Business

Ecommerce Briefs from Europe: Growth, Acquisitions, Amazon, Delivery

“Ecommerce Briefs” is my occasional series on news and developments that impact online merchants. In this installment, I’ll focus on happenings in Europe.

Growth in European Ecommerce

Ecommerce in Europe has grown dramatically since the onset of the pandemic. According to the “2021 European E-commerce Report” (PDF) from Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, lockdowns contributed to the increased use of digital technologies, notably online buying in countries that previously had low levels of ecommerce.

Aggregator Looks to Expand

Founded in March of this year, ecommerce aggregator Opontia is pursuing acquisitions of small ecommerce companies in Eastern and Central Europe, especially Poland and Turkey. Eastern Europe has the lowest penetration of ecommerce shoppers in Europe and presents a growth opportunity, especially with Covid-19 restricting in-store shopping.

Unlike other aggregators that focus solely on Amazon sellers, Opontia prefers merchants that sell across multiple channels — marketplaces, branded websites, and more. Eastern Europe has the lowest penetration of ecommerce shoppers in Europe and presents a growth opportunity, especially with Covid-19 restricting in-store shopping.

Based in Dubai, with satellite offices in Warsaw and Istanbul, Opontia also intends to buy ecommerce businesses in Africa and the Middle East. The company recently completed a $42 million Series A round of funding and aims to acquire 20 brands in the next six months.

Italian Regulator Fines Amazon

The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM), a quasi-governmental regulator, last week fined Amazon a record €1.3 billion. According to AGCM, Amazon abused its market dominance, harming competitors. AGCM alleges Amazon sellers that handle their own fulfillment do not receive certain benefits, such as increased visibility on the site and access to the Prime label.

The regulator ordered Amazon to expand the benefits and visibility on its Italian marketplace enjoyed by Fulfillment by Amazon customers to all third-party sellers that meet certain standards. Amazon is appealing the decision. In November, AGCM fined Amazon €68.7 million for violating E.U. laws through restrictions that penalized sellers of Apple products.

Delivery Start-ups

Europe has seen a boom in same-day (and same-hour) grocery delivery.

  • Frankfurt-based delivery company Grovy, founded in 2020, recently closed a €3 million financing round to expand into Central and Eastern Europe, with offices already operating in Prague and Bucharest. Grovy claims a 15-minute delivery timeframe and fosters sustainability — using only bikes and electric vehicles for deliveries — and provides discounts on soon-to-expire produce and perishables. It also only hires full-time employees — 250 of them — unlike other delivery businesses that rely on gig workers.
  • Prague-based grocery delivery firm Rohlik Group recently raised €100 million in Series C funding, bringing the company’s total valuation to $1 billion — unicorn status. Rohlik’s revenue exceeded €300 million in 2020. The company operates in Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic, serving 750,000 customers, with plans to expand into Germany. Founded in 2014, Rohlik offers deliveries within two hours.
  • In October, Gorillas, a Berlin-based grocery delivery unicorn, raised about €860 million in Series C funding. Since its founding in June 2020, Gorillas has grown to over 180 warehouses in eight European markets plus the U.S., delivering over 4.5 million orders in the past six months. The company has roughly 11,000 employees.
  • The success of grocery delivery in Europe has caught the attention of Amazon. During the past year, Amazon has operated an Instacart-like delivery business in the U.K. Prime subscribers can order groceries from two major U.K. stores — Morrisons and Co-op — with same-day delivery fulfilled by Amazon Flex drivers.

Online publication The Information reported that Amazon plans to expand online grocery ordering and delivery throughout Europe and the U.S. in 2022.

Marcia Kaplan

Marcia Kaplan

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