Nordic countries differ wildly in their e-commerce needs

Businesses need to take different approaches to e-commerce in different Nordic countries

Nordic e-commerce is on a steady growth path. During the first quarter of 2015, e-commerce increased by 7% in the region compared with the year before, and was worth about SEK36.5bn (£2.8bn). But there is something global online retailers eyeing the region often fail to acknowledge: the Nordics aren’t one homogenous market.

Ville Wikström, development director at market research firm TNS Gallup, offered a case in point: “In Finland consumers are timid. Finnish online retailers haven’t invested in speed, while in Sweden and Denmark customers are more demanding.”

This statement is backed by statistics. According to a recent survey by logistics company PostNord, one-third of Finnish online shoppers see five business days as the maximum acceptable delivery time, when in Denmark only 15% of consumers are willing to wait that long.

For Danes, three (36%) or two (21%) business days is the maximum, and in Sweden and Norway most shoppers want no more than a three-day delivery time.

But speed is only one part of the overall delivery, the parcel also needs to find its way to the customer. While the click-and-collect trend – where an item is ordered online and picked up in- store – is only just starting to grow in the UK, it is the most popular delivery option in the Nordics.

And the diversity only increases from here. While about half of consumers in Sweden, Norway and Finland prefer to pick up their parcel themselves from a partner outlet or service point, only one-fifth of Danish shoppers chose it as their preferred delivery method. Furthermore, Danes are the least enthusiastic about mailbox delivery by the mail carrier and instead favour daytime home deliveries more than other Nordic consumers.

Similar differences can be seen in preferred payment methods. All Nordic consumers prefer to pay by debit and credit cards when shopping online, revealed another PostNord survey. This is especially true in Denmark where almost the entire online shopping population (84%) prefers card payments – more than twice as many as in Sweden.

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On the other hand, Swedes and Finns favour paying via direct online bank payment more than consumers in Denmark and Norway, where the demand is almost non-existent.

Moreover, international online retailers offering alternative payment methods, such as PayPal and Swedish Payson, are only just starting to gain popularity in the Nordics. The traction is highest in Norway, where alternative methods are preferred by 13% of consumers, and lowest in Denmark, where the corresponding number is just 3%.

Mobile shopping keeps growing

As the money spent online is growing, so is mobile e-commerce. During the first quarter of 2015, 14% of all Nordic e-commerce consumers shopped with their mobile phone, up from 10% in 2014.

This is particularly true of Danes, where the adoption of mobile shopping increased the most from 10% to 15%. This could also soon get a boost as Danske Bank recently announced a partnership aimed at furthering mobile payments in the country.

But mobile e-commerce is still most common in Sweden, where 17% of consumers shopped with their phone during the first quarter of 2015. That number is vastly different from Finland, where only 8% of consumers used a mobile phone for online shopping. This could partly be explained by the fact that Swedish retailers have woken up to digitisation early, including mobile responsive online stores.

“Sweden has had a faster start in building online stores, while retailers in Finland have only been investing more in online during the past few years,” said Wikström at TNS Gallup.

Consequently, the wider Nordic problem requires a many-faced solution from both local and international retailers, as well as recognition that an age-old stereotype is untrue – Nordic countries are not all the same.

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