With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Turkey is at the crossroads of the world and has historically been a beacon of commerce. That fact now extends into e-commerce, with young people in Turkey today being the first generation to grow up primarily in cities and with regular access to computers and mobile devices.
As the Turkish population grows and becomes more technologically literate, the e-commerce sector is expected to grow by 107 percent and smartphone penetration by 124.4 percent by 2017. For those of you thinking about taking part in this growth, we’re going to take a closer look at e-commerce in Turkey and how you can benefit from it.
In the Everything You Need to Know series, we take a look at a specific e-commerce market to help you decide whether you should expand online sales across borders. As a provider of comprehensive payment processing services, we at DalPay specialise in cross-border commerce and have first-hand experience facilitating business in over one hundred markets worldwide.
Unless otherwise noted, figures in this article are sourced from:
Turkey has always been one of the great trading centres of the world. At the boundary between Europe and Asia, Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, has historically been revered as a global centre of commerce. It’s interesting to note that, of the two primary sources for this article, one (The Paypers) categorises Turkey in Asia/Pacific and the other (Ecommerce News) considers it a part of Europe – the reality being that both are true.
Today, Turkey has one of the fastest growing e-commerce sectors in the world. There are three main factors encouraging this growth: the high credit and debit card penetration, the popularity of social networks (Turkey has the fourth-largest Facebook population in the world) and the maturity of the country’s infrastructure, particularly in comparison to its neighbours in Eastern Europe and MENA.
- Total population: 75.5 million
- Internet penetration: 48.9% (37 million)
- Mobile penetration: 93%
- Online shoppers: 10 million (18% of population over 14)
- E-commerce sales: TRY 35 billion (EUR 12.5 billion)
- M-commerce sales: TRY 2.1 billion (6% of total online sales)
- E-commerce annual growth rate: 31.5%
While e-commerce in Turkey remains in its infancy, currently only accounting for 0.8 percent of retail sales and still dominated by domestic merchants, there are some promising local conditions which make it an attractive market for international investment. With a low returns rate, high payment card penetration and strong physical infrastructure, the value of cross-border transactions surpassed EUR 1 billion in 2013 and continues to grow by a third year-over-year as international merchants begin to see the growth potential of selling in Turkey.
What You Need to Know
The effects of internet penetration
Turkey’s e-commerce market has grown in proportion with its internet penetration level. As of 2013, just shy of half of the population was online, placing Turkey among the top 20 countries by total internet users, making it one of the emerging markets with the highest e-commerce potential. With an e-commerce penetration of 15% and internet penetration growing rapidly, there is still a wide gap to be filled by new market entrants in online retail.
Much of the growth in online shopping can be credited to the high level of mobile penetration. In Turkey’s payment landscape, mobile is seen as a major channel for online retail and customer interaction and, according to a report from ING, Turkey is the leading European country in terms of mobile banking adoption, with 49% of internet users doing their banking on their phones.
Top e-commerce categories
According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, 24.8% of all internet users aged 16-74 in Turkey bought goods and services online, with almost half of those people having purchased clothes and sporting goods. In terms of total sales, Turkey’s e-commerce market is still dominated by items whose quality and content are easy to determine, such as books and media products. Other leading product categories include consumer electronics and houseware, and home furnishings.
Among the top e-commerce companies in Turkey are Markafoni.com and Trendyol.com, both of which represent the growing popularity of the new trend of private shopping. Investors, both local and foreign, have taken a strong interest in this new local shopping habit, where consumers purchase a membership for an e-commerce site which gives them exclusive access to that store.
Preferred payment methods
In the majority of countries, credit cards remain the most popular method of online payment, but this is doubly true in Turkey where they account for 90% of all e-commerce transactions, with the small remainder shared by cash-on-delivery, e-wallets and bank transfers. Therefore it’s crucial for merchants looking to expand their online business into Turkey to be able to accept credit card payments from local shoppers.
Merchants also need to be prepared to provide rapid delivery, as Turkish consumers have a low tolerance for shipping times, in many cases expecting their packages to arrive within 4 days of purchase, faster than the European average of 6-7 days.
International merchants planning to expand their e-commerce operations into Turkey will have to familiarise themselves with local legislation. For example, a special license is required to import mobile phones into Turkey, and certain cosmetic products, including perfumes, powders and toiletries, are on the Turkish no-import list.
Additionally, as of May 2015, e-commerce in Turkey falls under the Law on Electronic Commerce or ECL, which aims to both protect consumers and encourage the acceptance of e-commerce. Many of the provisions should be taken into account when deciding whether to do business in Turkey, such as the consumer’s right to withdraw from any electronic transaction without a face-to-face component within 14 days, with no penalty and no reason necessary.
Turkish E-Commerce in Brief
- Among the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in the world
- Very high credit card penetration
- Large social media population
- Mature physical infrastructure
- Cross-border e-commerce represents a small fraction of the whole
- Low alternative payments penetration
- Low tolerance for lengthy delivery times
Turkey is both the bridge between the eastern and western worlds and a powerful commercial hub of its own. Particularly compared to its nearest neighbours in Eastern Europe and MENA, Turkey has a vastly more developed foundation for a strong e-commerce market on which to build, with its high internet and mobile penetration, widespread acceptance of credit cards and mature physical infrastructure.
It can also act as a key launching point into the smaller, more fragmented e-commerce markets in the surrounding areas, as legislative and logistical partnerships can be used to your advantage. Both for the sheer size and growth potential of the market and for the strategic advantage of establishing operations there, Turkey has earned its reputation as a wise investment and one of the most promising emerging e-commerce markets in the world.
Expanding into a new international market is a risky venture but a very rewarding one if done right. For the latest information about how you can build and maintain a strong e-commerce enterprise and keep it compatible with legislation and buying habits at home and abroad, subscribe to the DalPay Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest industry news.