„The e-commerce market revolves around the customer’s expectations and preferences” – interview with the President of the e-Chamber
What is the current situation in the e-commerce market in Poland? How was it impacted by the ban on retail trade in physical stores on Sundays? Is there a risk that a similar ban will be imposed on online stores in the future?
These questions were answered for us by Patrycja Sass-Staniszewska, the President of the Chamber of Digital Economy (e-Chamber), and previously a member of its board. The Chamber supports the Polish digital industry through cooperation, know-how exchange, legislative actions and representation of common interests. She is also a member of the Alliance for Cashless Trade and Micropayments, which was founded in the spring of 2007 on the initiative of the Polish Bank Association and a member of the Board of Directors of Ecommerce Europe.
She has been involved with the e-Chamber since its founding. She is responsible for strategic development of the e-Chamber in the digitization of finance, healthcare in Poland and e-commerce. She has been working in the interactive industry for 11 years. She was previously employed at IAB Polska, where she developed the online marketing division from scratch, and at Eniro Polska (Panorama Firm), where she served as the spokesperson. A graduate of the University of Warsaw, and privately the mom of the wonderful Lena.
Monika Kuchta: What is the current situation in the e-commerce market in Poland?
Patrycja Sass-Staniszewska: Digital economy is currently growing at a very rapid pace. At present, the value of the e-commerce market in Poland is estimated at 40 billion zloty, which is predicted to increase to 70 billion zloty by 2020. Both large companies and niche ones are active on the web. In 2018, over half of the Polish internet users made purchases online, i.e. approximately 15 million people. The growing number of internet users, the introduction of a ban on physical sales on selected Sundays, the digital transformation of some large brands, omnichannel, advanced programmatic advertising, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Augmented Sales and mobile shopping are the main factors that will influence this market’s rapid growth.
Can we say that we are a multichannel society and that our consumers see no limits to e-shopping?
I fully agree with this description. The e-buyer is demanding, pragmatic and educated, as well as multichannel-oriented. As shown by our newest report entitled “Omni-commerce. Buy conveniently”, in the Internet we look for inspiration, offers, promotions, and we compare prices. We do check the merchandise offline, but despite this most of us, a whopping 54%, return to the Internet to make the purchase. The e-commerce market revolves around the customer’s expectations and preferences, also in the context of digital payments.
Poland is the only country where the consumer has access to such a wide range of e-payments. The Poles have become very fond of mobile payments. They see them as modern, convenient and secure, and they claim that they use them in physical stores more and more often. In our May research report ‘Omni-commerce. I buy conveniently’, a whopping 34% of smartphone users declared that they sometimes use their phone for payment in brick and mortar stores. It is worth stressing that the Polish consumers do not feel constrained by borders anymore, and their regular purchases are driving the growth of the European market. This group encompasses 1/3 of all e-consumers, who are responsible for 86% of all online shopping. It is therefore vital to take into account cross-border sales when preparing your strategy.
In February, the European Parliament adopted laws according to which an online store in every country of the European Union will have to treat foreign and local clients in the same way. The ban on geo-blocking in ecommerce will give Poles access to the same promotions and the same prices. The Chamber of Digital Economy is actively participating in legislative work at the European level, and thanks to our activities changes are being introduced that are favorable for online sellers.
How will the ban on retail trade in physical stores on Sundays impact the e-commerce market?
As a result of the introduction of the new law that restricts retail trade on Sundays, sales at physical stores contracted sharply. According to Euromonitor International, the reduction in sales at physical stores may reach ca. 5.1% this year. The Sunday restrictions hit not just the big foreign-owned chains, but also small stores. Although the ability to remain open on Sundays is very attractive for small stores, it is unfortunately offset by large reductions in sales on other days of the week, which can reach 20%. They are a consequence of the fact that small stores are unable to compete with promotions offered by large discount chains, especially on days preceding the non-trading Sundays.
The situation has led many consumers to change their purchasing habits. Many have turned towards online shopping, which is advantageous for e-commerce growth. It is worth noticing that the Polish e-commerce industry was quick to take care of the consumers’ needs, for example by running informational campaigns on online shopping at their brick-and-mortar facilities, to target the customers who had been shopping offline until then. E-stores, for example answear.com, prepared excellent promotional campaigns to win over the customers who had been doing their shopping at malls on Sundays. To sum up, e-commerce means that customers still have the opportunity to shop on Sundays.
Is there a risk that a similar ban will be imposed on online stores in the future?
It is hard to foresee the changes that could be made to the laws. All I can say that if Sunday e-commerce were to be banned, the European Commission would have to be notified. This could mean that it would not be legally possible to extend the ban onto online sales. Moreover, the imposition of such a ban would have a very negative impact on the competitiveness of Polish online entrepreneurs who must compete for customers with foreign online stores on the EU digital single market.
Should the Polish stores be unable to work on Sundays, their customers will start buying in stores located abroad: in Slovakia, Germany, the Czech Republic, or even outside the EU. This could force the Polish online stores to move their business abroad, which will not be good for the Polish economy. We should also remember that online stores can sell goods without the need to hire workers. Thanks to automation, customers can shop on Sundays but the workers don’t have to work on that day.
Translation into English was provided by Eklektika, which is our partner on the global e-commerce section.