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For the first time, Belgium belongs to the top 10 countries with the strongest growth potential with regard to e-commerce. Our country has climbed no less than 15 spots in the top 30, and has now overtaken the Netherlands. A very nice way to recover lost ground that deserves some explanation!
For the third year in a row, consulting firm A.T. Kearney has published its Global Retail E-Commerce Index, a list of the top 30 countries with the strongest growth potential with regard to e-commerce. The index takes into consideration nine variables, including some macroeconomic factors and the adoption of technology by Internet users, their purchasing behaviour, and the infrastructure. In order to draw up this index, current online retail market indicators are balanced with indicators that predict the potential for future growth.
Belgium is one of the countries listed in this top 30. But there is more: our country is the one with the fastest growth in this ranking. It went from the 24th to the 9th place (a 15-spot rise!). Together with Denmark, Belgium thus belongs to the fastest growing countries in this ranking.
The general ranking is led by the United States, which have superseded China, whose rate of growth slowed. The same happened to other Asian markets: Japan dropped 2 spots, just like South Korea. And Singapore even dropped three spots. The study also stresses the need for omnichannel. An online presence is no longer sufficient; the combination with a brick-and-mortar store, even if it is only a collection point or a shop window, has become a necessity.
The fact that Belgium has overtaken the Netherlands (13th place) in this ranking is great news, because over the past few years, our country has been lagging behind in terms of e-commerce, and it seemed like the Dutch companies were gnawing away at the Belgian market. Apparently, some recent measures taken to promote e-commerce in Belgium are bearing fruit. The fact that night shift working has now been allowed in logistics will only boost the competitiveness of Belgian companies. In the past, foreign web stores were the only ones that could attract customers with 24-hour or even same-day delivery, and there was nothing that Belgian web stores could do about it, because they were not allowed to work night shifts. Sunday delivery by bpost is yet another welcome bonus.
The study includes some additional details about Belgium. It shows that the majority of Belgians have an Internet connection, and that over 50% of connected people also shop online. Belgium’s infrastructure and transportation also rate highly. Strong e-commerce growth is therefore expected—as much as 25 percent per year through 2020—led in particular by the apparel, food, and electronics sectors.
It is good to know what Belgian consumers expect from web stores: low prices, convenience and no-risk product trials. And the country's top sites are addressing this! Amazon offers free shipping to Belgium, Carrefour has opened its first “click & collect” location in Auderghem, with plans for another 50 sites, and Albert Heijn also went for this concept. Supermarket chain Colruyt has been in this market for longer than its competitors with “Collect & Go” and will soon expand this online service. Delhaize has seen a 48% increase in online sales and has invested heavily in its e-commerce platforms, and Vanden Borre has embraced multichannel engagement too.
This can only be achieved if logistics are strong. The acquisition of the logistics player Kiala (famous for its collection points) by UPS is an encouraging signal. And now that night work is also allowed in distribution centres, nothing will keep Belgian e-commerce from growing!
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