Serbia - 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: 2022-01-25

The legal framework for eCommerce in Serbia has significantly improved. The Law on Electronic Documents, Electronic Identification, and Trusted Services in Electronic Business was adopted in November 2017. The Law introduced new trusted services (qualified electronic delivery, qualified electronic storage, qualified electronic seal) and upgrade of existing ones (cloud-based qualified electronic signature).

The amendments of the Law on Postal Service enacted in 2019, introduced new obligations for postal service providers to identify senders and receivers of packages. This aids the fight against illegal online traders and will help in engendering trust in eCommerce and lowering user resistance.

In 2019, the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications (MTTT) enacted a new Law on Trade and amendments to the Law on eCommerce.  The new legislation regulates online B2C sale in detail, precisely defines web-shops and eCommerce platforms, enables innovative pricing models, identifies eCommerce business models (like drop-shipping), recognizes initiatives for increasing trust in eCommerce (eCommerce trust-mark programs), clearly defines legal obligations of e-traders, introduces more efficient instruments for market inspection, addresses illegal electronic commerce, and improves facilitation of electronic commerce (such as through “mystery shoppers”), etc.

Overview

eCommerce in Serbia doubled during the Coronavirus pandemic, reaching a 200 percent increase in some areas. Online sales of food recorded growth of more than 200 percent, and sales of clothing and footwear grew by 100 percent, and technical devices by 50 percent. According to the Statistical Office of Serbia, in 2020 income from eCommerce in Serbia was 395 million euros, with 3.3 million customers on the Internet.  The largest number of customers bought clothes and sports products (52 percent) and sports equipment (26 percent), 20 percent bought home appliances, slightly smaller number bought computers, tablets, but also furniture and toys. More than eight percent of customers ordered food from restaurants online.

Current Market Trends

Consumer spending in 2020 and early 2021 improved, and growth is projected to continue at above EU-average levels through the end of 2022. In 2020, the National Bank of Serbia recorded the increase of total online purchases by 33.7 percent amounting to over $160 million. However, household spending on non-food goods and services is unlikely to grow significantly beyond this period as relatively low projected long-term GDP growth will prevent consumers from shifting their spending to more non-essential items.

The most popular products purchased online are clothing and sporting goods (52%); household goods (20%); electronic equipment (19%); computer equipment (19%); games and accessories (12%); passenger arrivals – transport (8.5%); holiday accommodation (7.9%); pharmaceutical products (6.6%); tickets for cultural events (4.7%); and books, newspapers, magazines (2%).

Cross-border eCommerce

In 2020, there were about 6 million purchases of goods and services made with foreign-issued credit cards.  Of that, about 3.2 million purchases were made in euros, 2.6 million in dollars, and almost 162,000 in other foreign currencies. In addition, 14.1 million transactions were made within Serbia. For the first time in 2020, the number of domestic transactions (in dinars), was higher than foreign purchases.   

Logistics

The national postal service, Posta Srbije, in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance - Customs Administration, created two new services for its users – PostExport and PostPak – to facilitate the export of goods and to create better conditions for cross-border eCommerce development. In addition, there are several private logistics service providers. However, the overall satisfaction level is not high.

B2B eCommerce

An estimated 20 percent of Serbian enterprises are active in eCommerce, and 42 percent of companies order products and services online, according to a 2018 survey. In 2019, this trend increased by an estimated 1 percent. There are no data available for 2020/2021.

The Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) has created an eCommerce platform (in Serbian) containing a database of products with detailed information and a product comparison table. The service will enable quick and easy transactions and trading operations while reducing costs to businesspeople and companies.

eCommerce Services

Serbia has a sound ICT infrastructure and many innovative startups, as well as talented programmers and designers. Sufficient high-quality service providers exist to support further development of eCommerce.  

eCommerce Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

While Serbia is not yet an EU member, it is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and has some effective enforcement instruments in the field of IPR protection.

The Serbian Customs Administration inspects packages arriving from foreign online retailers and holds IPR-infringing goods. To protect consumers from fake drugs sold over the internet, the government has prohibited the online sale of medications that are available only by prescription in Serbia. 

Popular eCommerce Sites

Amazon (.uk or .de), eBay, and Alibaba are the most popular sites in Serbia, along with locally developed platforms: eKupi.rs, Tako lako; Shoper; Shopster; NonStopShop.rs; and www.kupujemprodajem.com.

There is also a search engine for e-commerce stores in Serbia (Shopmania), although nearly every store is only in Serbian. Tehnomanija, WinWin and Gigatron are among the biggest electronics web-shops, but are likewise only in Serbian.

Consumer Protection Platforms

The following platforms set up by the Ministry of Trade, Tourism, and Telecommunications are intended to educate consumers and include legal advice and important information for consumers: https://pametnoibezbedno.gov.rs/ and https://www.zastitapotrosaca.gov.rs/.

Online Payment

The most-used payment methods are credit cards and PayPal. However, many consumers still prefer to use direct bank transfers to pay for online orders.

Mobile eCommerce

Serbia is the 75th largest market for eCommerce, with a revenue of $485 million in 2020. With an increase of 31%, the Serbian eCommerce market exceeded the worldwide growth rate of 29% in 2020. The biggest player in the Serbian eCommerce Market is Gigatron. The store had a revenue of $34 million in 2020. It is followed by Apoteka Srbotrade, with $16 million in revenue, and Zara with $14 million in revenue. Altogether, the top three stores account for 15 percent of online revenue in Serbia. Market expansion is expected to continue over the next few years, as indicated by the Statista Digital Market Outlook. It has been predicted that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR 20-24) for the next four years will be 8 percent. Compared to the year-over-year growth of 31 percent, this decrease suggests a moderately flooded market. Another indicator of market saturation is the online penetration of 35 percent in Serbia; in other words, 35 percent of the Serbian population bought at least one product online in 2020. 

Digital Marketing

Total marketing spending in Serbia has risen in recent years, as advertisers steadily invest more in digital and television advertising. Television is still the highest market spend, accounting for $103 million, but internet advertising is second ($24 million) and rising. 

Major Buying Holidays

The major consumer “buying holidays” in Serbia are New Years’, Orthodox Christmas, and Orthodox Easter. Because of the start of the traditional summer holiday period, the end of June and beginning of July are also popular among shoppers. 

Social Media

Most internet users (more than 60 percent) in Serbia use the internet for social media. Over 3.2 million are active social network users, thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, which are the leading social networks. Younger Facebook users use the platform as a source of information, while older users tend to use it for personal or other communication. Twitter is used mostly by politicians and journalists. LinkedIn is the fifth most popular social media platform, largely used by businesspeople. U.S.-based Tagger, recently entered the Serbian market and has become one of the major players in the social media advertising.