ECONOMY

E-commerce gains ground in Greece, but consumers becoming more savvy

Turnover for Greek firms involved in electronic commerce is expected to reach 3.5 billion euros by the end of 2013, compared with 2.9 billion in 2012, showing the increasing popularity of the sector even in the middle of the economic crisis.

The rise in business is especially impressive given that companies involved in traditional forms of commerce have seen their business drop dramatically over the past five years of the crisis, incurring increasing losses.

The Greek e-Commerce Association (GRECA) currently has just 85 members, who collectively posted a total turnover of 1 billion euros by the end of September. Of this 1 billion euros, 700 million comes from businesses active in the service industry and more specifically in tourism, while 500 million euros of that came from tourism activities abroad over the nine-month period from January to September.

According to data provided by GRECA, services top the list of e-commerce sales, indicating that the high cost of transport of goods between Greece and other European countries may be a prohibitive factor.

Greeks, who were until not so long ago among the most suspicious of their European Union peers of making financial transactions online, appear to have embraced the concept of e-shopping, giving electronic commerce a much-needed boost.

It is estimated that there are some 2.5 million active users of e-commerce services in Greece right now, making an average of 1,400 euros’ worth of purchases a year, says Giorgos Doukidis, a professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) and director of the institution’s ELTRUN electronic commerce workshop.

It is estimated that the number of Greek businesses that are active in online sales already exceed 4,000 while electronic auctions are also on the rise, with 360 businesses active in this field from January to September this year compared to 300 last year.

According to older research by Focus Bari, the more e-commerce gains hold, the more consumers mature in regard to its use. Online consumers tend to conduct quite extensive research into a potential purchase before making it, comparing prices and looking for indicators that will ensure the quality of their purchase. Concerns about the quality of purchases and their value for money continue to be quite high, say experts.

According to the study, the factors that play the biggest role for consumers making online purchases are price (68 percent), followed by clear terms (54 percent), reputation (41 percent), good customer services following the purchase (38 percent) and a variety of payment methods (30 percent).

Moreover, 26 percent of online shoppers prefer the e-shop to also have a physical store or outlet, 19 percent demand some form of certification, 12 percent are looking for a friendly web environment and 6 percent look for a bonus system rewarding regular customers.

E-shoppers also appear less concerned about the safety of their personal data, even though security remains a major issue in e-commerce. Specifically, in December 2012, 53 percent of online shoppers expressed concern about security, down from 61 percent in 2011 and 71 percent the year before that.

What has gone up, however, is concern about the quality controls conducted on purchases before they are put up for sale, rising from 7 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in December 2012. Fewer people also appear satisfied with their online purchases as 37 percent said they were “completely satisfied” in September 2011 compared to just 12 percent in December 2012.