The latest data on ecommerce in Sweden

By: Olof Källgren

The Swedish ecommerce market must, from all aspects, be regarded as quite mature. In spite of that the market lived up to the high expectations and grew by 16% during 2017. If the growth will go on at this rate, Swedish ecommerce sales is expected to double within five years.

eCommerce now accounts for close to 9% of total retail sales. Compared to some other markets, like the UK, this is still not a very high number. However, ecommerce is taking an ever greater share of retail sales each year. And during the second quarter of 2017, the Swedish retail sector actually reached a tipping point when all of the growth came from online shopping.

This article will share some results from the E-barometer full year 2017 report, commissioned by PostNord, and reveal key insights into Swedish ecommerce.

Top three product categories stable over time

The favorite products to buy online for Swedish online shoppers are Home Electronics, Fashion & Footwear and Books & Media Products. The top categories has been the same now for quite a number of years.

Even these mature industry sectors showed a healthy growth during last year. The fourth quarter was a sales bonanza for Home Electronics. Things really kicked off in November, with a sales record being achieved for Black Friday, and reached a big finish a month later with a final Christmas shopping rush and post-Christmas sales campaigns.

All in all, growth for the quarter ended up at 21 percent, resulting in a figure of 14 percent for the entire year. This means that online retailing for Home Electronics accounted for 30 percent of the sectors total sales.

Online Fashion & Footwear retailing also had a relatively good year in 2017. As this sector was digitalized early and has come relatively far on its ecommerce journey, the huge growth rates seen in less mature sub-sectors now rarely occur here. Nevertheless, each quarter in 2017 achieved double-digit growth rates, which gave rise to the strongest accumulated growth rate for several years.

Data report

One reason for this is that investments made by the established physical retailing chains are beginning to pay off. In addition, new market participants are pushing developments in the sector by introducing new concepts and technologies. This applies maybe in particular to foreign fashion companies who see a great potential in the Swedish market.

During the fourth quarter, online fashion retailing grew by 14 percent, resulting in a full year growth of 13 percent. The share of fashion retailing conducted online amounted to 16 percent of the sector´s total sales in 2017.

Books & Media is one of the sectors most effected by digitalization. Interest in books seem to be greater than ever, but people are also increasingly buying formats other than traditional physical books, and sales of audio books and e-books have increased explosively. During the fourth quarter, online book retailing grew by 4 percent, resulting in a full-year growth of 7 percent.

How Swedish customers shop online

Two of three shoppers in Sweden stated that they shopped online in an average month in 2017. The highest share of those who had shopped online was understandably in December, when 74 percent reported that they had purchased at least one item online.

The second highest month was November, due to the new online sales record that was achieved for Black Friday. The average online shopper in Sweden made purchases totaling SEK 1,927 per month during 2017.

The main reasons for shopping online were price, availability and convenience. The main reasons for not shopping online were that customers liked the experience in a physical store and that received better service and help there.

The most important sources of information when customers were shopping online was the website of the store or brand. This was followed by Google and different comparison websites.

Cross Border purchases from Sweden

During the fourth quarter of 2017, an average of 31 percent of the online shoppers made purchases from abroad each month. There are four countries in particular that compete for purchases made by people from Sweden: China, the UK, Germany and the US. Shoppers in Sweden buy from China more than from any other country, with that country overtaking the UK in 2016 as the most popular shopping destination.

More than a third of people who have made online purchases from a foreign market have bought something from China, and about a quarter have made purchases from the UK. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the typical order value for goods from China is substantially lower than from the other major countries, so the total value of purchases from, for example the UK and Germany is higher.

Large volumes of parcels arrive from abroad each month, although there are seasonal variations. The two most popular product categories to buy from Sweden are Fashion & Footwear and Home Electronics. Fashion have strong sales figures in the second and fourth quarters, while the proportion of shoppers who imported electronics was highest in the first and third quarters.

Shoppers in Sweden who make online purchases from foreign retailers do so for three main reasons. They are looking for cheaper goods, think that the product they want is not available in Sweden or believe that the range of products is better abroad. Price sensitivity and demand for cheaper goods make shoppers turn primarily to China, while the UK and the US cater for the desire for larger product ranges and unique products.

The main reason for cross-border purchases not being completed, in addition to shoppers changing their mind about the product itself, are unexpected charges or that the product cannot be delivered to Sweden.

However, a reasonable conclusion to draw is that the declining share of non-completed purchases is due to the fact that Swedish shoppers feel safer throughout the whole shopping experience, and do not encounter problems during the purchase process to the same extent as before.

Cell phones a key factor in growth

Purchasing behavior in the retail industry is constantly moving towards becoming more seamless, and the interest in creating a strong mobile platform is increasing. During 2017, an average of 38 percent of ecommerce customers made at least one purchase with their cell phone per month.

Mobile shopping is progressing at speed and especially the younger ecommerce customers have embraced the tool. Interestingly, the share of purchases made by cell phone increases toward the end of the calendar year.

Customers also use their cell phones’ other features to make everyday life easier. The camera function is used to take pictures of a product or price tag as a reminder for making a purchase later. The cell phone's map and positioning features are used extensively to search for nearby stores and opening hours. Finally, 20 percent of shoppers use their phones to check the stock level for a specific product before visiting the store.


About the E-barometer

Working together with Swedish Digital trade association and HUI Research, PostNord monitors the development of Swedish retailing in the field of ecommerce. The E-barometer is published each quarter and is based on monthly surveys with over 1000 respondents each. eCommerce is defined in this context as being the online sale of goods that are delivered to homes or distribution points, or are collected from a store, warehouse or collection location by the customer.


Interested in trading into Sweden?

Country guide cover

Download the Nordics eCommerce Country Guide, supported by Direct Link.

This cross-border country guide contains:

  • An overview of the Nordic eCommerce market
  • Marketing strategies for the Nordic eCommerce market
  • Popular payment methods in the Nordic eCommerce market
  • Legal framework & regulation in the Nordic eCommerce market
  • Logistics in the Nordic eCommerce market


Olof Källgren, Market Information Manager, Direct Link

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