Belgian online shops have seen their sales rise by more than 10 % in the first half of the year, both in total transaction value (to 5.8 billion euros) and in number of transactions (to 76 million). Services, entertainment and second-hand performed particularly well, as did pharma.
Three major conclusions
Belgian webshops realised a combined transaction volume of 5,858,401,065 euros in the first six months of this year, up 13 % compared to 2021. The number of transactions increased by 12 % to 76 million, or 8 million more than last year. The average value of an online shopping basket remained almost stable at 77 euros, SafeShops’ new E-Commerce Barometer reports based on data from payment providers. Transactions on marketplaces are not included in these figures.
SafeShops director Greet Dekocker draws three major conclusions from the new figures. The first: a certain consolidation is gradually taking place. The sector is taking steps towards maturity, as evidenced by the fact that 3283 retailers closed their webshops in the first half of 2022. “That was to be expected, after the huge boom in online shops since 2020, during the lockdowns”, she said. This trend is also expected to continue in the second half of the year.
“Still many opportunities”
The good news is that quite a few smaller and medium-sized e-commerce players did manage to keep growing: “Entrepreneurs who see e-commerce as more than a side business, who really get into an investment mode, can indeed push through. For those who take e-commerce seriously, there are still many opportunities.”
Second conclusion: there is still significant growth, with no sign of a downturn. “It was to be expected that services and travel would recover after the pandemic. You do see some nuances, however: some sectors are doing better than others.” Some winners during the pandemic (like fashion, home improvement and DIY) are now seeing a slight decline, but they continue to perform above 2019 levels. By contrast, travel and entertainment are making a strong comeback, second-hand is experiencing a breakthrough, and pharma is also performing strongly.
Driven by the energy crisis
The fact that whitegoods are doing remarkably better, is driven by the energy crisis, Dekocker believes. “People are looking for more energy-efficient appliances. We are also seeing strong growth in the second-hand market, both due to the appearance of more second-hand shops and an increase in activity on those webshops.” The growth of pharma online may be partly explained by the very large price differences between online and conventional pharmacies.
Third conclusion: exports, which experienced a sharp decline since the pandemic in 2020, have fully recovered and are back to 2019 levels. 26.24 % of the transaction volume within e-commerce in the first half of 2022 was exported, meaning that Belgian online shops are indeed attractive to foreign consumers. That is a mental boost, especially since sales on marketplaces were not even included here.
“Discount festivals here to stay”
Amazon’s recent launch in Belgium will give an additional boost to the international activities of Belgian e-commerce players, Dekocker expects. “For us, both are possible (and have to exist) next to each other. It is certainly important to be present on marketplaces in addition to your own webshop. This is also true for new technology platforms such as Meta or Fortnite, where new opportunities present themselves.”
What expectations does the director have for the second half of the year? “The busiest period is approaching. We think discount festivals like Black Friday will be here to stay. This is the first year when we can celebrate Christmas again without restrictions: some sectors are likely to win there. Think of ski holidays: people who can and want to go on a trip will be ready after those two difficult years. Gifts will not be lacking either, although they will perhaps be a little more second-hand and price-conscious.”