Online shopping in Scandinavia: It has to be simple

Digitization and online trade have reached a high level in the Scandinavian countries: six out of every ten people there made at least one online purchase in the first half of 2016. Online consumers are motivated above all by one thing: simplicity.

In Scandinavia clients want e-commerce to be simple.
In Scandinavia clients want e-commerce to be simple.

Roughly 11 million consumers in Scandinavia make online purchases every month. The figures are comparably high in all four countries, but Sweden in particular stands out. While Finland is experiencing high growth rates, consumers there make fewer online purchases than in Norway and above all Denmark. The ratio of women to men is roughly the same in all four countries.

Online trade makes buying goods from abroad particularly attractive. In the well-developed Swedish market, the share of purchases from abroad is the smallest. On the other hand, consumers in Finland and Norway spend significantly more money online for foreign goods and services.

Young people are more likely to return goods

Differences can also be observed in returns. An average of one out of every ten products is returned. In Finland, the ratio is one in five, even though it has the highest share of foreign-bought goods. This may be due to the fact that Finnish consumers often purchase clothing online and returns have been significantly simplified in this area. Common to all Scandinavian countries is the fact that younger consumers more frequently return goods. A high proportion of returns decreases short-term profitability, but increases long-term customer loyalty, and with it growth.

"The Scandinavian markets can be compared in many respects – online commerce continues to grow at a high level and distribution is very evenly distributed across the areas of travel, goods and services. But there are also differences," says Monika Remund, Scandinavia consultant for Switzerland Global Enterprise.

The largest online market by far is Sweden, estimated at €10.4 billion. 7.3 million Swedes between the ages of 15 and 74 are online consumers – roughly nine out of ten. The Swedish economy is booming and purchasing power is high. At 93%, internet penetration is high, and eight out of ten Swedes have a smart phone. At 39%, a comparatively low number buy from foreign suppliers.

Norway has the second largest online market. At 10 million, it is only marginally smaller than in Sweden, and other parameters are similar. With only 4 million consumers between the ages of 15 and 74, it constitutes the smallest number of online consumers in Scandinavia. But purchasing power in Norway – the second highest in the world – is larger than its neighboring countries. Its economy continues to do well, despite falling oil prices. Unlike the other Nordic countries, however, Norway is not a part of the EU, which makes customs and tax formalities more difficult. Its share of online services is twice as high as its neighboring countries.

At €9.5 million and slightly more than 4 million consumers, Denmark ranks slightly behind Sweden and Norway; but these figures remain high when compared to other European countries. Purchasing power and economic growth, as well as reasons for online commerce, present a similar picture.

There are certain differences when it comes to payment methods. Whereas Sweden and Norway prefer card payments to other methods, card payments are dominant in Denmark. Swish has established itself as a mobile payment method in Sweden, while the most important payment method in Norway is Vipps. In Denmark, 3D secure payment is not yet obligatory. MobilePay has established itself as the main mobile payment method there.

Simplicity above all

Surveys confirm that simplicity is the decisive criterion when it comes to payments. Roughly half of online purchases are not completed. Many purchases are deleted due to the payment methods offered. Consumers are also reluctant to reenter their card information for every purchase in the Nordic countries.

Suppliers and online retailers are continually working on improving processes for consumers. This begins with a website that is easy to understand, flexible, and optimized for mobile devices, but also includes payment methods and logistics solutions. Simplicity is even more important when it comes to mobile devices, where it is by far the most important criterion.


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