The e-commerce market in Poland experienced exceptional growth during the pandemic time. The unprecedented switch to remote working greatly increased Poland’s digital skillset, and restrictions on the ability to conduct in-person shopping further bolstered a change in Poland’s consumer habits. The situation stimulated buyer’s interest, which in turn accelerated the development of new e-commerce initiatives, especially enhancing the focus on customers service and automation of processes, including application of artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR).
In 2021, e-commerce reached a total value of $28.9 billion, including $16.25 billion in products (56%) and $16.25 billion in services (44%). The first signs of economic slowdown and high inflation have started to affect the development of the e-commerce market. After double-digit growth for several years, e-commerce growth is expected to slow down to approximately 7% in the next four years to reach $42.3 billion in 2026. While in 2020, Poland’s online sales totaled 14% of all retail sales, still significantly lower than the EU average, after shopping centers reopened in 2021, online sales declined to 9.5% and only started to regain the strength later in the year. However, by 2026, e-commerce is expected to account for 20% of all retail sales in Poland.
The B2B e-commerce segment also experienced dynamic growth and reached $90 billion. In Poland, 84% of companies sell online, although they represent varied, sometimes quite low technical levels and 80% of these companies generated less than 10% turnover through their online sales.
Assessment of Current Buyer Behavior in Market
The main drivers for online shopping remain unchanged: 24/7 access, convenient payment and delivery options, and returns. In addition to increased interest in e-commerce due to the pandemic, online shops continue to benefit from Poland’s retail shopping being severely restricted on Sundays. The peak of online shopping is in November and December for the Christmas holiday.
According to the Polish Statistical Office, 92.4% of all households, and 99.5% of households with children, had internet access in 2021. For the first time, mobile broadband access outnumbered the fixed access, with 72% households using mobile and 68.8% used fixed broadband access. Approximately 84% of Polish internet users shop online, which is still below the EU average of over 90%.
The most active group of buyers reside in large cities or villages and are 29-49 years old. More than 70% of Polish buyers use price-comparison services, such Ceneo, owned by Allegro. Most buyers usually cross-search offers in marketplaces, shops and on social media before making a purchase. Polish buyers are very price sensitives and increasingly use the “buy now pay later” option. The average e-consumer spends an equivalent of $80 a month. Polish e-consumers appreciate local e-commerce solutions, such as Allegro and local shops, and the majority of online shopping is still done locally. Cross-border online shopping currently accounts for 30% of all transactions and continues to grow. Poles mostly look for products unavailable locally or which can be bought at better prices.
The most popular categories of online purchases are clothing and shoes, representing some 44% of all e-commerce sales. Other popular categories included cosmetics, including haircare and skincare products, home electronics, media, and furniture. The fastest growing segments of the e-commerce market are grocery sales, which amounted to $520 million in 2021, although this has somewhat slowed since the pandemic restrictions were loosened.
Pandemic restrictions in 2020-2021 resulted in increased development of film and television streaming services, video games, e-books, music as well as home delivery services from restaurants and convenience shops. At the same time the demand for transportation/mobility services dramatically decreased and started to recover only in the first months of 2022. Value-wise, while a single purchase model slightly prevails over the subscription one, it accounts for two-thirds of all services purchased on-line.
Delivery preferences are parcel lockers, which are the cheapest delivery option, and courier services. In addition to parcel lockers, e-commerce platforms often offer drop off/pick-up parcel services at shops and retail stores.
Poland’s preferred payment methods are fast transfer through payment services, including the mobile BLIK payments (36%), cards payments (29%), e-wallet (15%). Cash-on-delivery (COD) payments, rarely used in Europe, account to 10% of e-commerce transactions.
Local eCommerce Sales Rules & Regulations
There are no barriers to conducting electronic commerce activities in Poland, but American companies should consider the EU’s strict personal data protection regulations and tax issues. Polish regulations are based on the European Union e-commerce rules.
The Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) proposed by the EU Commission in December 2020 were politically approved by the EU on March 25 and April 23, 2022 respectively and are yet to be formally adopted by the EU co-legislators. These regulations aim to create a safer and more open digital space for all users and ensures a level playing field for businesses. DMA regulates large online platforms acting as “gatekeepers” in digital markets while DSA address changes, particularly in relation to online intermediaries, such as online marketplaces, social networks, content-sharing platforms, app stores as well as online travel and accommodation platforms.
Poland has yet to finalize implementation regulations for the EU Omnibus Directive which came into force in May 2022, aiming to end unfair promotions or false reviews.
