A deep-dive into why Belgian ecommerce grew by 40% in 2021

Recently SafeShops revealed the sixth edition of the 'Belgian Ecommerce Barometer', which maps the Belgian online landscape based on transaction data provided by several payment service providers from Belgian webshops. The results? In 2021, Belgian webshops recorded a record of EUR 11.7 billion turnover - an increase of 33% compared to 2020. More than 150 million transactions were registered in the last year, 39% more than in 2020.  

As Philippe De Vydt, Head of International Sales at MultiSafepay says: 

"Ecommerce in Belgium has experienced significant growth since the pandemic started. What we have observed in the past two years is a substantial increase of payments through mobile and tablets. Belgium is one of the most established countries for online business in Europe."

Let's dive deeper into the Belgian online market, the opportunities those developments offer Belgian merchants or those looking to sell to Belgium, and how Multisafepay can help realize expansion plans to Belgium. 

1. Online market growth

In 2021, more merchants entered the Belgian online market than ever before. Back in 2020, one out of four merchants started a webshop; this number continued to grow by almost 18 % in 2021, up to 56.642 in total. Those new online merchants are mainly micro and small webshops - those that have already adapted to the changes brought by the pandemic. Overall, smaller webshops make up 97% of the total number of Belgian webshops. This shows that online sales became a fixed, strategic channel for the merchant or entrepreneur in Belgium - no matter the size. However, the medium and large webshops - a total of 1.455 according to Safeshops data - account for the most significant part of the ecommerce turnover, 84% of the whole transaction volume.

2. Increase in transactions

From 2020 to 2021, the number of transactions rose by 40%, up to 150 million per year. This was the first time the 100 million mark was hit. 

Overall, Belgian ecommerce is growing steadily. Safeshops noted a plus in volume of 33% in 2021, meaning that all Belgian merchants together realized a webshop turnover of 11.7 billion euros. The volume created on marketplaces such as Bol.com or Amazon has not even been taken into account for the report. 

63% of all transactions came from 'physical parcel sales', while the remaining 37% consisted of the sale of services such as travel and entertainment. This sector has naturally perceived lower transaction volume since the pandemic's beginning. Based on research by BeCommerce, even more products were purchased online in 2021 than in 2020, despite less strict lockdown policies. Especially popular were the categories clothing (20% of total online purchases in the fourth quarter of 2021), games (19%) and entertainment (10%). 

The average shopping basket is 78 euros, a stable development compared to previous years. According to BeCommerce, Belgians bought online 20 times last year, accounting for an amount of 1445 euros, some 250 euros more than in 2020.

3. Opportunity for cross-border sales

While the export volume of Belgian traders dropped in the beginning of the pandemic, cross-border sales recovered in 2021, up to 21% of the overall ecommerce market. The most popular export destinations for Belgian merchants are France (38,44%) and the Netherlands (37,57%), followed by Germany (10,96%).

4. Preferred payment methods

In 2020, 73% of all online purchases at Belgian webshops were paid with a debit card and 20% with a credit card. Bancontact was the favorite payment method of the Belgian online shopper, with over 61% of payments. Bancontact is a debit card option that can be used across all channels (online, mobile, and POS payments). For their online purchases, Belgians overall still prefer the laptop for almost half of their purchases. The smartphone, however, is becoming increasingly popular and accounts for 17% of purchases.

 In general, the pandemic has led to an increase in online contactless, online, and in-app payments in Belgium. In December 2021, 54% of all in-store payments with the Bancontact card were contactless payments. Mobile payments with Bancontact via Payconiq grew 62% compared to 2020. The preference for app versus website is now close to 50/50. Smartphone payments can be made via the Payconiq by Bancontact app. 

Safeshop's data, however, shows that also 'new' payment methods such as digital wallets like Google Pay or Apple Pay, as well as electronic meal vouchers, eco cheques, and 'buy now, pay later' (BNPL) options are on the rise. 

Evaluate your checkout with MultiSafepay

For their study on the 'Belgian Ecommerce Barometer,' Safeshops took the online transaction data of different payment service providers into account, such as MultiSafepay. Consequently, it is also relevant to act on this data, leverage insights, and thereby create improved and sustainable growth opportunities for our merchants. 

We offer more than 30 national and international payment methods, including digital wallets, 'buy now, pay later' options, and a whole range of local and cross-border payment methods to reach customers all over Europe, with Bancontact being just one example. 

Being an acquirer and processor for credit card schemes allows us to integrate the whole payment flow end-to-end and rely on our own infrastructure instead of using third parties. That means we avoid redirects and handle your transactions when the customer completes payments to the settlement in your MultiSafepay balance - ensuring higher availability, resilience, and security.  

Keeping our developers in-house allows us to adapt to payment trends on the market and inputs and requests from our merchants and partners. Our local teams in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, and Italy have cooperated with different merchants and partners from all over Europe for many years and are true experts for these markets. 

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