E-commerce and Christmas: Three countries compared


Recent studies from the United Kingdom, Germany and France show the growing importance of Christmas shopping for online retailers and highlight the buying behaviour of e-shoppers for this year’s Christmas holiday. In the following, the Christmas trends of the three largest European e-commerce markets will be analysed and correlated.

E-commerce is more and more important around Christmas in Europe

E-commerce is becoming increasingly important for business around Christmas. The market share of online commerce continues to grow. In the last two months of the year, German Internet retailers, for example, generate around 25 percent of their annual sales. Overall, the German Retail Association (Handelsverband Deutschland) expects German e-commerce to generate Christmas sales of 13.4 billion euros in 2018 (corresponding to a market share of around 13.5%). This is an increase of 9.8% compared to the previous year. However, the market share of e-commerce for Christmas shopping is even higher in the United Kingdom with 31 %. In France the market share, likein Germany, is around 13%.

The importance of e-commerce is also reflected in the increase in online sales at the end of the year over the past five years: Germany recorded 103 % more sales over the same period, France 96.3 % and the UK (only) 68 %. The lower percentage of Britons can be explained by the fact that the e-commerce market there is generally much more advanced than in the other two countries. In the United Kingdom alone, e-commerce Christmas sales are expected to reach 28 billion euros in 2018, but in France “only” half (14 billion euros). Germany, with its previously mentioned turnover of 13.4 billion euros, is not doing any better than France.

How do consumers in the three largest European e-commerce markets behave at Christmas time?

First, there are differences in the global Christmas budget. The British have by far the biggest one: The general budget per household is 567 pounds (636 euros), of which 301 pounds (335.5 euros) go towards gifts. The French are also doing well with a global budget of 578 euros. They spend 328 euros on gifts. Only the Germans are somewhat more frugal in the European comparison. They set the total budget at 476 euro and of this they spend “only” 219 euro on gifts.

The proportion of people who also buy some of the gifts online is particularly interesting. The UK is well ahead, with almost 86% of Britons buying some gifts online and 42% buying only online. Germany and France are roughly equal: 67% of Germans and 65% of French order some of their gifts online.

The top 3 reasons why people prefer to buy gifts online are also exciting. Here, too, there are big differences between the three most populous countries in Europe. The British give these three reasons: (1) access to customer reviews, (2) around-the-clock availability and (3) convenient home delivery. The French cite slightly different reasons: (1) Avoid overcrowded city centres, (2) around-the-clock availability and (3) benefit from low prices. And the Germans are particularly convinced of (1) around-the-clock availability, (2) the wider choice and (3) avoid overcrowded city centres.

The period in which gifts are bought in the UK, Germany and France is reveals a lot about the different e-commerce markets. Germans buy gifts mainly in November (30%) and December (49%). French people, on the other hand, often buy gifts at the last minute in December (73%). The British are busy with Christmas very early on, as 29% of gifts are bought in September and October and 32% in November. So more than 60% of Britons buy gifts before December!
Deloitte Christmas Survey 2018
Shopping for Christmas 2018: Retail Prospects (RetailMeNot / Centre for Retail Research)
BBC Survey 2018 by Centre for Retail Research / VoucherCodes.co.uk

Adrian Gmelch

Adrian Gmelch is a tech and e-commerce enthusiast. He initially worked for an international PR agency in Paris for large tech companies before joining Lengow's international field marketing & content team.

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