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Three of the Most Attractive Digital Commerce Opportunities in Western Europe

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Western Europe is a promising digital commerce region for two reasons – its strong digital backbone and the size of its wallet. Western European consumers are among the most connected in the world with the Scandinavian nations defining what it means to be connected. While there are intraregional differences, Western Europeans, in general, also have the income to be able to spend meaningfully in this new digital era.

In fact, Western Europe is expected to be home to half of the top 10 countries on Euromonitor International’s Digital Consumer Index based on forecast rankings. The Digital Consumer Index examines the interplay between digital connectivity and digital commerce spend so high rankings mean that Western Europe is an attractive region for digital commerce initiatives. In particular, the UK, Switzerland and Denmark are the most highly ranked on this specific index, which takes into account five-year forecast data in order to pinpoint future digital commerce opportunities.

While the top digital categories currently tie to travel and tourism spending, the digital expansion of other industries will provide a wealth of future digital commerce opportunities in Western Europe. Leveraging Euromonitor International’s expertise across industry verticals, I explored the most promising digital commerce opportunities during my recent presentation at Money 20/20 Europe:

(1) Apparel and footwear in Germany

As of 2016, nearly one-fifth of all apparel and footwear purchases were made online in Germany, which ranked only behind Denmark and the UK in terms of penetration. Despite its already strong online presence, this category is expected to expand significantly in the 2016-2021 forecast period. Going forward, Germany is projected to contribute USD8.5 billion in absolute value sales, or roughly 40% of the region’s growth, according to Euromonitor International.

New online concepts, such as curated shopping, have contributed to this growth story. These hand-picked services and shop-the-look apps are available online, which contributed to the strong growth of internet-based sales, once again making it the fastest-growing channel for apparel and footwear in Germany in 2016. As current lifestyle and societal trends are expected to prevail over the forecast period, demand for easier, quicker and more convenient shopping solutions is likely to remain strong.

Consequently, concepts, such as shop-the-look or curated shopping, are likely to continue growing in significance. Nevertheless, with more retailers and providers launching their own versions of these concepts, they will lose their unique appeal. Although competition is bound to increase over the forecast period, creating more personalized solutions and offering a higher level of customer service are expected to continue as key factors for remaining successful in the future.

(2) Food and drink in France

Shopping for food and drink online has been more successful in France than in other parts of Western Europe. Food and drink already accounts for one of the highest percentages of internet retailing sales in France, and will top the region in 2021. From 2016-2021, internet-based food and drink purchases in France are expected to grow USD2.4 billion growth in absolute value sales, equating to more than one-fifth of this category’s expansion in Western Europe.

French retailers have made concerted efforts to promote “drive-thru” (or click-and-collect, as the concept is known outside of France). This approach allows consumers to order groceries online and pick them up in their own time. This is a win-win situation for customers and businesses alike – the former are presented with a highly convenient platform; simultaneously, businesses save money on training staff, as well as investing in transport fleets and necessary storage equipment.

(3) Foodservice in the UK

The UK is one of the most advanced markets for ordering foodservice online. This digital frontrunner already has the region’s highest percentage of foodservice ordered online, and it is the largest market, accounting for almost 40% of the region’s total size as of 2016. The UK will hold onto these distinctions at least through to 2021, with the UK contributing USD8.7 billion in absolute value growth from 2016-2021.

While all digital channels are growing quickly, consumer trends suggest that mobile is the channel of the future for foodservice purchases. Another significant development in online ordering is the consolidation of the landscape, which has come along with the entry of global players, such as Just Eat and Deliveroo.

Of course, these trends also come with uncertainty. While the convenience and flexibility of online ordering appeal to consumers, it also means that they have more options. The increased accessibility that comes with online ordering aggregators and delivery fleets also means that there are far more outlets – and far more service channels – competing for each dining-out occasion than there used to be. This could potentially threaten the livelihood of independents.

In the next five years, further development of categories like apparel, food and drinks and foodservice will provide some of the best opportunities for digital commerce growth across Western Europe. While this region is particularly attractive and important for those seeking to expand their digital footprint globally, it does not mean pursuing such opportunities will be without challenges. Aspiring digital commerce providers also will have to understand how Western European digital consumers shop differently in the digital era.

At Money 20/20 Europe in late June, Euromonitor International’s Head of Digital Consumer Research Michelle Evans delivered a presentation titled “Europe’s Digital Consumer: Who Are They And How Do They Spend?”. This post contains insights from that presentation.

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