I was one of the curious attendees in place when the annual E-Barometer report was presented late last month – and as usual it gives some fascinating insights into what’s happening in e-commerce in Sweden. Possibly the only thing growing faster than e-commerce sales is interest in the report: the organisers had to find a new, larger venue to cope with the crowd.
E-Barometern, updated every quarter by PostNord in collaboration with Svensk Digitalhandel and HUI Research, is based on figures from 1500 companies and a consumer survey of 1000 people. The soaring interest shouldn’t be a surprise: e-commerce is in the midst of an extreme growth phase. Sales grew 16% in 2016, from SEK 50 billion to 57.9 billion. The forecast for 2017 is 17%. Online sales now account for 7.7% of total retail sales in Sweden. The biggest increases were in books, electronics and fashion, with food and construction sectors ones to watch.
Segments with highest online turnover 2016:
2: Retail (SEK 9.1 billion)
3: Books and media (SEK 4 billion)
Highest sales growth 2016:
1: Food (30%)
2: Building (29%)
3: Sports / Leisure ( 28%)
This growth is not without its challenges, a topic that came up repeatedly at the launch. How can you make sure the shopping experience meets, and exceeds, consumer expectations? Omnichannel was one answer: a seamless experience where the consumer journey is far from over after they pay at the checkout. Consumers expect a smooth delivery that is flexible and tailored to their patterns and needs. If the forecast for 2017, corresponding to growth of a further SEK 10 billion, becomes reality, customer focus will be a central issue for many online merchants who want to deliver a seamless customer experience.
How do you create a good experience? How do you best reach out to your customers? Many of those at the launch referred to Facebook, not surprising when many e-retailers have used the social media platform to achieve a deeper understanding of their customers and their situations. SEO made second place, and is also a vital consideration. A long-term SEO strategy will take you a long way, without you having to invest a lot in paid search programmes such as Adwords.
Lots of Swedish consumers look outside the country when shopping online, something we also see in our Nordic neighbours. On average, 22% of Swedes bought from overseas during Q4 2016, with clothing & shoes and consumer electronics topping the list. Increased competition from other countries can pose a real threat to merchants here, making it even more important to stay on edge.
Finally I want to reconnect with omni. Carin Blom from PostNord discussed how the boundaries of what we today call e-commerce are slowly being erased. Soon it will be difficult to distinguish between online purchasing and shopping in physical stores. Carin made a lot of sense, and you can see technology and consumer behaviour as the driving forces behind this shift. Just look at Amazon Go.
You can find the full version of the 2016 E-Barometer report (in Swedish), looking at all these issues and much more, here.
– E-commerce Advisor Sweden