A summary of eCommerce related information relating to Belgium. This information is from "Preparing Your Business for Global eCommerce" prepared by the U.S. Commercial Service for exporters.
Last Published: 7/17/2016

Overview

Belgium borders France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Germany. The Belgian government and the European Union are both seated in the capital, Brussels. The country is 11,787 square miles, and is densely populated with 11.2 million people.  As in the entire Benelux region, the euro is the primary currency. Belgium is a federal monarchy and federal parliamentary democracy.

Statistics

Capital:   Brussels Population: 11.2 million
GDP (USD): 434.503 billion (est. 2014)
Currency: Euro (EUR/€)
Languages: Dutch (Flemish),French
 

Market Entry

Popular E-Commerce Sites


Data specific to Belgium is not available; however, Marketing facts lists the region’s top e-commerce companies as
  • Ahold
  • RFS Holland Holding
  • Coolblue
  • thuisbezorgd.nl
  • BAS Group
  • KPN
  • H&M
  • Ticketmaster Nederland
  • HEMA 
     
The seven most-used web stores, according to E-commerce News (2014b),  are
  Only Zalando and H&M are foreign  companies.
 
Belgium also has a branch association called be-commerce.be. It has a quality mark for affiliated organizations, and it provides assistance and information for companies and customers. The quality marks are used to gain customers’ trust.
 
More foreign companies are active in Belgium than in the Netherlands because many Belgian retailers were relatively late to use e-commerce. German, French, and Dutch companies are the most important players for e-commerce in Belgium. Therefore, the Belgium market is more open to foreign companies than the Dutch. Both countries are strong in services such as warehousing and infrastructure (AT Kearney   2015).

 

Digital Advertising

Online advertising is outpacing published advertising. Online adverting can be seen everywhere. Most businesses use cookies for direct advertising and product placement on other websites; these ads appear on social media, search engines, web stores, and news websites.
 
The term programmatic media (also known as programmatic marketing or programmatic advertising) encompasses an array of technologies that automate the buying, placement, and optimization of media inventory, replacing human-based methods. In this process, supply and demand partners use automated systems and business rules to place advertisements in electronically targeted media  inventory.

  

Fulfillment Centers

Current Market Trends

In 2014, all trends indicated growth compared with 2013 and the years before: the amount of online spending (+31.7 percent), the number of buyers and orders (+2 percent), and revenue (+10 percent). Marketingfacts reports that these numbers are expected to  continue to increase.
 
In Belgium and the Netherlands, consumers reported that the eight top products they bought online in 2012 were clothing and footwear (38 percent), home electronics (28 percent), books (23 percent), cosmetics (13 percent), CDs (13 percent), films and DVDs (12 percent), children’s articles (11 percent), and home furnishings (9 percent) (PostNord   2014).

Social Media

Facebook, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter are among the most popular social media sites. Pinterest and Instagram are gaining popularity, especially for users between 15 and 39 years of age. Facebook usage decreases in this group (Oosterveer   2015). 

Online Payment

iDEAL is the most common way to pay. This payment method allows customers to buy products on the Internet using direct online transfers from their bank  account.
 
Credit cards, payment slips, and authorizations are the next most popular payment mechanisms. Remittances, PayPal, gift vouchers, PIN-debit transactions, cash, and others close the list (Marketingfacts n.d.).
  

Mobile E-Commerce

Data specific to Belgium is not available; regionally, however, 13 percent of   the total
 in the neighboring Netherlands were via m-commerce. Of USD 1.7 billion total spending on e-commerce during the last half of 2013, about USD 976 million was m-commerce. Of the transactions, 30 percent were conducted on smartphones (USD 270 million) and 70 percent were on tablets (USD 706 million). The number of people purchasing goods on their mobile devices increases every year (Thuiswinkel.org  2013).purchases made Ecommerce
 

Promotions and Discounts

Using a variety of promotions and discounts is successful. The most common and successful option is the promotional code. Also, weekly deals and daily deals appear to    be very effective. Free shipping and free returns are good services to provide to attract potential customers. Furthermore, offering an app for consumers’ smartphones or handheld devices that offers them extra discounts has helped to attract customers (Retail News 2015).

 

Current Demand

 Major Buying Holidays

  • Valentine’s Day (February 14)
  •  of May; Antwerp, August 15)(second Sunday Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day (second Sunday of June; Antwerp, March 19)
  • Sint-Maarten (November 11)
  • Sinterklaas (December 6) 
  •  25 and 26)Christmas (December)

 

Cross-Border E-Commerce

 
Although data specific to Belgium is lacking, regionally, some 2.8 million Dutch (20  percent) purchased goods from a foreign website in 2014; total cross-border spending was USD 519 billion (E-commerce News 2014a). The United States ranks fourth when it comes to cross-border spending in the Netherlands.
 

Challenges

The largest websites are not in English. However, addressing a target audience through advertising in English is possible in some ways. As the Kissmetrics blog   reports,
Countries like Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands score well on  the ability to speak English. That’s why many American e-commerce businesses decide to target these countries in English. However, it’s  also important to take national pride into consideration here, meaning that even Norwegian, Danish, and Dutch customers appreciate if you target them in their own language, resulting in better success  rates.
However, even if you decide to go for a local language, you should be    careful.
Both the Dutch and close to half of the Belgians (the Flemish) speak Dutch as a native language. But just like American English is different from British English, Dutch in the Netherlands differs from Dutch in Belgium. And, both the Dutch and the Flemish prefer to be addressed in their own   language.
In general terms, you should aim for local languages as much as possible. (Welink 2014)
 
 

Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Belgium eCommerce Industry eCommerce