The report E-barometern Q1 2024 – Sustainable e-commerce under economic pressure

Many now see that a turnaround could be underway in the second half of 2024 with more room for both individuals and businesses to increase consumption and investment. Inflation is starting to reach the Swedish Riksbanken's target and we have seen the first interest rate cut in 8 years. The possibilities for regrowth for e-commerce increase in the long term and the forecasts are slightly positive for 2024. Focus areas in the report E-barometern Q1 are international trade, sustainability and circular trade.

E-barometern Q1 2024

There is still a big difference between different industries facing different challenges. Roughly as much as the pharmacy industry is increasing (14%) compared to the same quarter in 2023, the construction trade is declining (-15%). In total during Q1, e-commerce in Sweden increases by 1%. On a positive note, the grocery trade for the first time in many quarters shows positive growth of 4% according to PostNord and HUI's report E-barometern Q1 2024.


In the section on sustainability there is information about packaging, which is a focus area for many retailers. There are several different innovative solutions and strategies that can help reduce the climate footprint. I myself noted on Amazon that you could now opt out of the Amazon box and instead have the package delivered directly in the supplier's delivery packaging. A simple choice to be able to opt out of additional packaging when there is no need for it.

PostNord's head of sustainability, Naznoush Habashian, shares his insights regarding the new EU directives which, among other things, relate to the reduction of packaging materials, the right to repair and review of value and supplier chains that will come into force in 2025-2030.

  • E-commerce companies must be diligent so that they can demonstrate that their environmental claims are accurate. The EU's Green claims are to protect consumers from misleading environmental marketing, greenwashing.
  • The EU's PPWR (Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation) must reduce packaging waste and increase reuse and recycle packaging materials. E-retailers need to review their packaging strategies and innovate and invest. There are many successful initiatives where it becomes clear that the entire chain must start working together in order to make an impact. Is a certain packaging necessary? Can it be in a different size or material? How can it be reused?
  • Companies need to engage and train employees in sustainability issues and adapt their business models to increase recycling and reuse of products.

International e-commerce

China now has the largest share of recent foreign e-commerce purchases. It is the first time in five years that a country outside of Europe is at the top among Swedish e-commerce consumers when shopping outside of Sweden.

While consumers' main reason for e-shopping from China is lower prices, those who e-shop from the US and the UK state that the main reason for e-shopping from there is that the goods were not available on Swedish sites.

From Denmark, unlike the other top countries, it is not most common to order clothes and shoes, but instead home electronics. Germany stands out in that products from the automotive industry are already in second place among favourite goods to order.

E-barometern Q1 2024

Circular models – part of the e-commerce of the future

When talking about circular business models in e-commerce, it can be any offer that extends the life of the goods. It can be to repair, rent or buy and sell second hand. It is becoming increasingly common for merchants to add circular services to their own offering. More than half of consumers use circular services online today, where it is most common to buy used. The most common product group to buy more second hand due to the economic situation is clothes and shoes.

Only 3% state that they bought second hand from a traditional company. Many consumers are used to shopping and selling via various C2C services and there are some logistical challenges for companies before it can be offered on a large scale.

When it comes to e-commerce rentals, there is untapped potential, with only 2% stating that they use online rental services. A majority think it is worth the price, especially the products that are only used sporadically.

Second hand has the widest potential, many goods are sufficiently affordable and trend-sensitive to be resold. Clothes and accessories from popular brands are particularly suitable. Repairs are suitable for capital-intensive products where the consumer saves money on repairs, such as home electronics. Goods with a high risk of wear also fit in here, such as sports and leisure products. Rental is suitable for expensive goods that are rarely used, for example tools, construction accessories or seasonal sports and leisure products.

It will be important to choose the focus area within circular trade that suits you. Some of the products that are good for buying and selling second hand are not always as good for renting out or in some cases repairing. According to a 2022 report by McKinsey & Co, they estimate that there could be several hundred billion euros in the European circular market in the future.

Sofia Winterlén

Sofia Winterlén Head of Marketing