Voice of the Industry

Nordics – overview of key ecommerce insights and trends

Thursday 24 August 2023 13:48 CET | Editor: Raluca Ochiana | Voice of the industry

This is a snapshot of the insights that matter most when measuring the size and type of opportunities in the ecommerce market in the Nordics.


The Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden – as well as the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland all have their own particularities, but together they form one of the world’s most prosperous regions.

In this article, which was first published in ‘eCommerce Insights and Trends Snapshot: Nordics’, an eBook produced in association with our partner ACI Worldwide, we will analyse the local payments and ecommerce space by having a closer look at the main trends and developments in how people shop and pay online in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

Online shopping behaviour and preferences

Consumers in the Nordics are early adopters when it comes to technology, and despite being inhabitants of four different countries, with distinct cultures and languages, their shopping preferences are relatively homogeneous. They prefer buying from local retailers, especially from Sweden, which is the home of globally known brands such as Spotify, Ikea, H&M, or Electrolux. However, when Nordic consumers do buy from other online shops outside the region, they are persuaded to do so mainly by lower prices and wider ranges of products.

One similarity in terms of consumers’ behaviour between the Nordic countries is that the Germany-based retailer Zalando is the number one marketplace for clothing and footwear. In 2020, Amazon (which is one of the preferred marketplaces of Southern European shoppers) unveiled its first Nordic online store in Sweden, but its launch drew criticism from Swedish shoppers for mistranslating product descriptions and using the wrong national flag on the site. Therefore, it is vital for international merchants to tailor the online shopping experience in order to meet local expectations.

The top product categories among online shoppers in the region are clothing and footwear, home electronics, and pharmacy products – with books, cosmetics and skincare, and groceries also among the products that are most commonly bought online.

Ecommerce reach and revenues

There is a high internet penetration in the region (Norway 99%, Sweden 98%, Denmark 98%, Finland 97%), and shopping online is common practice. As ecommerce companies have been generating higher revenues in the last years globally, the same trend has been noticed in the Nordic countries, where the online sales of Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish companies accounted for approximately one-fourth of their total revenues.

In 2021, Sweden had the highest ecommerce reach of the four Nordic countries analysed: 96% of the population shopped online. Still, ecommerce revenues continue to increase, and today the four countries represent attractive markets for online retailers, as there’s still room for growth.

Cross-border shopping in the Nordics

Cross-border ecommerce in the Nordic countries is on the rise. According to PostNord’s report, in 2020, 4 million consumers made cross-border online purchases in Finland, 5.9 million in Sweden, 3.4 million in Denmark, and 3.4 in Norway – and it’s worth noting that the UK, Sweden, and China are among the top cross-border origin markets for all the Nordic countries.

The local payments space

Account-to-account payments, together with credit and debit cards, represent the preferred payment methods among Nordic online shoppers, according to Global Data. It’s noteworthy, however, that in Sweden, it is common practice to pay for a product after receiving the invoice, whereas in Finland, in recent years, online banking and, implicitly, bank transfers gained a lot of ground, taking up 28.1% of the payment methods breakdown in the country in 2021. Recently, mobile applications, often provided by local banking partnerships, have gained a lot of ground, and it is likely that this type of payment will continue to grow in the future

Logistics, refunds, and return policies 

Delivery methods and preferences

Consumers in the Nordic region have clear preferences when it comes to how they want to have their online purchases delivered to them. In Sweden and Norway, the first option of online shoppers is delivery to their own mailbox or a multi-occupancy mailbox by the mail carrier, followed by the option of collecting the products themselves from a distribution point, and home delivery or delivery outside the door without signature requirement.

For Danish consumers, the preferred delivery option is home delivery with signature requirement, closely followed by delivery outside the door without signature requirement. In this respect, Finnish consumers stand out due to an increased awareness of sustainability-related challenges, as they are the only ones in the Nordic region who prefer to collect the products themselves from a parcel machine/locker. What’s more, in Finland, the government is working to ensure that the country is carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative soon after that. Most likely, this initiative will further impact shopping behaviour and delivery preferences.

Consumers in the Nordics don’t consider fast deliveries extremely important. According to PostNord, most of them (more than 60%) expect the products bought online to be delivered in 3 to 5 days, and more than 16% expect this to happen in 6 days or more. The most important characteristics, however, regarding delivery when ordering a product online are the cost of the delivery (for more than 53% of Nordic shoppers) and being able to choose the place for the delivery (for more than 41% of consumers in the Nordics).

The undisputed front-runner in ecommerce logistics in the Nordic countries is PostNord. The logistics company invests heavily in parcel boxes in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, aiming to have more than 12,500 units in the region before the end of 2022.

Refunds and return policies

EU rules govern refunds and return policies for ecommerce merchants in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. These stipulate that traders must repair, replace, reduce the price, or offer a refund to customers if the goods bought turn out to be faulty or do not look or work as advertised.

Additionally, if one buys a product or a service online or outside of a shop (by telephone, mail order, and so on), they have the right to cancel and return the order within 14 days, for any reason and without providing a justification (exemptions include products such as perishable goods and drinks, personalised items, and digital goods).

Across the EU, traders must provide a refund (including shipping) within 14 days of receiving a shopper’s cancellation request, but they can delay the process if they haven’t received the goods or evidence that they have been returned.

However, as Norway is the only Nordic country analysed by us that is not part of the European Union, the refunds and return policies might differ here. According to Forbrukerrådet, the Consumer Council of Norway, customers may cancel a purchase if it was made online or by telephone (and the vendor actively sells goods that way) or if it was made at home, in the street, or at a stall – and the purchase price exceeded NOK 300 (approximately EUR 30).

There is no need to provide a reason for cancelling a purchase. However, shoppers must cancel before the end of the cooling-off period, which typically lasts 14 days, starting on the day the product was received or on the day after the customer agreed to purchase a service.

This snapshot was first published in 2023 in ‘eCommerce Insights and Trends Snapshot: Nordics, an eBook produced by The Paypers in association with our partner ACI Worldwide – and based on data from ACI Worldwide. Download your free copy of the eBook here to gain access to a much more comprehensive analysis of the main trends and developments in the Nordic ecommerce market. 

About Raluca Constantinescu 

Raluca is Lead Editor at The Paypers, currently using her research skills to explore the latest trends and developments in the payments and ecommerce space, with a particular focus on cross-border payments, marketplaces and online platforms, and payment methods. She is responsible for various activities ranging from coordinating and creating the content strategy for large-scale, industry-specific reports and eBooks to analysing the hottest topics of today and discussing them with thought leaders. Connect with Raluca on LinkedIn.

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Keywords: ecommerce, online shopping, marketplace, account-to-account payment, local payment method, regulation
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce

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