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Exploring E-Commerce in Southern Europe: Is Launching a Business Worthwhile? 

Southern Europe ranks second in e-commerce market volume, trailing behind leading Western European countries. However, the region holds greater potential for the expansion of online businesses. In this article, we will explore the fundamental statistics of the area, as well as the potential and distinctive features of the three largest countries: Italy, Spain, and Greece.

Key Findings

  1. The region holds the second position in B2C turnover within Europe, following closely behind Western Europe.
  2. The rising popularity of omnichannel approaches is evident, as consumers increasingly anticipate seamless integration between offline and online channels.
  3. The usage of mobile devices for sales traffic is on the rise, leading retailers to adjust their sales strategies to ensure a positive shopping experience on smartphones.
  4. The significance of social commerce is growing, with social media platforms directly integrating online shopping tools.
  5. Market leaders in the region include Amazon and Shein, with a combined total sales exceeding 6 billion dollars.

Comparison to Other European Regions

The region comprises several countries, namely Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.

Based on the 2022 report from the European Ecommerce Foundation, 89% of the Eastern European population utilizes the Internet, with 64% engaging in online purchases. These statistics represent average figures across European regions.

Number of Internet users and e-shoppers by European region
Number of Internet users and e-shoppers by European region

In 2022, Southern Europe contributed to 16% of the overall B2C turnover in Europe, ranking second only to Western European countries.

Share of total e-commerce turnover by region
Share of total e-commerce turnover by region

Regional Overview

In Southern Europe, the number of Internet users has been steadily increasing. Moreover, the percentage of online shoppers experienced continuous growth until 2021, however, a 2% decline was observed in 2022. This shift is attributed to heightened consumer wariness regarding expenditure, influenced by inflation and the European crisis. However, the European Ecommerce Foundation predicts a revival in the number of online shoppers in 2023, with an anticipated increase to 68%.

Number of Internet users and e-shoppers in Southern Europe
Number of Internet users and e-shoppers in Southern Europe
Number of Internet users and online shoppers by country in 2022
Number of Internet users and online shoppers by country in 2022

According to Statista’s projections, Southern European countries are demonstrating substantial growth rates in e-commerce volumes. Here are a few examples:

  • In Spain, the e-commerce market is expected to reach 42 billion euros by 2023 and 63 billion euros by 2027, with an annual growth rate of 10.62%.
  • In Italy, the e-commerce market is anticipated to amount to 55 billion euros by 2023 and 89 billion euros by 2027, boasting an annual growth rate of 12.63%.
  • In Portugal, the e-commerce market is projected to reach 6.1 billion euros in 2023 and 9.8 billion euros by 2027, exhibiting an annual growth rate of 12.52%.


  1. Limited competitive presence: Due to the relatively sluggish pace of digital transformation in comparison to other regions, Southern Europe offers substantial market opportunities for online merchants.
  2. Cross-border online commerce: Consumers in Southern Europe exhibit a keen interest in advantageous offers from other nations, with Chinese trading platforms and online stores from the UK and Germany commanding significant popularity. Analysts attribute the predominance of Chinese marketplaces to the inflationary conditions in Europe.
  3. E-commerce website quality: Local online retailers in Southern Europe continue to exhibit technological shortcomings. Aside from major corporations like Inditex (Zara, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius) and global marketplaces like Amazon, the majority of websites lack modernity, feature limited product ranges, and have a scarcity of shopping apps. For further insights on seizing these market niches, refer to our article “Comprehensive Overview of Vertical Marketplaces: How to Create”.


Statistics Overview

Italy, the third largest economy in Europe, is anticipated to achieve a total turnover of 75.89 billion dollars in 2023, representing 2.26% of the GDP, as per Casaleggio Associati’s e-commerce report. In comparison to 2022, the turnover experienced an 18.6% increase, with a significant portion of this growth attributed to the escalation in prices. The e-commerce sector is expected to sustain its expansion, with a growth rate of 12.63%, culminating in an estimated market size of 96.79 billion dollars by 2027.

In 2022, 86% of the population in Italy utilized the Internet, and 57% engaged in online shopping. Forecasts indicate a resurgence of this figure to pre-crisis levels, reaching 62% in 2023.

Number of Internet users and e-shoppers in Italy
Number of Internet users and e-shoppers in Italy

Most Italian online shoppers prefer purchasing from multi-channel retailers that integrate both online and offline resources, particularly within the fashion and beauty sectors. Statista reports that over 20% of Italian consumers utilized apps or websites to make purchases at physical retail outlets in 2020.

Furthermore, mobile e-commerce is on the rise in Italy. According to a survey by the advertising platform Criteo, over 50% of transactions are conducted via mobile devices, notably among individuals aged 35 to 44.

