March E-Commerce Outlook: how will Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers shop?

AfterPay Insights’ monthly forecasts are back with this March outlook for e-commerce in the Netherlands, Germany and Norway. Do Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers intend to shop online more or less in the coming month? Do Light, Medium and Heavy Online Shoppers differ in their purchase intentions? Our results indicate that differences between these segments – and countries – exist. In light of changing restrictions, which channels do shoppers intend to make most of their purchases through – brick-and-mortar or online?

In this analysis we are also able to reveal which products consumers intend to buy online and offline in March. At the same time, we can forecast which product categories will grow online in the coming month and which ones will grow offline. In doing so we can also predict a shift from online to offline channels – or vice versa – for specific product categories. And we can forecast which product categories will likely drive e-commerce in March. Finally, we discuss the barriers that currently hold consumers back from buying online. Keep reading!

Projection for the number of overall and online purchases in March

Our projections are based on consumers’ intentions to increase and/or decrease purchase volumes in the month to come (March), both on an overall level (on- and offline purchases) as well as for online purchases specifically. We have broken down consumer groups Our survey results indicate that German and Dutch consumers intend to increase overall purchases in March, while Norwegian consumers intend to decrease overall purchases. We also see differences when it comes to purchase intentions for online channels.

How much do Dutch consumers intend to shop in March and through which channels?

The latest survey results indicate that Dutch consumers project to buy slightly more overall in March. They are likely to also increase online purchases. Providing that Dutch consumers act on their intentions, the shift in overall spend from brick-and-mortar stores to online channels – a trend that we have seen developing since September 2020 – is likely to continue.

The above graph illustrates how Dutch Heavy (5+ bi-weekly online purchases ), Medium (2-4 bi-weekly online purchases) and Light (1 bi-weekly online purchase) Online Shoppers project their March purchase behavior. The Light Online Shopper segment is the only segment who intend to make more purchases online vs. offline. This amplifies our earlier findings that less frequent online shoppers shift to online at a faster pace than any other segment. And we see that the Heavy Online Shoppers will make the majority of purchases in March, but they are not likely to alter their online/offline purchase ratio.

How much do German consumers intend to shop in March and through which channels?

Just like in the Netherlands, German consumers intend to increase overall purchases in March. But when it comes to online purchases, we see a somewhat different pattern in Germany: German consumers actually state that they intend to decrease online purchases.

This overall intention to decrease purchases is slightly skewed by Light Shoppers’ purchase intentions, who make up 20% of all German shoppers; as they state they will decrease both overall purchases and online purchases they shift the overall balance to a ‘decrease’.

How much do Norwegian consumers intend to shop in March and through which channels?

In Norway we see that consumers expect to decrease both overall purchases as well as online purchases in March. But Heavy Online Shoppers are positive towards increasing overall purchases, which will likely support purchase levels in Norway.

Projections of purchases in product categories in March

Splitting expected purchases by product categories reveals which products consumers are likely to buy – both online and offline. This way we are able to forecast which product categories will likely grow online in the coming month, and which ones will likely grow offline. In doing so we can also predict a shift from online to offline channels – or vice versa – for specific product categories. And we can see which product categories will likely drive e-commerce in March.

What will Dutch consumers buy in March?

In the Netherlands, we see that both online and offline purchases in roughly half of all product categories are expected to grow in March. Fashion is expected to grow most, followed by Food/Groceries and Take Away Food. Health Food/Products and Hobby Articles are also likely to grown in March in the Netherlands. However, we see that - among the product categories in the top-right quadrant - the majority are positioned above the diagonal. This means that even though online and offline purchases in these product categories will likely grow in March, offline growth is likely larger than online growth.

We need to note that category size also plays a major role in the development of offline vs. online channels that we discussed earlier in this blog. For example, Fashion is the biggest category in e-commerce. As a result, consumers who intend to increase online purchases typically intend to increase their online purchases in Fashion, also in March.

What will German consumers buy in March?

In Germany, we expect purchases in Food and Health Food Products to grow in March, but the balance is shifted more towards brick-and-mortar stores than online channels.Fashion and Media/Entertainment will likely grow primarily online in Germany. As Fashion stands for 16% of all online purchases in Germany, this increased purchase intention is an important driving force for German e-commerce in March. Notable is also the significant shift from offline to online channels for Take Away Food in March.

What will Norwegian consumers buy in March?

According to Norwegian consumers, Food/Groceries stands out as the category in which the overall purchase increase is expected to be significant. However, consumers state that they favor offline channels over online channels for those purchases. Besides Food/Groceries, Norwegian consumers also intend to increase purchases within Fashion, primarily online. In line with Germany and the Netherlands, Fashion stands for roughly 20% of all online purchases made in Norway.

What holds back consumers from making more online purchases in March?

In order to understand why consumers do not shift a larger share of their purchases from brick-and-mortar stores to online, we asked consumers for their overall barriers to shop online in March. This is what they said.

As might be expected, around 40-50% of consumers state that shopping at a brick-and-mortar store has specific advantages: different prices, other products, a better shopping experience and not having to wait for the product to be delivered. With stores opening up again slowly in the Netherlands and Germany, the reality of the offline shopping experience is getting closer and may hold consumers back from shopping online.

Survey results also indicate that around 30% of consumers hold back on online purchases because they want to support local businesses. And interestingly, going to a physical store is also seen as a necessary breathing hole to actually meet some neighbors in person. As we have seen before, Norwegians differentiate themselves from Dutch and Germans, not only from an environmental sense (‘Overconsumption is not good for society’) but also with regards to the impact of their personal finances on consumption levels.

What is next?

We will publish a mid-month update for all countries next. Stay with us!