Amazon logo courtesty of Flickr User Topgold.

Amazon logo courtesty of Flickr User Topgold.

When I first came to the Czech Republic earlier this semester, I realized that I had forgotten my Kindle case at home. So as if by reflex, I booted up my laptop and typed in amazon.cz to buy a new one … only to find that it didn’t exist. In fact, I found out that Amazon does not exist in Europe anywhere east of Germany. So then, I went to my backup, Ebay. Ebay.cz did exist but once there I saw that all of their products came from … the UK, US, Germany, China, and Hong Kong. There was no option to search for items within the Czech Republic. I was astounded. I could not find a place online where I could buy a Kindle case from within the Czech Republic outside of a store. After asking my RAs about it, I found out that most Czech online shopping, if any, is done through the store you are buying from. This led me to wonder, how prominent is online shopping in the Czech Republic?

To answer this, I first had to look at the statistics. In 2010, the  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), conducted a survey of it’s member states’ online shopping usage. The Czech Republic factored near the bottom of the list. While it had improved upon its usage from 2007, most Czech internet users did not shop online. It was not even the highest among Eastern European countries with Slovenia, Poland, and the Slovak Republic all placing higher.

Top Online Shoppers in 2010 amongst OECD members.

Top Online Shoppers in 2010 amongst OECD members.

Similar statistics can be found across the board. in 2011, the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) placed the Czechs among the lowest online shoppers in the European Union. However, it seems that Czech usage had grown from the OECD usage (beating out Poland). Perhaps this was due to the launch of ebay.cz in late 2010. Even though it was not shopping within the Czech Republic, it was still a form of online shopping.

Online Shopping by EU member states in 2011 according to Statistics Netherlands (CBS)

A survey performed later that year by the international marketing research firm, the GfK group, the Czech Republic had the highest percentage of online shopping usage in Central and Eastern Europe. While it is not at the level of the Western countries, the Czech Republic leads in it’s neighborhood. So, putting this into perspective, Czechs are fairly advanced in the ways of online shopping.

Online Shopping in Central and Eastern Europe according to 2011 GfK group survey.

Czech online shopping has increased greatly in the past few years. It has not reached Western levels yet, but is well on its way there. Besides greater internet saturation, there must be other reasons for this. One of things that could possibly be attributed to the rise of social media in the Czech Republic. Facebook usage has rapidly risen in recent years, as has Twitter. Companies can use these mediums to advertise their products to a wider audience. This is all made easier if the product is only a click away. Still this is limited mostly to individual companies or stores selling their goods directly to the consumer. There might also still be lingering loyalty to physical stores and less of a reliance on technology. However, judging from similar trends that happened in the Western countries, amazon.cz (or at least one for central Europe) may not be far off in our future.


3 thoughts on “Online Shopping in the Czech Republic

  1. Amazon’s newest moneymaker is the Kindle and the ebook. On any car in the subway in New York City, the picture is this: one homeless man asks for change, one grandmother reads a Nora Roberts softcover, fifteen people listen to music (two on Beats headphones), twenty people are on their phones (pretending to draft emails while actually playing angry birds). The picture on the Prague metro is very different: most people are simply sitting or standing and only a few are checking their phones. I haven’t seen one Kindle, Nook or iPad used in public unless an American student was using it.

    Besides technology, clothing is one of the biggest draws of online shopping. This semester I have been working for a fashion magazine based in Prague. In the States, you are working on the September issue in April, predicting next season’s trends before this season has even begun. But in the Czech Republic, trends are frozen in time. The new hot bag or pair of jeans here was the new hot item six months or two years ago in London or in America. For whatever reason, the Czechs haven’t been cursed (or blessed) with retail-shopaholism yet. All the Prime free shipping in the world can’t change the fact that Czechs are comfortable in their jeans and t-shirts from a couple years ago.

    If you take away ebooks and you take away fashion, Amazon becomes quite irrelevant.

  2. Imagine clicking “Check-out” on Amazon and a few hours later, your package is at your door. One-day shipping is becoming the norm in the United States. Companies such as Amazon and eBay have revolutionized the industry. The “I want it now” mentality has taken over and the consequences may be very bad for many major retailers and Mom and Pop shops. But that mentality has yet to hit many parts of Europe. I believe the large technology divide has delayed the onset of online shopping in central and Eastern Europe.

    The lack of online shopping sites such as Amazon is probably due to the lack of infrastructure needed to execute on the level that Amazon is used to. Amazon would need to establish multiple warehouses and distribution centers with reliable shipping couriers. But in order to even consider that, I believe the penetration of smart phone users and the use of social media needs to expand even more.

    In the Czech Republic, the smart phone adoption is rather small. According to Wired (http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2011/12/42-major-countries-ranked-by-smartphone-penetration-rates/), the Czech Republic is ranked 30 out of 42 countries in smart phone penetration. With such a small penetration of smart phone users implies less time on the Internet. I believe as the rise in smart phones increases, so will the “I want it now” mentality. People will be used to having information and the ability to complete transactions at their fingertips. With that will come the need to be able to order different types of products online from a reliable company.

    After talking to my RA, she believes that online shopping is becoming more prevalent. She discussed the use of “show-rooming” which has also become prevalent in the United States. Show-rooming is the use of physical stores to check out the items and going back home to order the product online. Another reason why it may be difficult for online shopping to take off in the Czech Republic is the connection between locals and the shopkeepers. Many of them have known each other for a long time and the advent of online shopping can potentially wipe out many brick and mortar stores.

    Online shopping is a phenomenon that has yet to hit the Czech Republic. But when it does, how will it affect the economy? I can see many local stores shutting down, putting people out of work. This scenario has the potential for a large national crisis as the people being put out of business have few skills outside of running their stores. While the Internet can bring prosperity, it can also take it away.

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