July 9, 2012, 2:39 PM

European online shoppers remain hesitant to cross borders

43% of adults in the European Union buy online, a report says.

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The European Commission has released its annual Digital Agenda Scoreboard, which tracks the progress of technology adoption in the region, including online shopping. It says more consumers are buying online but few are purchasing from retailers outside their home countries.

The European Commission announced the Digital Agenda Europe (DAE) in 2010. It outlines 101 goals designed to expand the use of Internet technology in the European Union. The second edition of the scoreboard reports on the progress the EU made between June 2011 and May 2012.

Progress towards achieving the commission’s target of 50% of all EU adults buying online by 2015 is steady, with the percentage increasing to 43% in 2012 from 40% last year. The share of Internet users buying on the web edged up to 58% from 57%.

Among the main products sold online in Europe during the period were films, music, books, software; travel and accommodation; and clothing and sporting goods; those products were each purchased by more than half of consumers shopping online. However, the number of consumers buying software, magazines, music or films online decreased three percentage points to 57% from a peak in 2010 of 60%.

The report also notes that:

• Only 15% of businesses in the EU sell via the web, less than half the 2015 target of 33%.

• 45% of all consumers between 16 and 74 shopped online in Malta, up seven percentage points from a year earlier, making that country first in terms of online shopping growth. Greece and Lithuania jumped five percentage points each, up to 18% and 16%, respectively.

The report also says that growth in EU consumers buying from retailers outside their home countries increased to 9.6% in 2011, up from 8.8% in 2010 and 8.2% in 2009. Digital Agenda Europe has set a 2015 target of 20%.

Citizens of small countries are more likely to shop across borders if retailers market to them in their own or a similar language, the report notes. “National e-commerce strongly underpins cross-border e-commerce, with virtually nobody shopping across the border without shopping in his or her own country first,” the report says.

Countries with strong growth in online shopping across borders include Finland (increasing six percentage points to 28% of consumers) followed by Ireland, Belgium (up four percentage points each) and Malta, Austria, Estonia, Luxemburg and Sweden (each up three percentage points).

"There are still too many barriers for easy cross-border purchases," says Neelie Kroes, the European Commission vice president responsible for the Digital Agenda. "As many as 60% of attempted cross-border Internet shopping orders fail due to technical or legal reasons, such as the refusal of non-domestic credit cards. As long as we have a market with borders, there can be no true digital single market."

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