E-commerce statistics for individuals
Data extracted in June 2021.
Planned article update: January 2022.
73 % of internet users in the EU shopped online in 2020.
In 2020, 44 % of e-buyers made purchases for an amount between 100 to less than EUR 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, 2010-2020
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 2020 Survey on ICT (information and communication technology) usage in households and by individuals.
In 2020, 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 age group 25-54 (79 %), closely followed by the youngest age group 16-24 (78 %).
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 to 91 % in the Netherlands. When considering all individuals aged 16-74 in the EU, the share of online shoppers in that group equalled 65%, with Denmark having the highest share (89%), while Bulgaria the lowest (31%).
The most popular purchases online related to goods in the EU in the 3 months prior to the survey were clothes (including sport clothing), shoes or accessories (63 % of e-buyers), top one among all age groups, followed by furniture, home accessories or gardening product (29 %), deliveries from restaurants, fast-food chains, catering services (28 %) and cosmetics, beauty or wellness products (27 %).
In terms of frequency, the highest proportion of e-shoppers made purchases in the three months prior to the survey three to five times (35 %), while 34 % did so once or twice. In terms of amount spent, the highest proportion of e-buyers (44 %) bought goods or services for a total of between EUR 100 to EUR 499. Furthermore, 31 % 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 2020 survey stood at 65 % (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, 89 % of individuals aged 16 to 74 in the EU had used the internet, 73 % of whom had bought or ordered goods or services for private use. Online purchases by internet users increased by 20 percentage points compared with 2010 (Figure 1).
Those aged 25-54 had the highest share of online shoppers among internet users up to 2020, except in 2019 when the 16-24 age group overtook the EU average level, surpassing the level of the 25-54 year age group and in 2017, when those aged 25-54 have been joined by the youngest age group (16-24). E-commerce picked up over the 2010-2020 period among all age groups, with individuals aged 16-24 showing the biggest increase (29 percentage points). Over eight in ten internet users in the Netherlands (91 %), Denmark (90 %), Germany (87 %), Sweden (86 %) and Ireland (81 %) 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 (45 %). The largest increases (20 percentage points or more) between 2015 and 2020 were recorded in Romania, Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Lithuania and Cyprus.
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 was slightly higher than for women (73 % and 72 %, respectively), while people aged 25-34 are more active e-shoppers (85 % of internet users) than other age groups. The proportion of internet users with a higher level of education shopping online (more than eight in ten) is 32 percentage points greater than that of internet users with lower education. Employees and the self-employed (79 % of internet users) as well as students (77 %) shop online far more than unemployed (63 %) or retired/inactive people (55 %).
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 (63 % of e-buyers), furniture, home accessories or gardening products (29 %), deliveries from restaurants, fast-food chains, catering services (28 %), cosmetics, beauty or wellness products (27 %), followed by printed books, magazines or newspapers with at the same level, computers, tablets, mobile phones or accessories (both 26 %) .
The 16-24 age-group had the highest proportions of e-shoppers purchasing clothes (including sport clothing), shoes or accessories (71 %), deliveries from restaurants, fast-food chains, catering services (35 %), computers, tablets, mobile phones or accessories (30 %), cosmetics, beauty or wellness products (24 %) and sports goods (excluding sport clothing) (23 %). People aged 25-54 were buying clothes (including sport clothing), shoes or accessories (66 %), furniture, home accessories or gardening products (31 %) at the same level than deliveries from restaurants, fast-food chains, catering services (also 31 %), followed by printed books, magazines or newspapers and cosmetics, beauty or wellness products (both 28 %). The older (55-74) age group was also buying clothes (including sport clothing), shoes or accessories (48 %), furniture, home accessories or gardening products (31 %), printed books, magazines or newspapers at the same level than medicine or dietary supplements such as vitamins (both 28 %) and cosmetics, beauty or wellness products (22 %).
About 35 % of e-shoppers had in the three months prior to the survey bought goods or services for private use three to five times and 34 % of e-shoppers had done so once or twice. The proportion of e-shoppers who had made online purchases over 10 times was the lowest, at 14 % (Figure 5).
