Greece - Country Commercial Guide
eCommerce

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

Overview 

Electronic Commerce (eCommerce) in Greece has seen considerable growth throughout the last years and especially through the current COVID-19 crisis where the Greek government has taken large steps in digitally transforming the country. The Ministry of Digital Governance has updated its digital strategy, the “Digital Transformation Bible”, which was first introduced in the pre-Covid era and is now expected to be developed through the 2020-2025 period. Focus is given to the adaptation of the single government e-cloud platform while facilitating the digital transformation of the marketplace.  In 2019, a One-Stop-Shop platform was created to significantly decrease the time one needs to launch a business. The “Business Innovation Greece” and the “4th Industrial Revolution” are two funding schemes introduced by the Hellenic Development Bank in order to assist SMEs with their digital development. 

eCommerce sales in Greece constantly grow and reached about $539 million in 2020. Despite that growth, eCommerce in Greece is less advanced than in other EU member States.  The main reason, in addition to the prolonged economic crisis, is that Greece has not captured the benefits of ICT adoption and falls below the EU average in many ICT indicators defined by the European Digital Agenda.  Based on the EU’s 2020 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) published by the European Commission, Greece ranked second lowest among the EU28 countries for its performance in the digital economy and society. Although, 2020 data show that 80.4% of households have access to the internet and over 50% of individuals have at least basic digital skills. Furthermore, even though internet usage has improved compared to previous years, Greece has still one of the lowest levels in the EU, compared to the EU average. Improvement in these areas, especially internet penetration, website customization and digitization of businesses, would lead to greater growth in eCommerce. 

Assessment of Current Buyer Behavior in Market

According to the latest data published by the Greek Electronic Commerce Association (GR.EC.A) the COVID-19 crisis measures exponentially increased the upward trend in online sales. In May 2020, growth rate generated by consumer spending was 107% higher than the 2019 figures.  The percentage of growth decelerated due to the end of the quarantine and the re-opening of physical stores although the COVID-19 crisis had positive effects on the country’s digital transformation. In prior years, online sales had a yearly growth rate of 15% while now that percentage is over 50%. A Nielsen research shows that 22% of Greek buyers purchased for the first time through an online supermarket during the pandemic quarantine. Pre-COVID, only 4% of shoppers would choose a new store, while now that amount reaches 26%.  This upward trend is also supported by investments announced by various key players who are looking into expanding their online marketplaces. A recent study by the Digital Transformation Observatory of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) shows that a company with an online presence has up to 20% more sales that a company with no presence.  According to the 2020 annual ICT report published by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) eCommerce has still room to grow since only 47% of the population shops online.  eCommerce revenue in Greece is mostly generated by the following categories: fashion (31%), electronics & media (25%), food & personal care (19%), toys, hobby & DIY (16%) and furniture & appliances (9%).

The economic crisis continues to impact on Greek consumers’ purchasing patterns and trends. Greek consumers research more than they buy online in comparison with the European average. The COVID crisis changed the mentality of the Greek consumer, with more than 60% preferring online shopping than in store shopping and 49% of them mentioning they will continue online shopping even after the COVID situation has been stabilized.  Online shopping behavior is mainly driven by online market research, price comparison, and by the significant increase of online banking mainly due to capital controls.  Greek online buyers make more than 65% of their total physical purchases after they first search online in search engines and / or price comparison services. This justifies the significant amounts spent by brands on digital promotion to attract them to their physical network.

