With a combined population of 28 million people, 11.5 million households and combined GDP of €1.08trn and English spoken widely, the Netherlands and Belgium offer an attractive market to international merchants looking to expand into new territories.
Both countries have good underlying infrastructure with globally renowned ports and airports and excellent road and rail connections with the rest of Europe. Placed on the edge of continental Europe but with a history of international trade, both markets are used to trading with their neighbours and international partners.
Belgium and the Netherlands (together with Luxembourg) are often collectively viewed as Benelux but although combined as a trading region for the purposes of this report, Belgium and the Netherlands are two very different countries.
eCommerce in Belgium
The Belgian online retail market is at an earlier stage of development and consequently has a lower overall value. However, at an estimated €, it is a market with plenty of potential, particularly for international merchants. Two key factors make this increasingly likely; internet penetration is increasing as is the number of users. GfK reported in 2015 that over 6.5 million Belgians are shopping online every quarter and Insight Consulting expect 28% to spend more this year over 2015.
eCommerce in the Netherlands
Data from CBS, the Dutch national statistics office, indicates that average growth of online shopping in the first quarter of 2016 was around 20%. With the number of Dutch consumers regularly shopping online remaining fairly static (around 59% of the population), this dataset from CBS would indicate that the overall value of the shopping basket is increasing, and doing so strongly. So, whilst the market in the Netherlands appears to be more developed that others in the EU, there is growth in the number of online shoppers, frequency of online purchasing and in the value of their spend.
Looking forward, research by Statista.com is estimating that the Dutch market will be worth €9.42bn in 2016, increasing to over €13bn by 2020 based on a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.22%.
Both Belgium and the Netherlands have a developed mobile marketplace and high levels of smartphone adoption. Mobile penetration in Belgium is around 112% according to nth-mobile.com and in the Netherlands it is over 120% (mGage 2015).
In terms of internet connectivity, Belgium ranks slightly below the EU 27 average in 2015 at 83% whilst the Dutch are nearly the highest at 96%, second only to Luxembourg. By way of comparison, the UK has penetration levels of around 90% and Germany, the next most developed ecommerce market in the EU after the UK, is at 89%.
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