The largest proportion of people buying online once or twice is found among those aged 55-74 (42 %). The youngest age group (16-24) was the larger age group to shop three to five times (37 %), but tends to shop more online one to two times (38 %). People aged 25-54 stand out as making more frequent purchases: 18 % of e-shoppers in this age group bought online six to ten times in the three months prior to the survey and another 17 % did so even more often.
Over four in ten e-shoppers said they had spent between EUR 100 and EUR 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 EUR 100. The individuals aged 25-54 together with the 55-74 age group led in the online purchases worth between EUR 100 and EUR 499 (both 45 %). People aged 25-54 were also taking the lead when doing on line purchases worth between EUR 500 and EUR 999 (11 %) and over EUR 1000 (8 %). Purchases worth EUR 500 or more were less popular with all age groups (Figure 6).
Purchasing online and problems encountered (2019 survey)
71 % of e-buyers reported having no problem when purchasing online
More than seven e-buyers out of ten reported that they did not encounter any problem when buying or ordering goods or services in the 12 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 (17 %). Some 8 % had problems in the form of technical failure of a website while ordering or paying, 8 % had received wrong or damaged goods or services, 5 % found it difficult to make complaints and seek redress after a complain, 4 % had difficulties in finding information on guarantees and other legal rights and again 4 % were confronted with foreign retailers not selling to customers in their country. About 3 % of online shoppers in each case were confronted with final costs higher than indicated and 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 (2019 survey)
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 12 months prior to the survey was a preference for shopping in person in order to be able to see the products before purchasing them, out of loyalty to shops or by force of habit (73 %). Other, much less reported factors were worries as to privacy or the security when paying online (24 %), people believing that they lacked the necessary skills or knowledge to make online purchases (20 %), concerns about receiving or returning goods (17 %), and not having a suitable payment card (12 %). Very few of those who had not made online purchases considered that the delivery of goods would be a problem (7 %).
E-shopping from other EU countries
31 % 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: 88 %. 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 (25 %). The age groups 25-54 and 55-74 are more keen to buy goods online from national sellers, 89 % and 88 % respectively.
The data in this article are based on the results of annual surveys on ICT usage in households and by individuals. Data for 2020 were aggregated from micro data transmitted by all Member States (except France) and some non-EU countries (Iceland, Norway, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Kosovo* and Bosnia and Herzegovina). The rate for the EU-27 in 2020 is estimated, 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 2020 survey results are based on responses from a total of 125 805 households in the EU-27 having at least one person aged 16-74, and 170 810 individuals in the EU-27 aged 16-74. Individuals were asked about the last time they used the internet, how often they used it, internet activities, activities linked to the Internet of Things, certain aspects of the collaborative economy, activities related to e-government, e-commerce and about privacy and protection of data together with trust, security, privacy and smartphone security.
Most countries collected data in the first half of 2020. The results above refer to individuals’ experiences during the last 3 months or 12 months prior to the survey.In 2020, the reference period for the questions on the e-commerce activities, frequency of online shopping, amounts spent and origin of sellers was the three months prior to the survey. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the timing of these reference periods vary across countries.
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
The findings of this survey are used for monitoring several EU policies, in particular the Digital Agenda, which is one of the pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy (which sets objectives for the growth of the European Union by 2020). The Digital Agenda proposes to better exploit the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in order to foster innovation, economic growth and progress. One of its main objectives is the completion of the Digital Single Market, in which the free movement of persons, services and capital is ensured and where the individuals and businesses can seamlessly access and exercise online activities under conditions of fair competition, and a high level of consumer and personal data protection, irrespective of their nationality or place of residence. The completion of the Digital Single Market is currently one of the political priorities of the European Commission. It covers three areas: promoting better online access to goods and services across Europe; designing an optimal environment for digital networks and services to develop; ensuring that the European economy and industry takes full advantage of the digital economy as a potential driver for growth.
At the end of 2015 the European Commission published a framework called Monitoring the Digital Economy and Society 2016–2021. This document describes the main policy developments and outlines the main data requirements to monitor European digital policies, information and communication technologies as well as their impact on the economy and society in the period 2016-2021. It reviews existing data sources and lists new areas and data sources to be made use of in the future.
* 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.