The DHL Online Shopper Report 2022

Understanding the European online shopper and how they behave

Helping you take your e-commerce business to the next level

Selling internationally is crucial for your business growth. But how do you decide where and how you’re going to sell? To help you, DHL commissioned a study of 5,000 online shoppers across Europe. By gaining a better understanding of their shopping habits you can arm yourself with the insights you need to grow your business internationally.

A few things your customers told us


The headlines from our cross-border e-commerce survey are in. European shoppers say that delivery options have a huge impact on the decision to hit ‘buy’.

Over half of shoppers surveyed said it was important to know the identity of the delivery provider before paying for their purchase.

Some shoppers hesitate to buy cross-border because they don’t feel as safe and secure, and they don’t understand the rules and regulations.

Which countries are shoppers turning to?

More than half of the cross-border shoppers we surveyed make international purchases at least once a month, and 20% think they’ll buy this way more in the next year. The countries from which they buy their European cross-border goods forms a clear pattern. With all our surveyed countries, most bought from Germany and the United Kingdom, followed by their near neighbors:


Shoppers who buy cross-border say they have two main reasons for doing so:

Age and gender: Who you’re targeting for cross-border sales

The largest group of cross-border online shoppers lies in the 25-44 year age group, however the 18-24 year olds over-index on likelihood to shop cross-border (75% vs 64%).


UK shoppers: The Brexit effect

Despite that fact that the UK indexes very well for cross-border exports, British shoppers are far more insular, with only 36% buying from other countries. Brexit surely has a part to play here, making UK buyers feel less connected to the European mainland. As a result, the real opportunity lies in other European markets.


Looking at general delivery preferences (taking into account both cross-border and domestic deliveries), our survey found that the vast majority of European shoppers preferred to have purchases delivered to their home – for example, 82% in France. The least popular option was to have the delivery left with a neighbor; only 5% opted for this. 

It's no surprise that most (73% on average) want home delivery, but it's wise to include service points and parcel lockers as options for your customers, as the demand for these is increasing in many countries.

Shoppers couldn’t decide on delivery costs

As for delivery costs, shoppers were split about whether they should be included in the price of the purchase or shown at checkout. And this split was not just between countries but within countries! For example in the UK, exactly 50% of shoppers wanted them included upfront, while 50% wanted them shown at checkout!

But they all agreed on tracking their shopping

The importance of being able to track their deliveries, clearly matters to shoppers. 69% of residents in Austria said this was very important, rising to 94% in France, with the rest falling in between the two. Amongst those who shop internationally, end-to-end tracking is significantly more important than for those who don't, with 82% saying it was very or quite important, versus 75% amongst those who don’t purchase cross-border.

The power of a good delivery provider

From delivery to the importance of returns

For most European online shoppers, having to pay for returns is a deal-breaker. In Spain, 62% say they only buy from e-commerce stores that offer free returns. 


DHL’s 4 tips for great returns

1.     Is your packaging good for the return journey?
Make sure your product packaging is strong enough to survive both the outbound and return journey.

2.     Make the process clear and easy 
Do you provide a pre-printed returns label? Which drop-off points do you offer? 

3.     Offer simple drop-off options 
Choose a logistics carrier with a high density of drop-off points. Locker options are also a great addition.

4.     Acknowledge the return and pay back quickly 
Notify customers that the item has been accepted and refund the money fast. 

Does sustainability matter to the shopper?

Yes, absolutely. Throughout the markets, shoppers see sustainability as important, with 53% saying so on average.  The only places where the figure dropped below 50% were the Czech Republic (48%) and the Netherlands (40%).

Delivering sustainability

Overall, the younger age groups were likely to pay more – in fact almost a third of under 34-year-olds would always choose to pay more, versus only 15% of over 55-year-olds. 

Shoppers were divided along the same lines when asked about paying for sustainable packaging. 


Consumers will wait longer if the delivery is greener

Our findings go against the conventional wisdom that fast delivery and instant gratification are paramount for online shoppers.

Buying Behaviour

The e-commerce market in Europe is growing from strength to strength. However, it’s not all perfect in the world of online shopping and as much as European shoppers are turning away from high streets, they feel there are still improvements to be made to the online experience.

Consumers want shopping online to match the real-life experience as much as possible with clear, 360 pictures of products they’re interested in. For brands, providing a quality and consistent user experience across the whole sales ecoystem is key – find out how shoe retailer Camper won new customers with their omni-channel retail strategy here.

Which devices do shoppers prefer?

Across Europe, we discovered older shoppers preferred to use their laptops and younger ones preferred smartphones. Laptops are more popular overall.

In all markets, we found that younger people browse more frequently. And the vast majority look around for the best deals. For example, French shoppers may prefer to complete a purchase on their laptops, but the proportion using a smartphone to browse products before they buy almost doubled between 2015 and 2022.

Do customer reviews influence buying behavior?

When shoppers get close to purchasing, most of them see reviews as important and check them before making a final decision.

The insight is clear: Always prompt customers to leave a review. Shoppers are wary of products or brands with no reviews and they are highly likely to be influenced by feedback from previous customers. Actively and openly engaging with customers via their reviews can show that brands take feedback seriously. It is also an opportunity to make customers feel like active participants in the brand whose ideas and opinions are valued.

How do shoppers prefer to pay?

It’s no surprise that the most popular method of payment throughout Europe is by credit or debit card. But age also comes into play. In Germany and the UK, 18 to 24-year-olds are more likely to use Google or Apple Pay than over 55-year-olds (13% versus 3% in Germany and 16% versus 1% in the UK).

German shoppers’ longstanding preference for cash payment is gradually shifting,” says Dominic Harrison, Trends Director at consultancy firm Foresight Factory. ”Online, digital wallets have become a leading means of payment: PayPal is the most popular online payment method, ahead of credit transfers and card-based payments (which can often incur additional fees and charges).”

Country payment preferences

We discovered that several countries have payment quirks: in both Sweden and Germany around 20% of shoppers want to receive an invoice; in Poland 29% want to pay by bank transfer; and in the Czech Republic nearly 20% want the option of paying cash on delivery.


Next steps

We’ve delivered a treasure trove of information – there is a wealth of detail in the full report, which you can download, completely free, here:

We hope our European Online Shopper Report 2022 has been useful. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you enter European markets or grow your e-commerce business across the continent, reach out to a DHL eCommerce Solutions consultant today.