Eastern Europe is the poorest part of Europe but is catching up with digital technologies. The population of this region is becoming more and more connected to the internet including social media and ecommerce. Dropshipping in Eastern Europe could be a prosperous venture considering the following statistics.
The east of Europe covers 10 nations with a total population of around 290 million, as per the United Nations in 2023.
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Eastern Europe has experienced the highest percentage increase in the number of internet users. The Digital 2021 Global Overview Report highlights that this growth was 4.7% in the Eastern nations compared with less than 2% for the North, West, and South.
This figure is set to improve. Statista predicts that the number of internet users in Eastern Europe will grow by 6.91% for the period 2022-2028. An estimated total of almost 205 million people will use the internet in 2023. This is likely to reach around 215 million by 2028.
These are internet penetration rates for countries in Eastern Europe, provided by Data Reportal, 2022.
Former Soviet nations have leapfrogged ahead with ultrafast fibre internet. An article by Nesta in 2015 highlights how Eastern Europe installed the latest fibre internet after years of having some of the poorest telecommunications. Starting from scratch and adding fibre instead of replacing copper internet cables meant that Eastern Europe could bypass old technologies quickly and cheaply.
The digital economy has boomed in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) regions. McKinsey Digital's research from 2017-2021 found that in ten countries, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, the digital economy grew by 51% (€42 billion).
This digital economy includes ecommerce, governments and companies spending on ICT, and spending on technology such as smartphones and laptops.
In the same period, CEE countries outperformed the rest of Europe in GDP growth. Data from McKinsey's report shows that GDP growth was 3.6% in the ten CEE nations compared to 2.8% in Northern Europe, and 0.2% in "The Big 5" i.e. the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.
According to Statista , the ecommerce market in Eastern Europe is expected to reach €61 billion by 2023. It is projected to grow at an annual rate of 13.5% (compared to the European average of 10%). Overall for the entire region, internet shopping penetration is low at 48% in 2023. However, there is room for opportunity depending on the country.
Fashion and electronics are the most popular products purchased online in 2023 at 18.7% and 18.3% respectively, says Statista. This is followed by health and household care (8.5%), furniture (7.6%), toys, hobbies, and DIY (5.9%).
Online shopping has become more popular in certain Eastern nations. As many as 84% of the population of Czechia and Slovakia purchased products from the internet in 2021, says Destatis.
In Hungary, 74% of the population bought products online in 2021, based on data from The 2022 Europe Ecommerce Report. They suggest that around 3.7 million Hungarians regularly place online orders.
Meanwhile, in Poland, the same report shows that 70% of the population bought goods online in 2021. Older generations in this nation are interested in ecommerce. 94% of 55-64-year-old Poles said they bank online and an increase of 12% was interested in digital shopping.
Although the ecommerce market isn't as mature as other parts of Europe, habits are changing. Poland, Czechia, and Slovakia, in particular, are making exciting progress towards being on par with the Northern and Western European nations. Online shoppers, in general, tend to prefer domestic ecommerce websites and cash-on-delivery payment methods. Having said this, competition is extremely low, which makes it an area of interest as a potential region to target online consumers.