your products are competing against themselves in an uncontrolled environment), erode your carefully created price structures and a lot of hard-earned trust within your distribution network.

Unfortunately, cross-border commerce can contribute to the creation of grey markets. For example, sellers you authorized for one country may feel tempted to offer your products in another market as well, especially if the consumer price in that country is higher than the one set in their own. This way they could realize an extra income due to the unfair competition they present to your authorized sellers in the other market.

Because of the ever-growing nature of global online marketplaces and webshops, grey markets like these form in a short time and can operate unnoticed for as long as you let them, all the while damaging your distribution network and your bottom line.

Luckily, the story doesn’t have to end here.

Online brand protection vs grey markets

globaleyez has 15 years of experience in recognizing and eliminating grey markets. Moreover, our services are tailored to the unique needs of each of our clients, ensuring we treat every issue your brand may face in the most effective way.

In the course of our marketplace monitoring service, for instance,we check over 150 online marketplaces worldwide, looking for listings of your products. Thanks to their decades-long experience and our powerful software tools, globaleyez’s online brand protection experts recognize which listings may present issues for your brands (including grey markets and counterfeit products) and recommend further action.

If we need further information about a product, a seller and/or court-admissible proof about their activities, a test purchase is the best way forward. We can buy physical and digital products both on- and offline in 50 countries all over the world, ensuring we know as much about the sellers and the origin of products as possible.

If you want to learn if your business partners adhere to their contracts (e.g. whether they sell your products outside your authorized distribution channels), we recommend our partner compliance service. With a unique combination of manual and software-based research, we’ll find out how your business partners represent your brand and whether they contribute to any grey market issues you are facing.

Finally, when all the evidence suggests that a product listing is grey market (or infringes upon your IP rights in any other way), we’ll enforce your rights and ensure the timely removal of the offending listing from the marketplace or webshop.

Conclusion

Cross-border commerce both in Europe and globally presents great opportunities for brands. Make the most of it without suffering from the disadvantages caused by grey markets!

Contact us today and find out how we can combat grey markets together.

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