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Cross-Border Ecommerce in Europe

The EU has offered a “Single Market” since 1990, and much has been made of the benefits to SMEs which are able to enjoy economies of scale in the richest free market in the world. The Central and Eastern European member states, however, only arrived in the EU during the 2000s and had little experience of ecommerce until the 2010s. As elsewhere, the COVID lockdown spurred on ecommerce and every B2C business from popular brand owners to small startups had quickly to re-consider their ecommerce strategy. In August-September 2022 a Bulgarian company, Mediapost Hit Mail, launched a market research survey. Almost 850 companies from countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) took part. The primary goal was to understand better the main challenges merchants have while selling their products online.

The key findings of the survey reveal that almost 10% of participating businesses sell online only on marketplaces, without having their own ecommerce website. 13% of respondents use both their own e-shop and marketplaces as sales channels. This gives them additional opportunities for growth. Good quality traffic on marketplaces ranks highest when it comes to benefits for merchants using this channel since they have to pay only when they have a sale, without big upfront investment. Whenever products are suitable to be sold online, lack of budget and expertise are the main reasons why respondents do not use ecommerce. While budget constraints can be avoided via popular marketplaces, lack of knowledge could only be compensated by outsourcing some activities. Almost one-third of merchants selling online in the CEE region expected up to 20% growth in revenue in 2022 compared to 2021. One quarter saw no difference, and almost 17% expected to see their revenues drop by up to 20% compared to the previous year.

Note – this survey only looked at B2C. B2B is the major form of ecommerce in the EU according to our German colleagues, but is less interesting to research!

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Alastair Tempest

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