Popular Categories

In Italy, the fashion sector maintains its status as the leading product category in terms of e-commerce revenue. This segment exhibited the most substantial growth in 2022 and contributed to 22% of the total online sales.

Annual percentage change in revenue by e-commerce category forecast to 2025
Annual percentage change in revenue by e-commerce category forecast to 2025

As per a Casaleggio Associati study, although total sales declined across most sectors in 2023, the turnover saw a rise owing to increased prices.

Payment Methods

The bank card ranks as the most widely used online payment method, constituting over 33% of transactions. Following closely behind, electronic wallets account for 32% of transactions, securing the second position.

Payment products in Italy according to WorldLine
Payment products in Italy according to WorldLine

An esteemed payment service provider, Jiffy, boasts a user base exceeding 5 million. This service seamlessly links the bank account’s IBAN code to the user’s phone number. In addition, Bancomat Pay and Satispay rank as prevalent mobile payment systems in Italy. Both of these services provide mobile applications enabling users to link their bank accounts and conduct digital transactions for products and services.

Key Players

According to ECDB, the sales volume rankings of the top five largest online stores are as follows:

  1. Amazon.it (5,202.7 million dollars).
  2. Shein.com (887.4 million dollars).
  3. Apple.com (862.0 million dollars).
  4. Zalando.it.
  5. Unieuro.it.


Consumer rights protection:

In 2023, Italy enacted the Comprehensive Consumer Protection Directive, imposing fresh obligations on transparency in information sharing for online payments, reviews, discounts, search result visibility on trading websites, and safeguarding against unfair commercial practices. Businesses are required to adapt their operations to comply with these new stipulations to avoid facing fines and penalties.

Product repair popularity:

The EU’s policy on product reparability has impacted the Italian market, fueling a heightened demand for repair services. This influence has prompted certain Italian e-commerce enterprises to prioritize product repairs and refurbishments over the sale of new items.

“Green consumption”:

There is an escalating demand for eco-friendly products and sustainability in marketing and delivery. This is evidenced by the use of electric vehicles and bicycle couriers in major cities, real-time route optimization, which not only aids in reducing carbon emissions but also alleviates traffic congestion and shortens delivery times in densely populated urban locales.

Technological investments:

Significant e-commerce firms are directing investments toward artificial intelligence tools to enhance delivery processes, analyze customer data, and develop more personalized products and services. In the fashion sector, companies are actively pioneering virtual fitting rooms. These technological advancements are poised to minimize the rate of product returns.

D2C growth:

The D2C (direct-to-consumer) model has gained prominence across various sectors such as fashion, furniture, food, and cosmetics. Even food startups are leveraging D2C strategies to directly offer organic and high-quality products to consumers.

Digital payments:

The adoption of digital payments is on the rise, with a growing number of consumers utilizing QR codes and digital wallets for transactions.

Preference for local brands:

Italian consumers exhibit a strong affinity toward their local culture and heritage, often favoring local businesses. This preference has given rise to the expansion of marketplaces and e-commerce platforms specializing in local Italian products and brands.

Luxury goods demand:

Luxury goods are in high demand, with numerous platforms offering upscale fashion, jewelry, and home decor from renowned Italian and international brands.


Statistics Overview

The e-commerce market reached an estimated 72 billion euros in 2022, marking a 25% increase from the previous year (as stated by CNMC). Spanish experts project further growth in 2023, anticipating a 20% rise in e-commerce gross sales.

In 2022, Internet usage was recorded at 95% of the population, with 72% engaging in online shopping. Forecasts suggest that this figure will surge to 76% in 2023.

Number of Internet users and online shoppers in Spain
Number of Internet users and online shoppers in Spain

Online trading significantly contributes to the Spanish economy, with consumer spending in e-commerce representing nearly 6% of the country’s GDP in 2022, marking one of the highest rates in Europe. Positive growth trends in e-retail revenue are projected through 2027, particularly with a notable surge in new customers observed among food retailers.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are integral to the Spanish economy, constituting 99% of the business landscape, totaling 2.8 million enterprises. Although 75% of Spanish SMEs have an online presence, only a third are actively involved in e-commerce. The government’s “Digital Spain 2026” initiative aims to foster digital advancement among SMEs through funding programs, training initiatives, and digital literacy workshops. The government is dedicated to elevating Spain’s global standing in e-commerce and fortifying economic sustainability.

Popular Categories

In 2022, fashion shopping gained significant popularity in Spain, emerging as the leading e-commerce category with a market share of 27%. Electronics and media products constituted a quarter of the e-commerce market, while food and personal care products accounted for 19%.

