Domestic sources indicate they struggle to map the exact e-commerce market in the country. This has two reasons. First, Belgium's market is dominated by foreign e-commerce retailers (which do not always share their information on how well they perform in Belgium). In 2016, based on the latest available information from a domestic source, Amazon was the largest online retailer in Belgium with a revenue of approximately 288 million euros. The internet marketplace was first among the top six that were entirely made up of companies from either the Netherlands (Coolblue and Bol.com), Germany (Zalando and Mediamarkt) and France (Vente-Exlusive.com). Second, Belgian consumers were less inclined to use online shopping than consumers from other European countries. In Belgium, 61 percent of consumers used e-commerce in 2018, whereas the e-commerce penetration in, for example, the Netherlands and Luxembourg was 80 percent and 72 percent respectively.
Belgians ranked among consumers with the most cross-border e-commerce purchases in European countries in 2018. Language seems to play an important part of online shopping behavior in Belgium. Consumers tended to visit theFrench and English Amazon domains. As the web shop is not present in the country, Belgians visit the foreign domains or web stores in their language. It is therefore likely that when Belgians indicated that the Netherlands was the country from which they bought products online the most, those respondents came from Flanders (the Flemish Dutch-speaking part of the country).
This tendency to buy products abroad could explain why credit cards rank among the most popular online payment methods. A web shop targeting a Belgian audience, however, would do well to use a domestic payment method: Bancontact (formerly known Bancontact/Mister Cash, since 2018 Payconiq by Bancontact). This Belgium-only payment scheme is the country’s market leader when it comes to electronic payment methods and can be found on debit cards from domestic banks such as BNP Paribas Fortis, Belfius and KBC. In a way, Bancontact is comparable to PayPal in that it is responsible for processing electronic payments for goods purchased online. That Bancontact is widely used is confirmed by the number of processed payment transactions: approximately 1.44 billion transactions were made using this payment scheme, whereas VISA/Mastercard and Maestro reached 300 million transactions altogether.