Among European Union (EU) countries, Belgium accounts for €5.5 billion in cross-border sales – a market share of 35.5 percent, according to Cross-Border Commerce Europe. And Belgian e-commerce is growing, with over 50,000 online stores now carrying out operations in the country. In the past year, 5,985 new online stores were created, bringing the total up to 54,101 – a 13 percent increase from 2021, according to sector interest group BeCommerce. In the second quarter of 2022, 6.9 million Belgians made 40.5 million online purchases, spending 3.5 billion euros, up 29 percent from the same period in 2021. This uptick is attributed mainly to the recovering services sector, with an increase of 75 percent compared to the same period last year according to BeCommerce. The top categories of online services spending were airline tickets and accomodations, tickets for attractions and events, package holidays, and sports and recreation. Around half of Belgian online stores are linked to the retail sector, while hospitality has risen from fourth to second place. The Flanders region has by far the most online stores and is alone responsible for 72 percent of online stores in Belgium. The amount of Belgians purchasing goods from online retailers has never been higher.
Legal and Regulatory Environment
eCommerce in Belgium is regulated by standard commercial law. There is no specific regulatory entity. Noteworthy regulatory developments to look for in 2023 include Belgium’s adoption of a 3 percent Digital Service Tax (Belgium is awaiting EU action on this front), and the easing of Belgian rules on night work within the e-commerce sector. Companies looking to take advantage of e-commerce opportunities in Belgium should also be aware of the relevant EU regulatory environment including the EU Digital Single Market Strategy, the Electronic Commerce Directive, and the General Data Protection Regulation.
Approximately 95 percent of Belgians have access to the internet, and in 2022, approximately 80 percent of those internet users made online purchases. According to data from Safeshops, Belgium’s e-commerce association, the way Belgian consumers pay for products and services online is evolving. Approximately 73 percent of online sales are still paid for with debit cards and 20 percent with credit cards. But the market is seeing an uptake in new payment methods such as online meal tickets, eco-checks, Google Pay, and “buy-now-pay-later” services. The most poplar search engine in Belgium is Google. 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 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 market.