Describes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and covers prominent B2B websites.
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 were prepared at the beginning of 2018, introducing 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 e-commerce and lowering user resistance.
The Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications (MTTT) enacted a new Law on Trade and amendments to the Law on E-commerce that came into force July 2019. These regulate online B2C sale in detail, precisely define web-shops and e-commerce platforms, enable innovative pricing models, identify e-commerce business models (like drop-shipping), recognize initiatives for raise of trust in e-commerce (e-commerce trust-mark programs), clearly define legal obligations of e-traders, introduce more efficient instruments for market inspection in order to deal better with illegal electronic commerce and further and better facilitate electronic commerce in Serbia (such as through “mystery shoppers”), etc.
In January 2019, MTTT set up a Multi-Stakeholder Working Group that includes representatives from different institutions and other relevant stakeholders. The group, which is supported by USAID’s Cooperation for Growth Project, is designing and implementing measures for strengthening e-commerce in Serbia.
E-commerce in Serbia has been steadily growing. According to MasterCard’s Master index 2019 report on pan-European e-commerce, 79% of the population uses at least one debit card, while 40% also use a credit card. In 2019, contactless payments increased by a record 97%. Food and gasoline are the most frequent purchases. While there are no exact figures on the value of e-commerce trade in Serbia, market research agencies estimate that the revenue in the eCommerce market will reach USD 370 million in 2020, followed by 10 percent annual growth for the next five years.
Current Market Trends
Consumer spending in 2019 and early 2020 improved, and growth is projected to continue at above EU-average levels through the end of 2022. In 2019, the National Bank of Serbia recorded total online purchases of over USD 123 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 (58.2%); household goods (27.1%); electronic equipment (20.1%); computer equipment (12.4%); 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%). Compared to the global online shopping preferences, where most online consumers buy books, movies, and video games (60%), in Serbia most users buy clothing and sports products (58.2%).
An estimated 75 percent of all transactions go to non-Serbian online vendors, largely from Germany, Italy, Russia, China, and Hungary. The Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) is becoming a platform for regional e-commerce cooperation. The CEFTA E-commerce Project will provide a detailed report on e-commerce measures in the region, including national and regional barriers, the impact/importance of e-commerce on intra-regional trade, and recommendations for strengthening trade and protecting consumers.
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 – in order to facilitate the export of goods and to create better conditions for cross-border e-commerce development. In addition, there are several private logistics service providers. However, overall satisfaction level is not high.
An estimated 20% of Serbian enterprises are active in e-commerce and 42% of companies ordered products and services online, according to a 2018 survey.
The Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) has created an e-commerce 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: http://www.pks.rs/Klik3mreza.aspx.
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 e-commerce.
E-commerce 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 E-commerce Sites
There is also a search engine for eCommerce stores in Serbia (Shopmania), although nearly every store is only in Serbian. Win Win 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: www.pametnoibezbedno.gov.rs and www.zastitapotrosaca.gov.rs.
The most-used payment methods are credit cards and PayPal. However, many consumers still prefer to use direct bank transfers for paying their online orders.
According to 2018 “Eshopworld” statistics, 89 percent of online shoppers in Serbia shop online via desktop; 4 percent of shoppers make purchases via smartphone, and 1 percent made most purchases via tablet. But the numbers for the latter two platforms are on the rise.
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 USD 103 million, but internet advertising is second (USD 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 traditional summer holidays period, the end of June and beginning of July are also popular among shoppers.
Most internet users (more than 60%) in Serbia use the internet for social media. Over 3.2 million people in Serbia 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.