E-commerce statistics for individuals
Data extracted in January 2022.
Planned article update: 28 February 2023.
74 % of internet users in the EU shopped online in 2021.
In 2021, 42 % of e-buyers made purchases for an amount between 100 to less than €500 in the last 3 months prior to the survey.
Internet users who bought or ordered goods or services for private use in the previous 12 months by age group, EU, 2011-2021
This article takes a closer look at the electronic commerce (e-commerce) of individuals in the European Union. It is based on the results of the 2021 survey on ICT (information and communication technology) usage in households and by individuals.
In 2021, it is estimated that more than 7 out of 10 internet users from the 12 months prior to the survey (hereafter referred to as "internet users") made online purchases in the same period. Overall, the share of e-shoppers among internet users is growing, with the highest proportions found in the youngest age group 16-24 (81 %), closely followed by the age group 25-54 (80 %).
The proportion of internet users who shopped online in the 12 months prior to the survey varied considerably across the EU, ranging from 42 % of internet users in Bulgaria and 44 % in Romania to 94 % in the Netherlands. When considering all individuals aged 16-74 in the EU, the share of online shoppers in that group equalled 66 %, with Denmark having the highest share (91 %) and Bulgaria the lowest (33 %).
The most popular purchases online related to goods in the EU in the three months prior to the survey were clothes (including sport clothing), shoes or accessories (68 % of e-buyers) which ranked first among all age groups, followed by deliveries from restaurants, fast-food chains, catering services (30 %), furniture, home accessories or gardening product (29 %) and cosmetics, beauty or wellness products (27 %).
In terms of frequency, more than one-third (34 %) of e-shoppers made purchases in the three months prior to the survey once or twice and another third (or 33 ) three to five times, while 16 % did so six to ten times. In terms of amount spent, the highest proportion of e-buyers (42 %) bought goods or services for a total of between €100 to €499. Furthermore, 32 % of e-buyers made purchases from sellers in other EU countries.
E-shopping: biggest increase among young internet users
E-shopping growing steadily, with the biggest increase among young internet users.
Online shopping is very popular in the EU. The proportion of individuals aged 16-74 having shopped online in the 12 months prior to the 2021 survey stood at 67 % (Table 1). Consumers appreciate the convenience of being able to shop anytime anywhere, having access to a broader range of products, comparing prices and sharing their opinion on goods with other consumers.
In the 12 months prior to the survey, 90 % of individuals aged 16 to 74 in the EU had used the internet, 74 % of whom had bought or ordered goods or services for private use. Online purchases by internet users increased by 20 percentage points compared with 2011 (Figure 1).
Those aged 25-54 had the highest share of online shoppers among internet users during the last decade, except in 2019 and 2021, when the 16-24 age group took the lead, and in 2017, when the two age groups were at the same level. E-commerce picked up over the 2011-2021 period among all age groups, with individuals aged 16-24 showing the biggest increase (29 percentage points).
Over seven in eight internet users in the Netherlands (94 %), Denmark (92 %), Sweden (89 %) and Ireland (88 %) had bought or ordered goods or services over the internet in the 12 months prior to the survey (Figure 2). On the other hand, fewer than 50 % had shopped online in Bulgaria (42 %) and Romania (44 %). The largest increases (25 percentage points or more) between 2016 and 2021 were recorded in Czechia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia and Lithuania.
Gender, age, level of education and employment situation all affect e-commerce activity (Figure 3). For men, the share of online shoppers among internet users is slightly higher than for women (75 % and 74 % respectively), while people aged 25-34 are more active e-shoppers (86 % of internet users) than other age groups. The proportion of internet users with a higher level of education shopping online (almost nine in ten) is 32 percentage points larger than that of internet users with lower education. Employees and the self-employed (80 % of internet users) as well as students (80 %) shop online far more than unemployed (65 %) or retired and not in labour force people (57 %).
Most popular online purchases
Figure 4 shows that in the three months prior to the survey most purchases of goods involved clothes (including sport clothing), shoes or accessories (68 % of e-buyers), deliveries from restaurants, fast-food chains, catering services (31 %), furniture, home accessories or gardening products (29 %), cosmetics, beauty or wellness products (27 %), followed by printed books, magazines or newspapers (25 %) and sports goods (excluding sport clothing) (24 %).
The 16-24 age-group had the highest proportions of e-shoppers purchasing clothes (including sport clothing), shoes or accessories (73 %), deliveries from restaurants, fast-food chains, catering services (37 %), computers, tablets, mobile phones or accessories (26 %), and music as CDs, vinyls (7 %).
People aged 25-54 were buying clothes (including sport clothing), shoes or accessories (71 %), deliveries from restaurants, fast-food chains, catering services (34 %), furniture, home accessories or gardening products (32 %), followed by cosmetics, beauty or wellness products (29 %).
The older (55-74) age group was also buying clothes (including sport clothing), shoes or accessories (54 %), furniture, home accessories or gardening products (30 %), printed books, magazines or newspapers (25 %), medicine or dietary supplements such as vitamins (23 %) and cosmetics, beauty or wellness products (21 %).
