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Scandinavian e-commerce: Your guide to succeeding in the Nordic countries

Norway, Sweden and Denmark are the only three Scandinavian countries. However, when people think about Scandinavia, they usually assume that other countries, such as Finland or Iceland, are also in that region. All these countries together are referred to as the Nordic countries. 

Leaving geographical accuracies behind, e-commerce in the Nordic region is dominated by Norway, Sweden and Denmark (the three Scandinavian countries!) and Finland. Nordic online shoppers are digitally mature, and around 9 in 10 Nordic consumers regularly shop online. 

In this guide, we will look at the characteristics of online shoppers in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland to help you make your international expansion successful. 

E-commerce revenue in the Nordic countries 

The Nordic countries are among the richest countries in the world measured by GDP per capita. In 2021, e-commerce revenue amounted to over 22 billion euros in Sweden. Second in the ranking were Norwegians with a total revenue of about 17 billion euros, followed by the Danish with a total revenue of 14.48 billion euros and the Finnish with a total revenue of about 13 billion euros. 

Swedish online shoppers have traditionally been the biggest spenders in the Nordic region and they were the Nordic citizens who spent most on e-commerce purchases in 2021.

Statista Market Outlook forecasts that the total e-commerce revenue in the region will continue to grow thanks to an increasing number of people embracing online shopping and the bigger interest in the traditionally small segments of groceries, home furnishings, dietary supplements, medication and pharmaceuticals. 

Top product categories for online purchases 

Clothing and footwear is the biggest product category in the Nordic e-commerce market, followed by home electronics and cosmetics.

Food is still a relatively small segment but considering the general change in consumer shopping behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic, which saw an increasing number of people shopping for groceries online, this segment is expected to grow in the future. 

Top product categories online in the Nordics in 2021

Top product categories online in the Nordics in 2021

Most popular marketplaces in the Nordic region 

Nordics and Scandinavians have traditionally preferred shopping from native e-commerce platforms, but an increasing number of consumers are buying from other countries including Germany and the United Kingdom. With already well-established international players like Zalando, Wish and Amazon now established in Sweden, “cross-border” e-commerce is expected to grow.  

Zalando 

screenshot of Zalando Sweden homepage

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The German-based marketplace Zalando has grown to become Europe’s leading e-commerce fashion outlet in 17 countries. With fashion as the biggest shopping category in the Nordic countries, Zalando is the favourite marketplace for clothes, footwear and accessories in the region.  

Nordic consumers, especially Swedish ones, are incredibly digitally savvy which makes Sweden the perfect test market both for online and more sophisticated services.

Kenneth Melchior, Former Director Northern Europe at Zalando

CDON 

screenshot of the marketplace cdon.se

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CDON is the largest online marketplace in the Nordic region with operations in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. The marketplace offers over 12 million products in different categories including books, music, home electronics and toys. 

In 2021, CDON had over 100 million visitors and 2 million active customers, with 1600 active merchants connected to their platform. 

Elgiganten 

screenshot of elgiganten.dk

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Elgiganten is a major player in consumer electronics in the Nordics. The most popular product categories include computers, home appliances, gaming and mobile. Elgiganten.se had 11.1 M visits in November 2022 according to Similarweb, demonstrating the importance of this e-commerce platform. 

Preferred payment methods 

In 2021, credit and debit cards were the preferred payment method for online shoppers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Card payment was followed in popularity by PayPal and other E-Payment Providers.

Interestingly, invoicing is a popular payment method for online purchases in all the Nordic countries, being the preferred payment method in Sweden, followed closely by card payment. 

Preferred payment methods in the Nordic countries

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Mobile methods of payment and contactless technology are also growing fast. The use of smartphones is widespread, and two in ten Danes used mobile payments for their online shopping in 2021 according to Statista Market Outlook.

Delivery and returns 

Free delivery as well as free returns are considered essential by many online shoppers in the Nordic countries. 

The vast majority of Nordic consumers prefer to have their goods delivered to their homes, with the exception of Finland, where most consumers are happy to collect their purchases from a parcel locker or a distribution hub. 

It is also worth mentioning that returns are quite common in the Nordic region, so it is important to describe your products accurately to minimize returns. 

Expected trust signals 

Entering the e-commerce market in the Nordic region can be challenging. Not trusting foreign websites and customer service not being offered in their native language are two big reasons for Nordic consumers not to shop at foreign web shops. Fortunately, e-commerce retailers can overcome these barriers by meeting the expectations of online shoppers

Communication in their native language

Even though Scandinavian consumers are able to understand and navigate a website in English-language, they prefer to make purchases in their own language. If a website is in the  language of the consumer, it will look and feel more familiar, increasing the trust in the e-retailer. 

It is therefore extremely important to translate e-commerce websites and marketplaces into the native language of each country you are selling to, taking into account elements such as currencies and sizing that also may require localisation

Simply put, consumers are less likely to shop on an e-commerce site that is available only in English. They will choose their native language over English on a website if given the choice. 

Paola Manca, Founder & Senior Consultant at Ampere Nordic

Reviews 

Online shoppers in the Nordic region love scrolling through product reviews before making a final decision. Customer reviews have become central to the online shopping experience because they help to build trust and drive sales. 

According to Trustpilot, over 70% of shoppers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This is why product reviews together with other elements such as FAQs and product descriptions are among the key aspects you need to localise on an e-commerce site

customer reviews showing global ratings

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Online support 

Customers may have questions at any point during the buying process, so it is important to offer a high standard of customer service in their native language using live chat, email support or telephone

Effective online support together with multiple payment options and free delivery and returns will help avoid cart abandonment. 

Are you ready to enter the Scandinavian market? 

At Ampere Translations, we can support you to develop and implement an effective multilingual strategy in the Nordic languages. We will work with you to:

  • develop key objectives
  • identify markets
  • consider the opportunities of each language
  • define your requirements for successful localisation

Contact us today to discuss your needs.