Opening or expanding your e-commerce business to Poland
Alongside countries such as Romania and Estonia, Poland is amongst the fastest developing e-commerce markets in Europe, with its value estimated to reach $13.8 billion by the end of 2018. The digital economy in Poland is responsible for 3% of Poland’s overall GDP, with areas such as mobile internet connectivity continuing to grow rapidly.
Although there are plenty of opportunities in Poland for expanding e-commerce companies, understanding the differences in the Polish e-commerce market is important. Just like all other countries in Europe, the Polish e-commerce market is unique and may not accommodate a business model that has worked elsewhere, even if the two countries happen to border one another.
The Polish consumer
Of the 38 million people living in Poland, 13.3 million are said to be e-commerce customers, and this number is only set to grow as internet penetration increases in the coming years. The current rate is approximately 73.3%, which is rather low in comparison to its neighbouring countries.
Statistics show that one of the strongest consumer trends within Polish e-commerce is speed of delivery. Poland has the highest percentage of European customers that value speed of delivery above everything else when shopping online, with most customers saying that it is important for delivery to take no more than three days. Although this is not exclusive to Poland, Polish customers are more likely to pay extra for faster delivery than other European customers.
A second prominent trend for Polish e-commerce is a strong reference for domestic platforms and markets. Domestic e-commerce domination isn’t exactly unique to Poland; the growth of domestic e-commerce platforms throughout Europe shows how notable this trend is. 53% of Polish e-commerce customers stated that they would rather purchase goods from a domestic store rather than an international one.
Any business looking to expand into this market will need to be aware of this, especially since the majority of Poles prefer to shop online in their native language. Adequately translating the descriptions of goods should be a priority, especially when selling through a website that already has a Polish domain.
The homegrown e-commerce platform
Domestic European platforms don’t come much bigger than Allegro. It’s a testament to the size and strength of the Polish market that, despite 95% of its visitors coming purely from Poland, the site has still managed to become the fifth most popular platform in Europe. The site is so popular amongst Polish e-commerce consumers that it has even become a synonym for the word e-commerce itself.
Allegro’s advantage over western e-commerce giants such as Amazon or eBay comes largely from its early inception. The site was launched in Poland in 1999, years before any of the larger, foreign platforms started to get a foothold there. In fact, despite having fulfilment warehouses in Poland, Amazon still does not have a Polish domain. Polish customers wishing to purchase through Amazon must currently use the translated German domain.
For e-commerce businesses hoping to expand into Poland, Amazon simply is not a platform that will ensure a product reaches the most amount of people. With this in mind, selling on Allegro is no different to selling on Amazon or eBay, even for UK-based merchants. The most fundamental difference for foreign sellers is that Allegro’s interface is entirely in Polish, which should be taken into account when creating a merchant account. In addition, all products must be listed in Polish, and any customer service must also be provided in Polish. Having a Polish-speaking team member is something you should seriously consider before attempting to sell through Allegro.
Mobile optimisation for Polish customers
Mobile optimisation is important for any e-commerce business, but in Europe, shoppers are turning to their phones more and more every year. An overwhelming 90% of Poles use their mobile phones to access the internet, and mobile phones are responsible for 25% of Poland’s total e-commerce revenue.
Despite these statistics, many companies are still struggling to create user-friendly platforms that function well on mobile devices. This not only means that the website’s interface should be user-friendly, but the payment method as well. Many e-commerce platforms in Poland offer payment methods that do not adjust accordingly when being used on a tiny phone screen. Offering methods such as one-click payments, Apple/Android Pay, or services such as PayU will vastly improve the mobile shopping experience. In fact, PayU has stated that last year, one in five payments were made from a mobile device – an impressive 30%increase from the previous year.
The popularity of PayU
PayPal may be the most commonly used payment method across Europe as a whole, but this is not the case in Poland. PayU has become the most popular method of payment for Polish customers, with 65% of Polish e-commerce customers benefiting from it.
One of the reasons behind PayU’s success in Poland is its wide range of payment methods, accommodating for local preferences such as bank transfers. Another popular spending trend for many Poles in recent years has been credit. With this in mind, PayU has partnered up with Kreditech to extend its payment options to both instalments and a ‘buy now, pay later’ scheme.
Like PayPal, PayU also benefits merchants based in other countries by dealing with any currency exchanges that need to take place. Companies can boost their Polish e-commerce sales by taking advantage of this popular platform, either by selling through Allegro or incorporating it into their own e-commerce websites.
Legal changes within Poland
2018 was a changing landscape in marketing for any European business and e-commerce businesses still adjusting to the new European Union data protection laws. Under this new legislation, consumers have been given greater power over who has access to their private information, and what they can potentially do with it.
As a result, practices that used to be commonplace for marketers now have to be rethought. Companies can no longer keep a client’s personal information without prior consent, and must not store it for longer than necessary. For any e-commerce companies looking to sell in Poland, this new legislation will need to be thoroughly researched and understood, as non-compliance can result in a fine of up to 20 million EUR.
Poland is also in the process of implementing its own legislation that will likely impact e-commerce businesses specifically. A Sunday trading ban was passed within Poland in 2017, and came into force this year. The new legislation mandates that retailers close for two Sundays per month; this is set to rise to three Sundays in 2019 and all Sundays by 2020, excluding seven days before the Easter and Christmas holidays.
Though this has caused controversy amongst some Polish shoppers, e-commerce companies are likely to benefit from the ban, as online stores are exempt from this legislation. In fact, Warsaw Business Journal predicted that the ban would accelerate e-commerce penetration by a hefty 0.5% this year.
Assimilation into the Polish e-commerce market
Poland is certainly a dynamic sector with impressive e-commerce potential. While following global trends can be a safe approach, the most intelligent businesses will look to adapt to local trends, and address any shortfalls they see in the local market.
For businesses hoping to open or expand into Poland, specific attention should be given tackling linguistic demands, offering a broad range of payment options and being educated about the cultural norms that can affect trading laws. By doing this, your business can compete with the big players in Poland, and even steal a march on Amazon.