Recently we attended Webit Congress & Expo in Sofia (Bulgaria). Many people are interested in Central European e-commerce market (or, being more general, the Internet market). Is this a part of Europe that’s open to cooperation? What are the experiences of businesses there? And what is the current state of development? So let’s take a look at two countries in this region: Romania and Bulgaria.
A few months ago Gemius – an online research agency conducted a research among Romanian Internet users. According to this survey, 99,8% of them have heard about the possibility of shopping online. Only (or even) 54% of respondents did it at least once (most of them are men). Most of them shop on the Internet several times per year. One in five shops only once per year
What is important for them in online shopping? (the most common answers)
- 31% of respondents indicate buying products of best quality
- 30% point out saving money
- 24% answer spending time in a pleasant way (mostly women)
More than 50% of respondents check information about travel, buses, plane tickets (58%) and travel services (55%) on the Internet. That’s interesting information for the tourism and transport. Telecommunication, computer and gaming also have good perspectives. Romanian Internet users look for information online about:
- Phone and GSM accessories – 46%
- Computer hardware – 45%
- Computer or console games – 43%
- Computer software – 43%
The main problem in e-commerce market development is its image – 44% of Internet users consider online shopping risky. It requires a lot of work from e-commerce owners to provide and convince their customers that purchasing in online shops is as safe as it is in traditional stores.
What are the most common payments methods?
According to the Gfk Romania:
- 83% of online shoppers pay with cash on delivery
- 28% use credit cards, which is the main online payment method.
Respondents use credit cards to pay for products and services in tourism, telecommunications and services. But in 2011 cards became a more common payment method in the online shopping segments of flowers (75%), books (76%) and gifts (64%).
Where are the perspectives for developments? In online users themselves.
- 41% of Internet users consider online shopping as less time consuming than buying in traditional stores
- 33% of them indicate it as a cheaper than traditional shopping
Let’s base on our experience from exhibiting at Webit and talking with representatives of Romanian companies there. According to Plamen Russev (organizer of Webit 2011), Bulgarian IT market looks poor, but has great potential. It’s not penetrated, but it is open to foreign companies, investors, partners. There is a field for management. Listen to the whole interview with Plamen Russev by Dziennik Internatutów.
I also asked Dominika Buszka, our representative at Webit, how she perceives Bulgarian market and if she agrees with Plamen Russev.
How does Bulgarian e-commerce market look like?
I share Plamen Russev’s opinion. After talking to some Bulgarian companies I also concluded that their e-businesses are still developing. There are many things to do and to change, but they treat it as a challenge. What was surprising to me, Bulgaria are Romania are strongly linked. When I’ve talked with entrepreneurs, they called both those countries “local market”.
Are Bulgarian e-businesses ready to go beyond this local market?
Most Bulgarian companies I talked to were small or medium businesses. But many of them have already thought of starting doing business outside their local market.
What’s the biggest difficulty for companies to go into Bulgarian market?
Bulgrian companies turned my attention to banks. They warned me against their indolence and difficulties in cooperation. But I think this is a typical situation for a developing market.
What is the hope for Bulgarian e-business?
Bulgarian companies themselves. They think more about partnerships than competition. They have attitude to cooperation. They are interested in how the payments system works in foreign markets. They are also really helpful in understanding the specific of Bulgarian market. They are the best source of information and are opened to share them.