Although it is a small country, Belgium has a fascinating political and linguistic landscape and a booming e-commerce market. Its location within the EU, as well as the steadily growing e-commerce market make Belgium an exciting target for European e-commerce businesses that are looking to expand. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the country of Belgium, its political and linguistic background, and its e-commerce trends and potential.

Facts and Figures

Belgium is famous throughout the world for its culinary delights such as beer, chocolate, waffles, and especially its thick Belgian fries. But there is more to appreciate than just its food!  People also visit the country to enjoy its medieval cities, the natural beauty of the Ardennes, and its capital, Brussels. Brussels is not only home to the Belgian government but also houses the institutions of the European Union, making it a popular travel destination.

With 11.69 million inhabitants and an area of just under 31,000 square kilometers, Belgium is the second-largest of the three Benelux countries, after the Netherlands. For comparison, it has slightly more inhabitants than Sweden or the Czech Republic. Geographically, Belgium sits between the Netherlands to the north and Luxembourg to the southeast. It also borders Germany to the east and France to the west and south.

Belgium is a constitutional monarchy. King Phillipe has been the head of state since 2013, when he took over from his father, Albert II. Nowadays, the royal family’s duties are mostly ceremonial and representative, with the elected Prime Minister serving as the actual head of government. Belgium is a founding member of the European Union and was among the first countries to adopt the euro as its official currency in 1999.

Politically, Belgium is a fascinating country. It is made up of three regions—Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels—and four different “linguistic regions” or language communities. These are the Flemish-speaking region, the French-speaking region, the bilingual region of Brussels Capital, and the German-speaking region. Each of these regions—both geographical and linguistic— has its own government and parliament. The exception here is Flanders, where the region and the Flemish-speaking community are administratively combined.

Each of these subnational governments in Belgium has specific responsibilities at both national and international levels. The system is complex, which can pose challenges. What kind of challenges? For example, Belgium is the world record holder for the “longest time without a government.” This happened after the elections in May 2019, when it took 494 days to form a new government.

Trends and Insights

The Belgian e-commerce market grew almost exponentially during the pandemic, as we also saw in many other Western European countries. And that growth is continuing, albeit at a slightly slower pace. In 2022, nearly 75% of all Belgians shopped online, and 90% of Belgians aged 18-70 made at least one online purchase that year. In 2023, Belgian consumers spent US$16.3 billion online, which was an increase of nearly 11% compared to the previous year. A significant portion of that increase came from spending on services. Consumers purchased nearly 68% of services like concert tickets or package holidays online.

In fact, the top category in terms of online spending was package holidays, followed by airline tickets and accommodations. Clothing purchases came in third place, which was a slight decrease from 2022. Unsurprisingly, mobile commerce is most popular among younger consumers. Statista reports that 38% of all mobile shoppers in Belgium were aged 18-24, while the age group 25-34 accounted for 40% of mobile shoppers.

Preferred Payment Methods and Online Stores

Once they decide to buy, the majority of consumers—nearly 78%—prefer to pay using “Bancontact.” This local payment system, which nearly all Belgian banks are a part of, allows users to conveniently pay both online and in person as long as they have a Belgian IBAN account. Foreign sellers will definitely find it worthwhile to offer this popular local payment method. By comparison, Belgian consumers pay for only about a quarter of online purchases using a credit card, and about one-tenth of them using PayPal.

In 2023, Amazon celebrated its first anniversary of serving the Belgian public. The availability of this marketplace has made it significantly easier for global SMEs to bring their products to the Belgian market, as well as boosting global sales for Belgian SMEs.

Belgian consumers tend to shop at a select few favorite online shops: 33% say that they have one store that they “always” go back to when shopping and an additional 40% have three stores that they return to. Bol and Amazon are popular marketplaces that attract repeat visits from consumers.

Cross-border shopping is also popular in Belgium, with Belgian consumers spending US$5.5 billion in stores and marketplaces based in other countries in 2023.

Language and Localization

As we mentioned earlier, Belgium has three official languages: Flemish, French, and German. When shopping cross-border, Belgian customer prefer to shop from countries that share their native language.

About 60% of Belgians are native Dutch speakers. The local dialect (Flemish) is not a separate language; the differences between Flemish and standard Dutch are akin to the differences between British and US English. Flemish is mainly spoken in the northern region of Flanders, which is home to well-known cities like Antwerp, Leuven, Ghent, and Bruges.

South of Flanders lies the French-speaking region of Wallonia, with its capital Namur. About 40% of Belgians speak French at home, particularly in the Brussels metropolitan area, which is officially bilingual. With around 74,000 native speakers, the German-speaking minority in the east of Wallonia makes up only about 1% of Belgium’s population. Official texts, forms, and websites must, however, be available in all three languages.

Language is a constant political issue in Belgium, and many Flemish and Walloons deliberately choose not to speak each other’s language in order to maintain their regional identities. For example, it’s no longer common for students in French-speaking areas to study Flemish as an additional foreign language in school. These linguistic tensions mean that you should offer your website in at least French and Dutch if you want to appeal to Belgian consumers.

Incidentally, English is the most commonly spoken foreign language in Belgium, and 38% of Belgians speak it proficiently. Nonetheless, numerous studies have shown that e-commerce customers vastly prefer to shop in their own language when possible, so English should only be a fallback option. Your best bet is to localize your website specifically for the Belgian market — including adapting your payment options.


Belgium is a great target market for European e-commerce businesses. The population is internet-savvy, the infrastructure is well-developed, and the routes to other European countries are short. On top of that, the Belgian e-commerce market is growing steadily.

When expanding into Belgium, a multilingual website is a must. However, given that the three national languages are also spoken in major neighboring countries, you can localize for the Belgian market at little additional cost. You could either re-use an existing translation or use the translations for Belgium to get started in an additional market.




autor_eurotext_100Author: Eurotext Editorial Team

We explain how internationalization works, provide tips for your translation projects and outline some of the technology and processes used. We also report on current e-commerce developments and cover a range of language-related topics.