5. E-consumers across borders

Enterprises having undertaken cross-border e-commerce sales, 2014
As a percentage of all enterprises having undertaken e-commerce sales

Source: OECD, based on Eurostat, Digital Economy and Society Statistics, Comprehensive Database, July 2017. StatLink contains more data. See chapter notes.


Did you know?

In 2016, 20% of online purchasers in Europe ordered from a seller in a non-European country.

The Internet has facilitated access to global markets, creating new opportunities for consumers and businesses. Key factors that affect the uptake of cross-border e-commerce include IT infrastructure, regulatory frameworks and economic integration.

In 2014, 42% of European enterprises selling online made cross-border sales to other European countries and 25% to non-European ones. The proportion of cross-border sellers to other European countries was the highest in Luxembourg (65%) and Austria (62%). Iceland and Ireland had the highest share (41%) of cross-border sellers to non-European countries.

Consumers in both Canada and Europe prefer buying online from national rather than foreign sellers. Small open economies, such as Austria and Luxembourg, are the only exceptions to this pattern. In all countries except Iceland, consumers prefer buying from partner countries when ordering goods or services online from a foreign seller. In 2016, 90% of online purchasers in Luxembourg ordered from a seller located in a partner country as opposed to 7% in Turkey.

In the United States, turnover from business to consumer e-commerce represented just over 7% of retail turnover, similar to the average for European countries (8.7%). The European average, though, hides large variations across countries, ranging from 20% in Sweden and 15% in Denmark to below 3% in Portugal in 2015. Diffusion of e-commerce in retail does not seem to be linked to the size of the sector, as countries with the largest revenue share of retail in total business sector are also those with the lowest share of e-retail transactions.


An e-commerce transaction describes the sale or purchase of goods or services conducted over computer networks by methods specifically designed for the purpose of receiving or placing orders (OECD, 2011). For individuals, whether sellers or purchasers, such transactions typically occur over the Internet. For enterprises, e-commerce sales include all transactions carried out over webpages, extranet or Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) consists of sales by exclusively e-commerce enterprises to consumers, and traditional bricks-and-mortar retail or manufacturing firms that have added an online sales channel. The products sold may be physical goods or digital products and services.

Size classes are defined as: small (10 to 49 persons employed), medium (50 to 249) and large (250 and more).

Partner countries refer to EU member states for countries in the European Statistical System and to the United States for Canada.

Individuals purchasing online from domestic and foreign markets, 2016
As a percentage of individuals who ordered goods or services over the Internet in the last 12 months

Source: OECD, based on Eurostat, Digital Economy and Society Statistics, Comprehensive Database and national sources, July 2017. StatLink contains more data. See chapter notes.


Business to consumer transactions (B2C), 2009 and 2015
Turnover from retail e-commerce as a percentage of total turnover in the retail sector

Source: OECD, based on Eurostat, Digital Economy and Society Statistics, Comprehensive Database and US Census Bureau, Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales, 1st Quarter 2017, July 2017. StatLink contains more data. See chapter notes.



Measurement of e-commerce presents methodological challenges that can affect the comparability of estimates. These include the adoption of different practices for data collection and estimations, the treatment of outliers and the extent of e-commerce carried out by multinationals, the imputation of values from ranges recorded in surveys, and differences in sectoral coverage. In the case of demand-side surveys, consumers generally have poor recall with regard to specific types of questions, such as countries purchased from. A significant proportion of users are not necessarily aware of the origin of websites they use for shopping or may not recall the amounts spent. In addition, because B2C includes the purchase of digital products, which are increasingly downloaded or streamed over the Internet, it is difficult for the consumer to identify the country of origin.

Cross-border e-commerce transactions are captured by ICT usage surveys, both for firms and individuals, in countries that follow the European Statistical System, and for individuals only in Canada. Other countries have plans to collect comparable data in line with the growing impact of the digital economy on society.