Global ecommerce markets: The Netherlands

insights  July 23, 2019

Worldwide ecommerce continues to grow rapidly every year. Buying products online is seen as the favourite method of purchase in most countries. It is even predicted that by 2040, 95% of purchases will be facilitated by ecommerce[1]. For online stores, it is therefore wise to not only focus on domestic sales, but also on cross-border sales. Cross-border ecommerce is a smart way for etailers to create a wider market, which can lead to increased sales. It is important to consider that selling products to foreign customers is not the same as selling products to domestic consumers. After all, consumers in every country have different habits and preferences with regards to online shopping. In this blog series we analyse various ecommerce markets. In the previous edition we discussed selling online in the United States, today part 2: The Netherlands.

The Netherlands had the best ecommerce landscape in the world in 2017

Ecommerce market share
In 2018, ecommerce in the Netherlands was worth €23,7 billion. That’s an estimated growth of 10 percent compared to the situation one year before[2]. Last year, €13.1 billion was spent online on the purchase of products. Online sales in the Netherlands currently account for 9.6 percent of the country’s total retail industry. This is an increase of 0.5 percentage point compared to 2017. These figures indicate that ecommerce plays an important role in the Dutch economy, particularly in the retail industry.

Dutch ecommerce landscape
Research by UNCTAD shows that the Netherlands had the best ecommerce landscape in the world in 2017, followed by Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The West European country has thus climbed from fourth to first place. It replaced Luxembourg, which dropped out of the top ten as a result of a sharp drop in its postal reliability score.

The high ranking of the Netherlands can mainly be explained by the good scores in the field of secure services. In this area, the Netherlands is ranked top among all countries included. In addition, the country also has a huge number of online stores, 82,000. About half of these online stores are pure play online stores.

The biggest bottleneck of the Dutch ecommerce landscape is the late delivery of products ordered online. In 2017, 24% of Dutch online shoppers were faced with late delivery of the ordered product. Technical problems and information about guarantee or rights are also mentioned as bottlenecks of the Dutch ecommerce landscape[3].

Product categories and stores
When the Dutch shop online, they spend the most money on clothing, followed by electronics. Of all product categories, the strongest climber of 2018 is the Food / Nearfood category. Within this category, an increase of 24% can be seen in the number of online purchases compared to the previous year. The number of purchases within Food / Nearfood is even increasing faster than in 2017, namely from 25% to 31%. Other categories that rose sharply in 2018 compared to 2017 are Package Travel (20%), Telecommunication (18%), Health & Beauty (17%) and Insurances (15%).

With regard to online stores in the Netherlands,,, Zalando, Coolblue, H&M, HEMA and are the largest. Almost all of these online stores are local players, only Zalando and H&M are not Dutch companies. It is striking that worldwide large marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay are less popular in the Netherlands than in many other countries. Online stores such as and are doing a lot better in the Netherlands, due to offering the preferred payment methods by the Dutch consumers.

When it comes to cross-border purchases, the Dutch prefer to shop at Chinese online stores. It turns out that 59% of the cross-border expenses are spent on Chinese online stores[4]. Other countries that are popular among Dutch online shoppers are Germany and the United Kingdom.

Online customers in the Netherlands
96 percent of consumers aged 15 and over have purchased something online at least once in 2018. In 2017 this was two percent less. In total, these online shoppers have purchased something online 242 million times. In addition to the fact that the Dutch are buying more and more online, the average purchase price is also rising every year. About a quarter of the Dutch spend between 100 and 500 euros on ecommerce in three months[5].

When the Dutch buy something online, they prefer to pay through iDEAL. This is an online payment method developed by the Dutch banking community. This payment method is used in 60% of online transactions in the Netherlands[6]. Dutch online shoppers use iDEAL because payment is easy. Also, a lot of online stores provide a QR code that online shoppers can scan with their mobile banking app, so that payments can be processed quickly and easily. Other popular payment methods in the Netherlands are Paypal, MasterCard and VISA. If we look at popular post-payment methods, these are AfterPay, acceptgiro (giro transfer) and Klarna[7].

Every year in the Netherlands, the use of the smartphone in ecommerce becomes more popular. In 2018, 35% of Dutch online shoppers used a smartphone during an online purchase. This share was still 28% in 2017. Among millennials especially, the use of the smartphone for online shopping is very popular with the percentage at 70%[8]. However, it is vital for all generations that they feel safe with the payment of their online purchases via smartphone and this is increasingly the case. We see that a shift is noticeable here from laptop and desktop to smartphone. The smartphone has even overtaken the desktop with regard to the most commonly used devices for online shopping.

[1] Pure360 (2018), 40 ecommerce statistics that will shape your strategy.
[2] (2019), Nederlandse consumenten besteedden €23,7 miljard online in 2018.
[3] CBS (2018), Nederland in Europese top 5 online winkelen.
[4] CustomerTalk (2019), De omzet in e-commerce blijft gestaag groeien in Nederland.
[5] Ecommerce News (2018), 78% van Nederlanders shopt online.
[6] Adyen (2019), iDEAL.
[7] Ecommerce News (2019), Ecommerce in The Netherlands.
[8] Marketingfacts (2018), Onderzoek: Wat precies doet Nederland online?
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