E-Commerce Trends in the Nordic Region: What Are People Buying Online?

Last Updated June 18, 2020

Keep up to date with the latest research on the changing online shopping trends in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

The citizens of Nordic countries have a lot in common, but the region consists of different cultures, different languages, and different currencies—all of which have an impact on each country’s approach to online shopping.

Each country’s e-commerce trends have been analyzed and documented in the latest PostNord ‘E-commerce in the Nordics’ report*. The following summary of the study’s findings provides essential insight for any business wishing to trade online in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

Regional Differences in a Changing Marketplace

According to the PostNord report, consumers in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland spent SEK 112 billion online in the first half of 2019 (approximately $11.6 billion USD).

Here’s how online shopping broke down per country:

These figures show that, although Sweden is the biggest online spender overall, Norway has the region’s highest e-commerce consumption per capita.

And unlike its Nordic neighbors, the statistics indicate that the number of Norwegian consumers buying products from China is growing (36% compared to around 20% in Denmark and Sweden). China’s seemingly limitless product range and low prices are least likely to tempt Finnish consumers, who are more inclined to purchase from domestic retailers.

Online Sales are Increasing

The PostNord research reveals that an average of 62% of Nordic residents shopped online at least once a month for the first six months of 2019. This is 2% higher than in the previous year.

This increase was also evident across Sweden, Norway, and Finland—but not Denmark.

The Danish share of the online market remained unchanged. Denmark’s plateauing may be due to the nation’s high population density (compared with the other Nordic countries) and their populace’s proximity to physical shopping outlets.

In contrast, Finland increased its population of online shoppers by 5% during the year, though the country still lags other countries.

A significant factor driving e-commerce growth in the Nordic region is the increase of regular, recurrent purchases, such as grocery, pharmaceutical, and beauty products. These high-frequency purchases have provided a permanent boost to monthly e-commerce acquisitions.

There’s a Growing Online Demand for Fashion, Beauty and Health Products

Throughout the Nordic region, the e-commerce statistics shows the three leading product categories purchased online were:

  1. clothing and shoes (37%)
  2. beauty and health (24%)
  3. home electronics (22%)

This does not tell the full story, however, as there are noticeable differences between individual countries.

In Sweden, for example, online shopping for beauty and health products was far higher than the regional figure. Pharmaceutical online retail, in particular, grew sharply in recent years.

In comparison, the physically active Norwegians lead the way in online sporting goods purchases.

Online Grocery Shopping is Poised to Escalate

Figures from the preview three years show that the Danes used to lead the Nordic pack in the online food category. However, the others are catching up and the latest figures show that the Swedes have surpassed Danish e-consumers.

This increase reflects a concerted effort on the part of physical grocery retailers to seize online opportunities. The range of products available online has increased dramatically, pricing has become more competitive, and service has improved, with the introduction of convenient delivery options and other customer-friendly innovations.

While some observers previously thought Nordic shoppers weren’t willing to buy groceries online in a big way, it seems there is latent consumer demand. Many shoppers are eager to commit to online shopping, as long as the products and services are attractive enough.

Mobile Technology is Driving Expansion

Nordic online shopping continues to be largely cellphone based, with approximately 50% of consumers using their mobile devices to shop online.

The development of mobile technology and dedicated shopping apps continues at a rapid pace—ranging from traditional favorites, like Amazon and eBay, to more modern innovations for the aspirational consumer, such as Instagram Checkout, Klarna Checkout, and Google Shopping.

The mobile shopping infrastructure is further supported by social media and ever-more sophisticated algorithms designed to make the journey from browsing to buying as quick and simple of possible.

In terms of mobile sales, the Nordic countries are following the likes of China, where browsing and payment is increasingly designed with mobile devices in mind, rather than desktop devices.

Widespread adoption of mobile payment systems in the Nordic region (see Vipps in Norway, Swish in Sweden and MobilePay in Denmark and Finland) indicates that this part of the world is heading in the same direction.

Creating a Local Shopping Experience Online

With its proliferating product range, unlimited opening hours, and doorstep delivery, it’s no surprise that online shopping is booming.

As demand grows, so does supply, in the form of more and more online stores. As every e-commerce retailer competes for a greater share of the global market, e-commerce localization is becoming vital to success.

Providing shoppers with a personal experience, wherever they are in the world, is becoming the new norm.

While many people in the Nordic region understand English very competently, online shopping needs to be as effortless as possible. This means using the customer’s local language and creating a consumer experience that is tailored to local cultures and regulations.

* PostNord (www.postnord.com) offers communications and logistics solutions for the Nordic region and has studied the European e-commerce market in the E-commerce in Europe report since 2014. You can view the latest report E-commerce in the Nordics Six-month report 2019 online here.

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