Belgium - Country Commercial Guide

Describes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and covers prominent B2B websites.

Last published date: 2021-11-11

In 2020, online purchases increased by 7.5% reaching a turnover of 10.4 billion dollars.  Previous years’ online purchase growth were: 17% in 2019; 20% in 2018; 17% in 2017.  For the first time in many years the growth has been single-digit due to, among other things, a declining growth in sectors that have been strongly affected by COVID-19.  Uncertainties related to border closures and an increased consciousness about local shopping led to cross-border e-commerce collapsing by 31% in 2020 reaching a turnover of 1.4 billion euro.  This represents 15.94% of e-Commerce sales in Belgium.  However, the digital transformation has accelerated to meet the growing demand for online shopping with 4 in 10 Belgian online merchants starting their business in 2020.  This has led to a substantial growth in the number of transactions (+26%), with almost 108 million transactions.  Previous years: 85.29 million, +22%, in 2019; and 70.07 million, +16%, in 2018.  The number of transactions grew faster than the transaction value.  This resulted in a lower average basket value of 81.6 Euro (-15%). 

In Belgium, economic development has been devolved to the three Regions:  Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region.  Each Region has developed its own procedures to promote business typically as grants and tax cuts for SMEs.  For Flanders’ incentives, see here.  These are general incentives applicable to eCommerce.  For Wallonia’s eCommerce incentives (grants), see here.  The Brussels Region offers no special incentives for eCommerce.

eCommerce in Belgium is regulated by standard commercial law.  There is no regulatory entity.  Belgium is, however, considering a Digital Service Tax (DST) of 3% and is currently waiting on the EU’s lead.  Belgium is not expected to roll out a DST.

In 2020, card payments became Belgium’s preferred way of payment overtaking bank transfers followed by PayPal.  Fifty-eight percent of online transactions in Belgium are mobile.  When a Belgian consumer needs to pay a significant amount of money online, the laptop and desktop are still, by far, the most popular device.

The above strong figures are partially the result of early internet infrastructure development, e-commerce is freely accessible in Belgium.  High levels of broadband and cable access for high-speed internet are readily available in Belgium.  In 2019, Belgium ranked sixth -in broadband (34.22 Mbps average) penetration rate in the European Union at 34.1%, with 78% of Belgians using the internet at least once a week.  In 2016, 44% of Belgians accessed the internet via a mobile device; this is well above the EU average of 37%.  Belgium’s overall internet penetration is at 83% surpassing the European Union’s 73%. 

The need to tailor offerings according to local laws, culture, and in two languages (French and Dutch), combined with a small population, make Belgium a somewhat more difficult market for those entering the EU e-commerce division.