About 34 % of e-shoppers had in the three months prior to the survey bought goods or services for private use once or twice, while 33 % had done so three to five times. The proportion of e-shoppers who had made online purchases over 10 times was the lowest, at 15 % (Figure 5).
The largest proportion of people buying online once or twice is found among those aged 55-74 (40 %). The youngest age group (16-24) was the largest age group together with those aged 55-74 to shop three to five times (both 34 %), but tends to shop more online one to two times (35 %). People aged 25-54 stand out as making more frequent purchases: 17 % of e-shoppers in this age group bought online six to ten times in the three months prior to the survey and another 18 % did so even more often.
Over four in ten e-shoppers said they had spent between €100 and €499 for their online purchases in the three months prior to the survey. The youngest age group (16-24) led in online purchases worth less than €100 (25 %). The individuals aged 25-54 led in the online purchases worth between €100 and €499 (43 %). People aged 25-54 were also taking the lead when doing on line purchases worth between €500 and €999 (11 %) and over €1 000 (9 %). Purchases worth €500 or more were less popular with all age groups (Figure 6).
Purchasing online and problems encountered
63 % of e-buyers reported having no problem when purchasing online
More than six e-buyers out of ten reported that they did not encounter any problem when buying or ordering goods or services in the 3 months prior to the survey. The problems encountered most often by EU online shoppers were related to slower delivery than had been indicated at the time of making the purchase (21 %). Some 9 % stated problems with a website too difficult to use or working unsatisfactorily, 8 % had received wrong or damaged goods or services, 6 % faced difficulties in finding information on guarantees and other legal rights. Another 5 % of e-shoppers found it difficult to make complaints/redress difficult or received no satisfactory response after complaint, 4 % were confronted with foreign retailers not selling to customers in their country. About 3 % of online shoppers were either confronted with final costs higher than indicated or with problems with fraud (e.g. no goods or services received at all, misuse of credit card details) (Figure 7).
Main reason for not buying online
The main reason for not buying online is that people prefer to shop in person
Figure 8 shows that the main reason given for not making purchases online in the 3 months prior to the survey was a preference for shopping in person in order to be able to see the products before purchasing them, by loyalty to shops or by force of habit (17 %). Much less individuals aged 16 to 74 reported they had no need to buy on line (14 %) and 6 % had concerns about payment security or privacy. Some people were also believing that they lacked the necessary skills to make online purchases (4 %) or had concerns about returning goods, complaints and reimbursement (5 %). Very few individuals aged 16 to 74 had concerns with the cost of delivery of goods or with the reliability or speed of delivery (3 % in each case).
E-shopping from other EU countries
32 % of online shoppers bought or ordered goods from sellers in other EU countries
Cross-border online purchases can be an indicator of the smooth functioning of the single market for e-commerce and the extent to which consumers make use of wider choices and lower prices. A large majority of e-shoppers in the 3 months prior to the survey made online purchases of goods from sellers in their own country: 84 %. The 16-24 age-group had the highest proportions of e-shoppers purchasing from sellers from other EU countries (35 %) and sellers from outside the EU (26 %). The age groups 25-54 and 55-74 are more keen to buy goods online from national sellers, 85 % and 83 % respectively (Figure 9).
The data in this article are based on the results of annual surveys on ICT usage in households and by individuals. Data were aggregated from micro data transmitted by all Member States and some non-EU countries (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Kosovo* and Bosnia and Herzegovina). The rate for the EU in 2021 is estimated as Italy did not deliver yet 2021 data, and is calculated as a weighted average of national results. Data are available on the Eurostat website (see link below). Researchers can apply for access to the micro data.
The 2021 survey results are based on responses from a total of 131 775 households in the EU having at least one person aged 16-74, and 160 470 individuals in the EU aged 16-74. Individuals were asked about the last time they used the internet, how often they used it, internet activities, certain aspects of the collaborative economy, activities related to e-government, e-commerce and about privacy and protection of data together with digital skills.
Most countries collected data in the first half of 2021. The results above refer to individuals’ experiences during the last 3 months or 12 months prior to the survey.
Levels of education are defined according to ISCED-2011 as follows: high (tertiary, ISCED 5, 6, 7 or 8); medium (upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary, ISCED 3 or 4); low (at most lower secondary, ISCED 0, 1 or 2).
Source data for tables and graphs
Data from this survey supports measuring the implementation of one of the six priorities for the period 2019-2024 of the von der Leyen European Commission – A Europe fit for the digital age. The strategy is built on three pillars: (1) Technology that works for the people; (2) A fair and competitive digital economy; (3) An open, democratic and sustainable society. Furthermore, it facilitates the monitoring of the EU’s digital targets for 2030, set by the Digital Compass for the EU's Digital Decade, evolving around four cardinal points: skills, digital transformation of businesses, secure and sustainable digital infrastructures, and digitalization of public services. Data on the use of ICT in households and by individuals appears as well among the monitoring indicators of the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard and the European Skills Agenda.
- A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe COM(2015) 192 final
- Monitoring the Digital Economy & Society 2016-2021, European Commission, Directorate-General Communications Networks, Content & Technology
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
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