Poland has already adopted some of EECC (EU Electronic Communications Code) provisions. The final act implementing the law is still in the legislative process and it is expected to enter into force in 2023. Poland is among 10 EU countries that the EU Commission has taken actions against for not fully incorporating the EECC into local regulations.
The VAT e-commerce package for online sales of goods and services entered into force on July 1, 2021, tightening the tax system. It eliminated the VAT and custom duty exemption for shipments valued below €22 and introduced the Import One Stop Shop (IOSS) procedure for processing VAT payments for packages not exceeding €150 in value. Non-EU sellers, including e-commerce platform acting as intermediaries, are now responsible for collecting VAT and reporting it to EU authorities. This can be done by the established entity in the EU or through appointing a representative responsible for VAT processing in any EU country. For sales exceeding €10,000 s to non-VAT registered EU buyers, the seller must collect VAT for all deliveries to EU countries.
Local eCommerce Business Service Provider Ecosystem
There were 53,000 registered e-commerce stores in 2021; this number is expected to reach 55,000 in 2022. Interestingly, in the first half of 2022, 19.6K businesses registered e-commerce as additional activity to their core business, while 120,000 did so in 2021. The majority of new-to-e-commerce businesses were retail shops, especially grocery stores. There are a total of 250,000 businesses selling online.
The trend to establish omnichannel rapidly accelerated during the pandemic in an attempt to gain customer loyalty. A common practice is to combine sales thru online stores, marketplaces, and on social media, especially Facebook, Instagram and TikTok with brick-and-mortar operations which increasingly perform the role of showrooms. E-commerce providers constantly enhance customer service, developing a personalized approach to customers, often with the use of AI solutions, and focus on improving and streamlining product delivery options.
The most popular e-commerce online shop and marketplace in Poland, in all product categories, is Allegro, with more than 30% of the market share and 20.4 million users. On its platform, Allegro currently hosts over 100,000 business sellers and offers its own retail lines. Since 2021, Allegro has been expanding its B2B operations, offering corporate customer discounts, rebates for large orders, and deferred payment terms. Allegro has been also building its base of international suppliers, although the offered support does not include VAT-related services. Instead, Allegro recommends outside service providers to handle these services. In early 2022, Allegro launched its international service tasking EU customers, which might also be attractive to U.S. suppliers.
With 10.46 million users in 2021, AliExpress (an online retail service owned by the Alibaba Group) is the second most popular e-commerce platform in Poland, although it lost some of its appeal after the enforcement of e-commerce package in 2021. For years, buyers accepted long delivery terms and a lack of accountability for transactions because the products, usually shipped as low-cost, not taxable purchases, were exceptionally cheap. In 2021, AliExpress launched its fully functional Polish website and built its first logistics center in Poland.
Amazon launched its long-expected, fully functional Polish platform Amazon.pl in March 2021. The company focuses on developing a base of local sellers, both for the internal market in Poland and for international markets. Their logistics support for sellers is seen as Amazon’s strongest competitive advantage. In October 2021, the company launched its Prime Service in Poland, which challenges other suppliers and is seen as a path to accelerate the development of its customer base. So far, the number users of Amazon platform has been growing organically. With approximately 7,000 users in the first quarter of 2022, Amazon has yet to advance to the top ten largest e-commerce platforms in Poland.
The competitive e-commerce landscape of marketplaces is likely to evolve in 2022 and the next few years. Singaporean Shopee entered Poland in autumn 2021, launching its shopee.pl, and Polish company Comarch plans to launch a new platform in late 2022.
In general, smaller e-commerce platforms in Poland are eager to work with foreign suppliers and sell their products online. Nevertheless, many limit their suppliers to European sources, especially after the new e-commerce rules were introduced on July 1, 2021. Small companies have limited experience in dealing with suppliers from the United States and usually provide limited logistic support, if any.
Approximately 30% of Poland’s e-commerce companies outsource their logistical operations. In addition to large international logistic companies, there are many local specialized providers serving the e-commerce market, including consulting, logistics, digital marketing, and other e-commerce-related services. A list of business service providers is available on request.
Useful contacts in Poland:
- Digital Affairs – Chancellery of the Prime Minister
- Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, Digital Economy Department
- Chamber of Electronic Economy
- Ministry of Finance, Tax Administration
Local events in Poland: eTrade Show, E-Commerce Fair
For updated information on events, please check events’ websites or contact: email@example.com.