At the same time, Greek online consumers make 25% of their online purchases after having visited the physical store first. This ‘show-rooming’ is worth noting and justifies the emergence in 2017 of large-scale initiatives to upgrade the consumer experience in stores through digital technologies and mobile applications.  Factors that increase likelihood of purchase are free delivery (74%), coupons & discounts (55%), smooth checkout process (48%), reviews from other customers (47%), loyalty points (42%) and more. Ages 16-64 seem to purchase equally with the higher percentages found in ages 35-44, while the e-consumers can be found in high, medium and low income and they spend an average of 6 minutes online every day. Most of this time is spent on social media and broadcast TV, which is important since 40% of consumers search for products through social media platforms, something that correlates with the increase in customized online marketing ads found in Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest personal profiles. The Greek consumer is price sensitive, with more than 70% spending time researching for best price and only 37% are brand loyal. While more than 90% of consumers have searched for a product and service online, 77% of them have purchased from the website and the others have visited the store. Product brochures are still popular in Greece, especially in the ages of 55-64 where more than 50% have found products they like, while this percent decreases as ages decrease. Consumers proceed with an online purchase after they have received newsletter from a store (52%), seen website ads (33%), received mobile updates (31%), seen search engine ads (19%), seen Facebook ads (16%) and seen YouTube ads (13%). 

A basic factor which diverts consumers from purchasing online is the quality and cost of delivery services, since only 38% are satisfied. This is also a concern for businesses such as the biggest toy store and megamarket for baby items, seasonal items, decoration items and stationery in Greece, Jumbo, referring to the supply chain and delivery services in Greece as costly and chaotic. Jumbo’s online store during Christmas 2020 was closed for weeks, since they could not restock and satisfy the online demand, especially during the time when physical stores were closed. Skroutz is another popular e-Commerce platform in Greece, where various small stores can include their products. Most consumers use Skroutz for market research as well as identifying products and compare prices. In 2020, Skroutz’s turnover was increased by 95,42%. Greece does not have an Amazon dedicated to the Greek marketplace, but it does have smaller size marketplaces that are mostly targeting electronics. e-shops with the higher sales in Greece include: Kotsovolos.gr, Zara.com/gr, e-shop.gr, plaisio.gr, e-Jumbo.gr, with toys-shops.gr being a fast-growing new entry and Public.gr mainly focusing on books but also building on creating a Greek marketplace for electronics and appliances.

Domestic eCommerce (B2C) 

Business-to-consumer (B2C) electronic commerce in 2020 noted a 77% rate growth, making it the first in Europe. Domestic sources are preferred since 93.1% of internet shoppers use Greek e-shops, a 7.4% increase from 2019. Only one in ten consumers buys directly by clicking an ad and 57% of consumers mentioned that they would be reluctant to purchase by a website that is not offered in their language. The number one reason that drives consumers into choosing where and what to purchase is the price. 25% of consumers mentioned that they do not buy cross border since shipping costs increase the final price of the item and 24% mentioned that they are concerned about fees required for customs clearance. Sellers who clearly mention shipping and custom costs when calculating the final price are more likely to attract online buyers, especially if they have innovative products, not provided in the local market. 

 Top online shopping categories in 2020 were: clothing (including sports clothing) (65%), computers, tablets, mobile phones or their accessories (printers, cables, cases, headphones, etc.) (30.4%), computer software or other devices, including their upgrades (6.4%), accommodation reached a 6%, a decrease of 68.3% from 2019 data, clearly based on the travel ban and the COVID quarantine.

Cross-Border eCommerce 

Cross-border commerce SME turnover in Greece accounts to 4%. Estimates show that around 7,000 companies in Greece, both local and foreign, offer their products online. Greek customers prefer to buy from US, UK, Chinese, and German sellers. In 2019, 15% of internet users ordered from other EU countries. 

Despite the rapid growth of eCommerce, most businesses in Greece do not yet make the most out of the cross-border eCommerce potential. Currently, only 24% of Greek businesses offer their goods abroad via ecommerce, and ship products mostly to the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, and Italy.  Nevertheless, the cross-border trade is constantly growing as an increasing number of Greek traders are selling abroad and expand their business at international level, while many European marketplaces and stores are expanding to offering delivery in the E.U. or even worldwide.