According to Statista Digital Market Insights, the electronics segment is projected to dominate in 2023, amounting to over 9 million dollars. Concurrently, the fashion sector is expected to experience substantial growth in the coming years, ultimately surpassing electronics by 2027.

Payment Methods

Over 50% of buyers favor bank cards, while 40% opt for digital wallets, including PayPal, Bizum, and Buy Now Pay. The prevalence of e-wallet usage is anticipated to experience substantial growth in the upcoming years, as the proportion of individuals opting to pay by card is projected to decrease by 2025.

Despite the popularity of Visa and other international payment methods over local options, there is an emphasis on promoting the widespread adoption of Open Banking in the country in the near future. Online banking penetration in Spain reached 65% in 2021.

Payment products in Spain according to WorldLine
Payment products in Spain according to WorldLine

Key Players

According to ECDB, the sales volume rankings of the top five largest online stores are as follows:

  1. Amazon.es (5,279.7 million dollars).
  2. Elcorteingles.es (1,394.1 million dollars).
  3. Shein.com. (1,142.2 million dollars).
  4. Apple.com.
  5. Carrefour.es.

Drivers of Growth

As per Statista, the primary factors propelling the growth of e-commerce in Spain are:

  • Convenient delivery is a key preference for the majority of consumers, who favor direct home delivery and the ability to shop at any time, particularly given the typical closure of supermarkets and hypermarkets on Sundays and during siesta on weekdays.
  • New technologies such as AI and virtual reality play a significant role. According to a 2022 survey on online shopping attitudes, approximately a quarter of respondents expressed a desire to physically interact with products before making a purchase, while 16% are open to utilizing augmented and virtual reality technologies if the opportunity arises.
  • Social commerce is also prominent, with over 50% of sellers in Spain anticipated to utilize Facebook for commercial purposes by 2023, along with 46% on Instagram. Additionally, merchants widely employ WhatsApp and YouTube, each being utilized in approximately 33% of cases.


Statistics Overview

In 2022, 84% of the population were Internet users, with 70% engaging in online shopping. The latter figure is expected to rise to 75% in 2023. In 2021, Greek e-commerce achieved a revenue of 3.6 billion dollars, demonstrating a growth rate of approximately 20%.

Number of Internet users and online shoppers in Greece
Number of Internet users and online shoppers in Greece

The majority of Greek consumers (91%) favor purchasing goods from domestic online stores. Furthermore, over a third of individuals engage in cross-border transactions, with the majority occurring within the EU. Among Greeks who made online purchases within the last three months, 27% did so at least once, while 38% did so on a regular basis (six or more times).

Popular Categories

  1. Fashion accounts for 33% of e-commerce revenues.
  2. Food and personal care products make up 24%.
  3. Electronics represent 21%.
  4. Toys, hobbies, and DIY contribute 12%.
  5. Furniture and household appliances account for 10%.

Payment Methods

PPRO reports that in Greece, debit and credit cards are the most commonly used payment method, accounting for 49% of transactions. Following closely is cash on delivery at 24%, with e-wallets making up 16% of transactions.

Payment methods in Greece in 2022
Payment methods in Greece in 2022

Other payment methods, including installments and cryptocurrencies, collectively comprise only 1% of all online transactions in Greece. This stands in contrast to other regions where cash has largely been supplanted by new payment methods.

Payment products in Greece according to WorldLine
Payment products in Greece according to WorldLine

Key Players

According to ECDB, the sales volume rankings of the top five largest online stores are as follows:

  1. Shein.com (162.7 million dollars).
  2. Public.gr (129.0 million dollars).
  3. Plaisio.gr (90.2 million dollars).
  4. Zara.com.
  5. Hm.com.


The prevalence of microbusinesses:

Greece’s economic framework is predominantly characterized by SMEs, particularly micro-enterprises with fewer than 10 employees, representing 94.6% of all enterprises in the country. To enhance e-commerce in the region, digitalization and support for SMEs are essential.

Gradual technological advancement:

Greece’s shift toward digital technologies aligns with broader pan-European trends. While the country has historically lagged behind more advanced nations, it is now making gradual progress.

Harmonization and disparity with the EU:

Greece shares strong ties with the EU in social and e-commerce aspects, including Big Data. However, it lags in the advancement and implementation of cloud services and artificial intelligence. The state supports e-commerce development through reforms, subsidized programs, and digital literacy training.

Shift to digital payments:

The popularity of e-wallets is progressively increasing, indicating a shift in purchasing behavior. According to a consumer survey, the most anticipated changes on websites include the introduction of convenient payment methods.

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Ksenia Cheburova , Cart-Power Editor
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