The report E-barometer 2015 shows that Swedish trade is increasingly getting digital. At the same time e-commerce gives birth to hybrids of online and offline. Still there’s a long way to go until we see a seamless omni channel experience.

Today the report E-barometern 2015 (In Swedish, pdf), highlighting Swedish e-commerce in 2015, was released. The report is based on surveys with both consumers and merchants. The E-barometer is a periodic study conducted by HUI Research on behalf of PostNord (also known as “the Post Office” in Denmark and Sweden).

During a breakfast seminar at the Hotel Birger Jarl in Stockholm the report was presented, and even if it didn’t reveal any earth-shattering news both the presentation and the panel discussion were interesting. Under the leadership of Anton Johansson (known from the podcast E-handelspodden) we could hear Carin Blom, retail analyst at PostNord (and until very recently at HUI Research); Sara Wimmercranz, founder of Footway and member of the board of RNB; Jonas Ogvall, CEO of Swedish Digital Trade and Arne Andersson, e-commerce specialist at PostNord (and known as “Arne at the Post Office”).

Swedish trade is not as digital as you might think

But first out was Carin Blom, who presented the report and reflected on its results. And she found that the Swedish retail trade flourished last year and that the furniture, construction and electronics industries were coming strong in e-commerce. The report identifies three trends, says Carin Blom:

– First, we have digitization. E-commerce has risen enormously in percentage from 2003, but Swedish trade is not as digital as we might think. E-commerce is just under seven per cent of the total trade, while the corresponding figure for the USA is 9-10 percent and Britain 14 percent.

Carin Blom predicts that e-commerce will take off when those who are young today will start working and earn their own money. They are widely used to take care of most things in life online, and it is only natural that this generation will drive digital development.

Globalization makes all markets available

The second trend that Carin Blom mention is globalization. As consumption is digitized Swedish trade is not only competing with our neighboring countries. To consumers, a Chinese alternative can be fully comparable.

– Even now, we see that 32 percent of respondents in our survey shopped from the UK, 28 percent from Germany. Borders become obsolete.

Showrooming or web rooming? The consumer selects both

Also, personalization is a clear trend. The consumer demands more, they want clarity and transparency – and make research themselves before a purchase. In trade, this has led to anxiety, a fear that the physical store will be reduced to a showroom for others business online. But Carin Blom points out that the trend is in the opposite direction.

– We know that many consumers investigates supply in the physical store, before a purchase online. That is 17 percent of respondents. But the figure is even higher for the reverse – a full 31 percent did research online before making a purchase in the physical store.

The customer still want to touch and feel

In the subsequent panel discussion Anton Johansson took the example of food online. He said that the establishment of food as an online business has been very slow and wondered if the Swedish unfamiliarity with home delivery played a part. Several in the panel said that it’s a matter of change in behavior, and that food online has evolved after the introduction of subscribed pre-portioned ingredients.

– Even a prepackaged bag to be picked up in your local store can be an interesting alternative, said Jonas Ogvall. If you live in the countryside you’re likely to pass a store to and from work. If you can cut down processing time from an hour and a half to half an hour, it is clear that this service is interesting.

But all things digital is not a land of milk and honey, even for this digitally oriented panel.

– Clothing has waned in growth, said Sara Wimmercranz. It’s because you still want to touch and feel the product. We in e-commerce has a technical advantage and a speed of delivery – but so far we do not solve all the customer’s needs.

Trade can not be digital without digital literacy

Jonas Ogvall brought up the need for expertise both within e-commerce’s own ranks, and trade in general.

– What is it that we lack? It’s people with experience in e-commerce. We must educate ourselves in the digital economy to a much greater extent. Both at academic level and down the ages. We must get people who understand the digital world, and not least the global economy.

Changing the education system is not done in a jiffy, but the solution needs to be fast. Part of the solution is also to train people who are established in working life.

– How do we do to get all those in their 40s to educate themselves in the digital commerce?

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