Online Payment 

For the period 2014-2017 the use of digital services more than tripled, due to capital controls and the 4446/2016 law. Debit and credit cards became the preferred payment method and due to tax incentives promoting the use of plastic money and emerging Fin-tech companies, they are expected to remain at the top. According to latest data from the Bank of Greece, card payments in 2020 amounted to $1.3 billion from $1.1 billion in 2019, with 89% of those being debit cards payments. Debit cards remain the most popular means of payment (64%), followed by Cash on Delivery (54%), credit cards (37%) and PayPal (33%).  Another reason debit and credit cards are the main mean of payment is because cash-on-delivery is starting to decrease. Only 36% of consumers mentioned cash-on-delivery would increase the likelihood of purchasing online. The main reason is that it’s not an option available to the consumer when purchasing from foreign marketplaces and Greek sellers are slowly moving away from cash-on-delivery since they face many order cancelations. This may not be ideal for consumers who take into consideration security issues and online fraud. Security problems on the web have increased globally, although only 16.8% of Greek consumers mentioned they have faced security issues with just 0.8% having faced fraudulent use of their credit or debit card.

Mobile eCommerce 

Accessing the internet away from home or work has seen a steady increase through the years. In the first quarter of 2020, 88.9% of internet users accessed the internet using a mobile device resulting to almost a 10% increase compared to 2019 figures. 94.6% of users access the internet through their mobile or smart phone, 33.1% though a portable PC, 20.2% use a tablet and 1.6% another portable device, such as a smart watch, a media player etc. Online buyers use their mobile as a basic device for their commercial digital transactions, such as the use of search applications to locate offers (93%) and price searches while in the physical store (65%), although only 20% of the final purchases are made through a mobile device. 

Local eCommerce Sales Rules & Regulations

For businesses already established in the EU eCommerce environment, there are no licensing requirements. For those not operating in the EU, a license is required, while in order to operate in Greece the company needs to register at the Greek Business Registry, which is supervised by the Ministry of Finance. Online sales are regulated by the European Union Directive on eCommerce 2000/31/EK. Since the directive does not cover all aspects of the eCommerce relationship from seller to buyer, all other aspects are regulated by the Greek Civil Code, and the legislation for protection of consumers. The Greek e-Commerce Association (GRECA) has published all relative regulations pertaining Greek eCommerce in their website.

The e-Commerce Directive 2000/31/EC has created the basic legal framework for online services, including eCommerce in the Internal Market. The purpose of the Directive is to remove obstacles to cross-border online services in the European Union and provide legal certainty to business and citizens in cross-border online transactions. The Directive establishes harmonized rules on issues such as the transparency and information requirements for online service providers, commercial communications, electronic contracts, and limitations of liability of intermediary service providers. It also enhances administrative cooperation between the Member States and the role of self-regulation. 

In, July 1st, 2021 the new VAT rules for e-Commerce were introduced in the E.U. The biggest change introduced was that orders valued less than $175 would not go through customs since all charges would have to be included in the price and paid by the companies directly to the respective countries. More details on the new VAT rules can be found on the European Commission website.

Conferences

eCommerce & Digital Marketing Conference, November 6-7, 2021, Thessaloniki 

eCommerce & Digital Marketing Conference, March 19-20, 2022, Athens

eCommerce Conference 2022 by Marketing Week, April 14-15, 2022, Athens 

The eCommerce Innovation Lab (EIL) is a national office within the U.S. Field that positions the U.S. Commercial Service as a pacesetting resource for U.S. businesses through empowering client-facing staff with a baseline understanding of digital trade, enabling quicker response to client needs by providing value-added digital client counseling. This helps ITA to adapt alongside industry in remaining ahead of the curve on client service, trade promotion, and trade policy development through more knowledgeable and effective collaboration.

EIL has created a U.S. Field-based client digital strategy counseling process that focuses on these key concepts:

  • eCommerce is a sales channel crossing all industries that sell or promote brand awareness online. eCommerce as a sales channel is part of a businesses’ B2B and/or B2C digital strategy.
  • A digital strategy addresses the basic needs of a business required to succeed in cross-border ecommerce sales channels. Our counseling process focuses on identifying these needs.
  • eCommerce Key Performance Indicators allows businesses to understand where their digital efforts are paying off.
  • eCommerce Business Service Provider Directory (BSP) provides much needed follow-up to our digital strategy recommendations that will help the client to succeed in overseas markets.

Commercial Assistant: Irini.Karajani@trade.gov