Comeos, the Belgian Federation for retail and services, published their annual study about e-commerce in Belgium. According to this latest survey, for the first time in four years, we can observe an increase in e-commerce penetration. Other key findings from this study show among other things that Belgian consumers are less and less scared of e-commerce, additionally they aren’t too concerned with data privacy, and also, it seems that mobiles and tablets are finally getting used more and more for online purchases.
Basically it all sounds good right? Well, not really if you ask me. Obviously this study shows that e-commerce in Belgium is progressing, but we should look at the bigger picture, and to be honest Belgium falls behind on many levels.
Food is behind
Let’s start by looking at food retail and its relation to e-commerce. Obviously, nowhere in Europe is shopping online widely spread yet, as the concept is still developing. In Belgium, the part of e-commerce in food is only 1,2%. It is 2,6% in the Netherlands, 5,6% in France and 7,5% in the UK (Source GFK). So in terms of numbers nobody can deny the delay of Belgium compared to its direct neighbors, and probably many other nations.
In addition to sad numbers, we have to see that Belgium is not a place where we can expect a lot of new innovative concepts linking e-commerce and physical stores. No Amazon Go, no unmanned stores or other initiatives are tested over here! These are all for other more mature countries.
azOn top of that recently Belgium had to say farewell to Wink, the only pure online food retailer of the country. Wink multiplied the efforts and tried many different concepts: Drive, point of collections, home deliveries… But after five years of efforts, the retailer failed to meet its targets.
No worthy main event
As a retail influencer and blogger, I like to also look at the main events of a sector, whether these are tradeshows, congresses, or seminars, you name it. Well if you ask me, Belgium also falls short on that area. We don’t have any big event with ambition for e-commerce in Belgium.
Sure, I can give you the names of a few events tackling the e-commerce theme and some are well organized. But that’s it. Only the logistics are good. In terms of content, it’s often disappointing. For conferences or seminars, topics are either too academic, or keynotes are just companies presenting client cases that you can’t just copy paste for yourself.
As for tradeshows, some events seem to stay at a basic level and are happy to do so. These fairs attract interesting numbers in terms of volume, sure. But often these are students or shop owners who wonder whether it would be time for them to put ‘their store on the internet’. I often hear exhibitors at these shows complain about that point.
So here again, when it comes to e-commerce, Belgium doesn’t welcome events with great keynote speakers or innovative networking that makes you say in advance: “this needs to be in my agenda and I’ll be there for sure”. And that is sad, because Belgium has the potential. Just look at other areas where Belgium provides international unmissable events. Just to name a few examples I invite you to think about events such as Tavola Xpo, the Seafood Global Exhibition, Labelexpo, and many more.
No research facilities or support…yet
Finally let’s take a look at those champions helping e-commerce initiatives and innovations. Does Belgium count none of them? Well, the answer is thankfully a bit more optimistic. It starts to look better but we are not there yet.
It is true that we don’t have famous examples of co-working places or hubs promoting startups and nurturing new ideas, such as Station F or the Silab (Lille) for example. But, we do have universities with better programs and doing research such as the Retail Design Lab.
And on the more governmental side, maybe not all the federal entities are extremely active, but Wallonia is leading by example with Digital Wallonia. The organization promotes our startups all over the world, and educates affiliates and students. And last but not least, the federal government started with the vast program Digital Belgium.
So lot’s of work to be done in order to compete with other countries, but at least we can see some champions and experts emerge in our kingdom.
So wake up today with fearless ambition Belgium!
When it comes to e-commerce, all players and stakeholders of the industry in Belgium should be a bit more like our national football team. Is it necessary for them to win the World Cup to be considered successful? No it isn’t. But hard work to exploit the talent they have and continuous efforts will take them always further. And that is better than the current attitude Belgians have with e-commerce, which can be compared to a kid at dinner not wanting to try any food he doesn’t know because it might be bad while his siblings are eating and trying everything. In the end that kid will have to take what’s left.
So fellow Belgians, please do wake up with fearless ambition. Because if you don’t, in the end our store concepts, our marketplaces and the jobs going with them will all be imposed by our neighbors and it might not be what we wanted to consume.
Save the date for the next Paris Retail Week show from 10 to 12 September 2018
For its 4th edition, Paris Retail Week, the biggest European trade event will take its full scope and will gather in Pavilion 1 of Paris expo Porte de Versailles the e-commerce sector, dedicated to solutions for e-retailers, ranging from digital marketing to logistics, and the Store / Equipmag sector, dedicated to physical commerce and distribution.
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Pour sa quatrième édition, Paris Retail Week, le plus grand événement retail européen de la rentrée prendra toute son envergure et réunira dans le Pavillion 1 de la Porte de Versailles le secteur E-Commerce, dédié aux solutions e-commerce, du digital marketing à la logistique et du secteur Store / Equipmag, dédié au commerce physique et à la distribution.
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