Poland is a major European country which borders on Germany. It is often referred to as an “Eastern European” country due to having been part of the Soviet Union. However, Poland is actually located in central Europe and is not, geographically speaking, part of Eastern Europe at all. Poland is 312,000 km2 in area and has 38 million citizens, giving it the eighth-largest population in Europe. Poland’s population is relatively young, with a median age of 39.7 for men and 43.3 for women in 2020.
Aside from Germany, Poland also borders Lithuania, Belarus, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovakia and the Russian exclave Kaliningrad. The capital city is Warsaw, which is home to 1.7 million people. The official language in Poland is Polish, although German and English are also commonly spoken in some regions.
Poland is a member of the EU, but is not part of the eurozone. Its national currency is the Złoty (PLN).
Historically, Polish consumers have not shopped online as much as consumers in other central European countries. However, the e-commerce adoption rate is increasing quickly. In 2021, approximately 21m consumers shopped online — about 55% of the population.
The year 2020 saw a major spike in online shopping across the board, but especially in the categories of food and media — due to the corona pandemic and lockdowns. In 2022, growth in these categories slowed and furniture, beauty, health, personal & household care products are now the fastest-growing categories.
Average revenue per user is highest for fashion, followed by beauty, health, personal & household care. E-commerce revenue in 2021 was 100 billion zloty (€21.38bn), and this is expected to increase by approximately 30% by 2023.
Polish shoppers pay primarily with bank transfer or cards, but e-wallet payment methods such as PayPal are growing in popularity. Although cash on delivery was a fairly popular payment option a few years ago, it is becoming less common. In 2022, 43% of surveyed consumers in Poland reported using the service PayU when purchasing online. The local payment method BLIK is also extremely popular — 90% of Polish bank customers have the option to use BLIK as part of their banking apps.
Deliveries and Returns
Where overnight delivery has become nearly standard in some countries, Polish consumers are a bit more relaxed. They consider 3-5 days to be the most acceptable length of time for a delivery, according to a 2021 survey. 81% of online customers in Poland said that they choose to have their packages delivered to a parcel machine such as InPost, where they can collect the package around the clock. This is also the preferred method of sending back returns.
Trends and Insights
E-commerce sales are expected to grow at an annual rate of 15.28%, with a projected market volume of US$26.26bn by 2025. Penetration of online shopping is also expected to increase to around 57.4% in 2025.
Polish shoppers are definitely price-conscious. Approximately 47% of users name price as their most important selection criteria. However, there is a clear preference for high-quality products that offer a good value for the money, as opposed to items which are just cheap. Consumers name “cheaper delivery costs; Cheaper online prices than in traditional stores” as the most important factor for shopping online. 57% of consumers will only purchase from stores that offer free returns, but only 22% of sellers offer this service. That makes free returns a great way for e-commerce retailers to stand out from the crowd.
Polish shoppers have a great deal of national pride when it comes to online shopping. Nearly 94% of all e-commerce purchases are made from domestic companies — and that applies not only to cross-border purchases from international companies, but also to international companies with Polish subsidiaries. Amazon, for example, is (comparatively speaking) shunned in favor of the Polish counterpart Allegro.pl, which is also quite popular in Eastern Europe. Other local companies such as Neo.24.pl, Opineo.pl, Komputronik, Empik digital & Publishing and Merlin.pl are also popular.
Despite this tendency, the Polish public is not generally critical of foreign companies. Especially among younger generations, companies from Western Europe and the USA are looked upon highly — Apple and Ikea, for example.
It’s definitely worth noting that around 70% of Polish consumers would prefer to order as “guests” — without creating an account. Foreign e-commerce companies should definitely take note of this preference and be careful with their customers’ data.
EU citizens who wish to sell products or services in Poland without actually setting up a Polish business will have a very easy time of things thanks to EU law. Providers of cross-border services are generally not subjected to any particular restrictions, except in the cases of regulated professions or health services. However, you should be aware that, in most cases, the contract between seller and buyer is subject to the law of the buyer’s home country according to Regulation (EC) No 593/2008.
This means that you should be aware of the applicable laws in Poland and take them into account, since — should it come to a legal battle for some reason — the Polish courts would have jurisdiction.
Shipping and Customs
Polish customers (like most consumers) like to keep things uncomplicated. Fortunately, if you are based in the EU or have a warehouse in the EU, you will be in a good position to ship products to Poland. From Germany, for example, shipments usually reach Poland within 2-3 working days, and there are no customs fees to worry about for inner-EU shipments. The only thing that could be tricky is that Poland has its own currency. Consequently, your e-commerce software will need to offer payment in zloty, and your bookkeeping will be a bit more complex.
Poland is a very interesting target market for businesses who are looking to expand within the EU. Legal issues should be minimal, customs problems will be non-existent, and the volume of e-commerce purchases in Poland is expected to increase steadily. As long as your website is localized — both in terms of the language and the payment and delivery options — your company stands to profit. Just bear the Polish preferences for “guest” ordering and easy returns in mind, and there should be nothing standing in the way of your success.