For retailers and consumers worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic provided an impetus to venture into the e-commerce arena. Even among those previously skeptical about buying and selling online, the pandemic crisis left little choice but to shift consumption into the digital sphere. The years since the pandemic show that the online shopping target group has grown. In 2022, nearly two-thirds of the Belgian population reported buying products and services online, up from just over half before the coronavirus outbreak. E-commerce sales revenues in Belgium have also recorded unprecedented results, surpassing the 9-billion-dollar mark in 2023.
Go-to places for online shopping
More and more people are turning to online merchants to purchase an ever-increasing array of products. From clothing and footwear to home furnishings and electronics, the digital realm is gradually gaining greater prominence in Belgium's retail landscape. In 2022, the Dutch online marketplace bol.com was the leading online store in Belgium, with some 768 million U.S. dollars in e-commerce sales. Berlin-based online retailer Zalando topped the list in the fashion category, with over 300 million U.S. dollars in sales that year. As for the electronics and media segment, Apple recorded the highest sales, overtaking Dutch electronics store Coolblue by a margin of roughly 80 million dollars.
Social & live commerce: game changers for e-tailing?
The use of social media platforms to buy and sell is one of the latest trends transforming the retail sector. Forecasts suggest that social shopping will grow into a lucrative purchasing channel worldwide over the coming years. In Belgium, the social commerce gross merchandise value exceeded 800 million U.S. dollars in 2022, a figure forecast to triple by 2028. In this regard, Facebook appeared as the leading social shopping platform for most generational cohorts, particularly among older consumers. In contrast, TikTok was most popular among the youngest buyers, namely, Gen Zers. Another innovative trend shaping the online shopping experience is live commerce, whereby products are advertised to shoppers via livestream, with interactive visual content promoting more customer engagement with the product. For roughly a third of Belgian e-shoppers surveyed in late 2022, inspiration and ideas were the main benefits of participating in a live shopping experience.
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