Describes how widely e-Commerce is used, the primary sectors that sell through e-commerce, and how much product/service in each sector is sold through e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar retail. Includes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and , reputable, prominent B2B websites.
Last Published: 6/28/2019
In 2018, Belgians purchase online over $11 billion of goods and services; this is up 29% since 2015, and 6% since 2017.  Goods ($5 billion) included for the most part clothing and consumer electronics.  Services ($6 billion) included transportation, entertainment tickets and travel lodging.  The recreation sector showed the most growth at 11%.  Media and entertainment make for the largest share of online purchases at 46%.  Clothing and apparel make up for the highest turnover at $800 million.  In 2017, the period between November 11 and December 31, accounted for 25% of Belgium’s annual eCommerce turnover; this is up from 14% in 2015.

These figures are the result of early internet infrastructure development, e-commerce is freely accessible in Belgium.  High levels of broadband and cable access for high-speed internet are readily available in Belgium.  In 2016, Belgium ranked sixth -in broadband (34.22 Mbps average) penetration rate in the European Union at 34.1%, with 78% of Belgians using the internet at least once a week.  In 2016, 44% of Belgians accessed the internet via a mobile device; this is well above the EU average of 37%.  Belgium’s overall internet penetration is at 83% surpassing the European Union’s 73%.  

The most popular activity is internet banking at 73%.  However, only 64% of Belgian consumers have purchased goods or services online, ranking far behind Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden’s 70%.  Social media is equally strong with over 50% of Belgian’s population (independently of age) having an active Facebook account.  Approximately 23% of Belgian companies are engaged in e-commerce, which is significantly higher than the EU average of 14%.  However, only 13% of Belgian SMEs (to the EU average of 7.5%) sell beyond the country’s borders into other European countries.

The need to tailor offerings according to local laws, culture, and in two languages (French and Dutch), combined with a small population, make Belgium a somewhat more difficult market for those entering the EU e-commerce division. 

In February 2008, eBay introduced a system to allow users in Belgium to register using an electronic identity card instead of a credit card.  Using this government-issued electronic identity card, known as eID, provides greater proof of identity and security in exchange of electronic data.  Such increased security provides for greater trust in the e-commerce market and may offer a boost in attractiveness.

Although in the past the Belgian government has lagged in providing online public services, it is catching up and now offers tax filings online.  In addition, the Belgian government is updating its electronic procurement structure and public tenders can now be submitted online.  It is expected to soon launch its completed online-procurement system for purchasing goods from approved suppliers.  In 2016, 39% of Belgian citizens made use of the internet for eGovernment services and 29% sent in online forms.  These rates are above EU averages of 32% and 22% respectively.  Despite its good overall ranking, Belgium still has potential to improve its online public services.

For information on electronic commerce in the EU please consult the Commerce Department’s Country Commercial Guide on the European Union: EU Country Commercial Guide, chapter 3 “Selling U.S. Products and Services”, section on “Electronic Commerce”.

Alternatively, search the Commerce Department’s Market Research Library, available from: Market Research, Find Market Intelligence | | under Country and Industry Market Reports.”

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Belgium eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce