Comparative Analysis of E-Commerce in Developing And Developed Countries, Case Study: Macedonia, Serbia And Germany

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Conference: ICT Innovations 2017, ISSN 1865-0937, At Skopje, Macedonia
There is a big gap between developed countries and developing ones in utilizing e-commerce. In this paper, we examine the growth barriers of e-commerce in developing countries in comparison to the e-commerce situation in developed ones, by conducting a comparative analysis of e-commerce in Macedonia and Serbia opposed to Germany, as a developed country. We review the basic features of the economies and e-business practices found in Macedonia, Serbia, and Germany; assess the most important legislation on e-commerce in the three countries; consider rules, regulations and working conditions for e-retailers; conditions for working with banks; payment types and payment processors ; domain legislation and hosting solution; e-commerce software solutions ; marketing activities and delivery services with post-sale customer care. What can be concluded from this analysis is that developing countries must follow the positive example set by the developed European countries. Furthermore, first measures must be contingent to the country's environment and culture. We list several recommendations that Macedonia, Serbia, and other developing countries should follow in order to develop their e-commerce sector, regarding public awareness about the advantages that e-commerce and digital economy in general bring, about the legislation and support services that e-commerce needs in its service delivery.
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Comparative Analysis of E-Commerce in Developing And
Developed Countries, Case Study: Macedonia, Serbia
And Germany
Ema Eftimova, Smilka Janeska-Sarkanjac, Dimitar Trajanov
Ss Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia
Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering,,
Abstract. There is a big gap between developed countries and developing ones
in utilizing e-commerce. In this paper, we examine the growth barriers of e-
commerce in developing countries in comparison to the e-commerce situation
in developed ones, by conducting a comparative analysis of e-commerce in
Macedonia and Serbia opposed to Germany, as a developed country. We review
the basic features of the economies and e-business practices found in Macedo-
nia, Serbia, and Germany; assess the most important legislation on e-commerce
in the three countries; consider rules, regulations and working conditions for e-
retailers; conditions for working with banks; payment types and payment pro-
cessors; domain legislation and hosting solution; e-commerce software solu-
tions; marketing activities and delivery services with post-sale customer care.
What can be concluded from this analysis is that developing countries must fol-
low the positive example set by the developed European countries. Further-
more, first measures must be contingent to the country’s environment and cul-
ture. We list several recommendations that Macedonia, Serbia, and other devel-
oping countries should follow in order to develop their e-commerce sector, re-
garding public awareness about the advantages that e-commerce and digital
economy in general bring, about the legislation and support services that e-
commerce needs in its service delivery.
Keywords: E-commerce, developing countries, Germany, Serbia, Macedonia.
1 Introduction
By definition, digital economy is one which functions primarily by means of digi-
tal technology, especially electronic transactions made through the Internet. The digi-
tal economy is comprised of digital businesses or e-businesses. A critical part of the e-
businesses is e-commerce, that is, commercial transactions conducted electronically
on the Internet. The advantages of e-commerce are classified into three major catego-
ries: advantages to organizations (expand to national or international markets with
minimal investment, lower costs, better customer service, faster business processes,
etc.), to consumers (24x7 availability, convenience, lots of choices, ease of communi-
cation, etc.) and to society (reduced costs of products, increased productivity [1],
creating jobs, etc.).
The digital economy, according to the EU development strategy Europe 2020, is
growing at seven times the rate of the rest of the economy and creates five jobs for
every two ‘offline’ jobs lost [2].
The gap between developed countries and developing ones in exploiting e-
commerce is sizeable [3][4][5][6][7]. There are several factors in creating this gap. In
this paper, we will examine the growth barriers of e-commerce in developing coun-
tries versus the e-commerce situation in developed ones, by conducting a comparative
analysis of e-commerce in Macedonia and Serbia opposed to Germany, as a devel-
oped country. We will review the basic features of the economies and e-business
practices found in Macedonia, Serbia, and Germany; assess the most relevant legisla-
tion on e-commerce in the three countries; consider rules, regulations and working
conditions for e-retailers; conditions for working with banks; payment types and
payment processors; domain legislation and hosting solution; e-commerce software
solutions; marketing activities and delivery services with post-sale customer care.
This paper uses a single-case research design. Multiple data sources are used. First,
extensive secondary materials from appropriate literature and relevant web sites are
collected and analyzed. Second, the lack of secondary information is complemented
with primary information gathered through surveys and questionnaires. The survey
sample was chosen carefully, from the people who are related to e-commerce field
directly on indirectly. 80% of the chosen people were related to: banks, ministries,
non-governmental organizations, employees in e-commerce companies and owners
and founders on e-commerce companies from Germany, Serbia and Macedonia.
The structure of the paper is as follows. First, some basic information on the three
countries is presented in section 2. E-commerce markets in Germany, Serbia, and
Macedonia are sketched in section 3. Legal framework and e-commerce supporting
services in the three countries is explained in section 4. The discussion of the compar-
ative analysis of the three countries and the conclusion is reached in section 5.
2 Basic Information
Macedonia, Serbia, and Germany are not of the similar size and do not have a simi-
lar history. Macedonia and Serbia were established as independent states after the fall
of communism: they were subject to a socialist planned state economy, more or less
lacked private initiative, and experienced the transition from socialism to capitalism.
Germany, on the other hand, went through a transition itself. After the fall of
communism, it went through the reunification of West and East Germany. The result
of this transition was an even stronger economy, more specifically Europe's largest
national economy, which ranks fourth globally in nominal GDP, and fifth in purchas-
ing power parity GDP.
These three countries have a difference in size, economic power, and wealth.
However, the similar GDP per capita of Macedonia and Serbia indicating their similar
level of development, ranking them as developing countries is a sound ground for
comparing the two.
Germany is a highly developed country, with widely spread e-commerce and a re-
spected digital economy. The aim of this paper is to reveal the possible development
paths for Macedonia or Serbia in the field of e-commerce, in order to achieve the
development stage of Germany. In other words, Germany should become an e-
commerce benchmark for Macedonia or Serbia.
Some of the basic data for the three countries are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Germany, Serbia and Macedonia, basic data, 2016
357,022 km2
77,474 km2
25,713 km2
Population (July 2016 est.)
GDP (purchasing power parity,
USD, 2016)
3,979 trillion
101,8 billion
29,52 billion
GDP (official exchange rate USD,
3,495 trillion
37,53 billion
10,49 billion
GDP growth, 2016
GDP per capita (PPP USD, 2016)
Population between 15 and 64 years
Urban population
Internet penetration
Daily use of Internet of the popula-
tion between 18 and 34 years
Nevertheless, it seems that the Internet evens people out, regardless of the level of
development of their country - the percentage of individuals that are between 18 and
34 years and use the Internet daily is quite similar, 92% (Macedonia) and 97% (Ger-
3 E-commerce market
A brief overview of the data on the current situation of the e-commerce market in
Germany, Serbia and Macedonia is listed in the Table 2.
Table 2. Germany, Serbia and Macedonia, e-commerce data, 2016
Number of registered e-stores
Number/Percentage of active e-
25% of the
17% of the regis-
Percentage of the population that buy
What people buy online
62% electronic
clothes and
66,9% clothes
and accessories
Total online revenue
59 billion euros
94 million
63 million euros
Average transaction (eur)
Payment cards issued
135 million
6,45 million
1,7 million
E-commerce legislation
Law, Federal Data
protection, Euro-
pean Data protec-
tion Directive
Law, 2009
Law, 2007
Online payment method
Online pay-
ment services -
Payment cards
Country Payment Processor
Bank Monthly fees
Fix entry fee -
199 eur; Fix fee:
Fix entry fee
- 30.000 dinars
Fix fee – 3.000
dinars a month
fees - 2% - 5%
No fix fees;
1,5%-4% per trans-
Domain registration
MARNet .mk
Total number of registered domains
Software solutions most used
Marketing techniques most used
Video ads Vir-
tual reality Opti-
mization Indexing
E-mail mar-
keting Social
media market-
ing SEO Blogs
Search Engine
Marketing (SEM)
Search Engine
Optimization (SEO)
Social media mar-
Pay Per Click (PPC)
Е-mail marketing
Video marketing
Blogs Banners
Prices for delivery in the country
0-10 eur
80-2,200 di-
80-250 den
Prices for delivery abroad
0-20 eur
22-123 eur
>20 eur
3.1 Germany
Germany has one of the largest electronics consumer potentials in Europe. With
more than 51 million digital users in 2014 (94% of Internet users aged over 14 years),
it experiences the greatest potential in Europe [8]. Germany is a leader in m-
commerce (sales through mobile phones) with 10% of orders made via mobile devic-
es [9].
According to the global retail consumer index A.T. Kearney [10], Germany has the
second highest e-commerce potential in Europe, behind the UK, but it has three times
higher growth potential than the UK. Online retail sales in Europe are forecast to
reach 234 billion euros by 2018, with an average annual growth rate of 12% in the
period to 2013-2018 [11].
From year to year, Germany has seen a significant increase in e-market. In 2014
the German B2C multi-channel online and email-oriented businesses have made a
total profit of over 49 billion euros. The German e-commerce economy represents 9%
of the total national income of the retail industry (457 million euros) in 2014 and rose.
According to the German Association of Internet industry, more than 50% of German
GDP in 2017 will be related to e-commerce, compared to 37% in 2012 [12].
German retail companies operate as well on the global market. Amazon (Ama- is the leading electronic retailer, regarding the number of online shoppers and
profit from e-commerce in Germany. The annual revenue of is 7.79 bil-
lion euros in 2015 [12].
Otto, Tchibo and Conrad Electronics take part in the top 10 e-shops in Germany
over the years. Companies with a focus on a particular category of products such as
Zalando, Cyberport, H&M occupy top places. Many German electronics retail com-
panies already compete on the international business market. Almost 90% of compa-
nies do business beyond national borders. Twenty-eight German e-companies take
part in the top 100 list of European e-trading companies in 2014 and work on the
international expansion.
Germans mostly buy clothes (annual consumption of 6.8 billion euros), books and
electric appliances (5 billion euros) over the Internet. Most used methods of delivery
are home delivery (92%), delivery at a specified pick-up point (21%), click-and-
collect delivery (20%). Methods of payment are credit or debit card (29%), invoice
(26%) and digital payments (22%).
Online buyers in Germany are returning half of the purchased products, and it is
the highest return rate in Europe. E-traders try to overcome this problem by providing
additional tools for returning products and educating their customers to understand the
product before they order.
Germany's total e-commerce purchases account for approximately 25% of the total
turnover of e-commerce in Europe. The average transaction volume in Germany is
66.8 euros, and the average shopper spends 987 euros a year buying on the Internet
3.2 Serbia
According to surveys, e-commerce in Serbia is underdeveloped. Local experts say
that underdevelopment is due to unfavourable developments in the economic and
information area, in combination with a weak legal framework.
About 1,000 companies are registered e-commerce operators, but only 20% of
them operate and work. The electronic market in Serbia mostly offers digital devices,
event tickets, flights, insurance policies. In 2015 in Serbia there were 1.2 million
online transactions, which is 100,000 transactions per month.
When talking about e-commerce, bear in mind that 26.3% of Internet users have
ordered goods or services over the Internet in the last three months; 54.6% of people
will never buy online.
The younger population in the three countries that are the focus of our interest
demonstrates similar dependence on the Internet: 93% of the population 18 to 34
years are online on a daily basis [14].
Serbians buy online mostly clothes and sporting goods - 49.8% and digital devices
- 20.9%. Until 2016 in Serbia, banks have issued 6.45 million payment cards. The
average transaction volume in Serbia is 5.000 dinars or 40 euros.
In Serbia, e-retailers face a barrier when it comes to delivery, especially when it
comes to delivering shipments abroad. Here the costs are very high, and the process is
complicated. By facilitating these circumstances, would have been completely ex-
ploited the potential of e-retailers [15].
The most common reasons why people in Serbia do not practice electronic pur-
chasing include the following [14]:
40% - are not used to it;
10.5% - have security concerns;
9.6% - inadequate payment card;
42% - have not needed it.
Regarding the legal framework, Serbia has initiated the adoption of the Law on
Electronic Signature and E-commerce Development Strategy, which is an integral
part of the Strategy for Information Society Development by 2020.
3.3 Macedonia
The development of e-commerce in Macedonia lags behind the developed countries.
There have been several reasons:
low internet penetration in the past;
low penetration of payment cards, in the past;
lack of confidence in e-commerce and e-payment, obtained through the media;
lack of e- shops;
many global online stores with restrictive policy for delivery and payment for
This situation started to change about ten years ago when internet penetration start-
ed rising, and banks began issuing payment cards that could be used on the internet.
At that time, a Ministry of information society was established, the number of interna-
tional e-stores that offered their products in Macedonia was increasing, and legal
framework creation started. In that time the first e-commerce businesses began to
operate in Macedonia and faced a number of problems. In 2010, the Ministry of In-
formation Society conducted an analysis in the field of e-commerce [16], and after
that traditional companies started to open their new outlets on the internet.
In 2011, the e-Government project was started, and part of that project was to de-
velop and support e-commerce field. The Government started the implementation of
the recommendations contained in the 2010 analysis, e.g. creating and promoting a
one-stop-shop website on e-commerce and organizing regular meetings with online
retailers and other stakeholders. Several other actions were taken in order to further
develop e-commerce, such as the project of opening 50 e-shops, which was imple-
mented during 2012-2013 [17]. The aim of this project was to help to entrepreneurs
with the best business plans to open and host an e-store for free for a period of one
year. Aside from the project, a growing number of traditional domestic businesses
decided to open online stores. At the same time, the government started to offer part
of its services online.
Despite these developments, a number of serious issues remained unsolved, and it
prevented more serious development of e-commerce in the country. Much of reward-
ed entrepreneurs within the project of 50 e-stores didn’t start their online operations at
all or gave up at the very beginning. Other traders who decided to open e-stores aside
from the project are also no longer active. On the other hand, people or businesses are
using various Internet channels, mostly social networks, that perform grey economy
operations and are unfair competition to the registered online traders.
4 Legal framework and supporting services
In this section, we will explain the legal framework and supporting services in the tree
4.1 Germany
Legislation in Germany is highly developed, paying particular attention to custom-
er care, digital signature, customs, and costs. Customer care and personal information
protection are regulated with Federal Data Protection Act (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz
BDSG) [18]. The European Data Protection Directive 95/46 and Directive
2009/136/EC are important for the regulations for the use of “cookies.” There are also
regulations for the protection of personal data: German Banking Act (Kreditweseng-
esetz KWG) and Money Laundering Prevention Act (Geldwäschegesetz GwG),
Telemedia Act (Telemediengesetz TMG) and Telecommunications Act (Telekom-
munikationsgesetz TKG) [19]. Customer care and protection rights Acts are follow-
ing: German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch BGB) and Introductory Law to
the Civil Code (Einführungsgesetz zum BürgerlichenGesetzbuch EGBGB). All e-
commerce companies must work according to German Commercial Code, after they
are registered in the Trade Register (Handelsregister) [20]. The German payments
market is dominated by alternative payment methods and eWallets. Bank Transfers
(SOFORT banking and Giropay), SEPA direct debits, ELV (local direct debit), Pay-
Pal and Open Invoice (Billpay, PATEpay and Klarina) account for 80-85% of the
payments market share. This reflects current German “banking” situation where 95%
of all Germans have access to online banking, and only 25% are in the possession of
credit cards [21]. Cards take only around 10% of the total number of transactions
conducted online. From the end of 2015, large German banks launched a new online
payment method called Paydirekt, which allows shoppers to pay for their online pur-
chases through their trusted home banking environment and checking account. Lead-
ing banks that operate with e-commerce retailers in Germany are Deutsche Bank, B+S
Card Service, Elavon, Acceptance, ConCardis, Easycash, Evo Payments International
GmbH, Postbank P.O.S. Transact, Wirecard AG, American Express, JCB Internation-
al and Diners Club International [22].
Regarding supporting services, first one for e-commerce businesses is to pick a
domain name. The domain name in Germany can have 63 letters and numbers. The
registration is possible in Deutsche Network Information Center (DENIC) and under
their network, more than 16 million domains are registered. After the registered do-
main, e-retailers choose for an appropriate e-commerce solution - “hosted” or “self-
hosted” solution. German e-retailers mostly favor “hosted” solution. Most preferred
“hosted” solutions in Germany are: Shopify and BigCommerce. Good “self-hosted”
solutions in Germany are Magento and WooCommerce. Marketing trends in Germany
are changing in tandem with technology. The online marketing industry is complex,
but certainly exciting for e-retailers that follow marketing trends. Innovative market-
ing trends that became popular in 2016 are video ads, indexing applications, special
ads for mobile devices, digital assistants for optimization, virtual reality, etc. Logistics
is the final and vital step to finalize the process of delivering products. Logistic com-
panies like Deutsche Post, Hermes Logistics and GLS have more than 10.000 pick-up
points and work very effectively [23]. German e-retailers pay particular attention to
the post-buying process. They care about positive feedback from customers.
4.2 Serbia
E-commerce Law in Serbia was passed in 2009, but a new law is being prepared
because this one does not meet current needs [24]. In Serbia, there is a “Strategy for
the information society,“ which means that until the end of 2020, this country must
have “Law on electronic signature“ and “Strategy for e-commerce development.“ The
EU Directive, as a standardized guide with best European e-commerce practices, has
been incorporated in Serbian e-commerce system, but some parts of it are not devel-
oped to the point that should be [25]. The history of e-commerce in Serbia is since
1999, and the operating bank was AstraBank. There was a gap in e-commerce ser-
vices from 2001-2007, as a result of the non-functioning bank processing system that
will support the e-commerce transaction. In 2007, Banca Intesa bank first got the
license from the companies Visa and MasterCard, started offering e-commerce ser-
vices to the e-retailers in Serbia [26]. Nowadays, banks that provide e-commerce
services are Banka Intesa and UniCredit Bank [27]. They use foreign payment proces-
sors (FirstData, AllSecure, ISPC) because there is still no Serbian payment processor.
Serbian people mostly pay online with debit or credit cards.
Serbia is one of the countries that have Cyrillic (.СРБ) and Latin (.RS) domain.
Their Cyrillic domain was established second in the world, after Russia’s [28]. The
RNIDS foundation (Register for National Internet Domain of Serbia) is an organiza-
tion for registering Serbian national domains [29]. Serbian e-retailers mainly decide to
own “open source” solution for e-commerce, because it is cheaper than customized
solution and easy to use. In Serbia, e-retailers mostly choose: Magento, WooCom-
merce, osCommerce, DrupalCommerce, Opencart, PrestaShop and VirtueMart and
platforms of choice for creating e-store are: Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion, Zepo,
and Kartrocket. E-retailers in Serbia pay attention to marketing, especially digital
marketing. In 2015, e-retailers spent 12.2 million euro on marketing [30]. Most com-
mon marketing vehicles are e-mail marketing, social media marketing, Search Engine
Optimization, and Blogs. Domestic logistics is not on a high level in Serbia, and in-
ternational logistics is expensive. Distributing companies operating in the territory of
Serbia are: Serbia Post, Bex courier, UPS Express Courier, Ciclo Courier [31].
4.3 Macedonia
In the Republic of Macedonia, the Law on e-commerce was passed in 2007, ac-
cording to the EU Directive of e-commerce [32]. The Law is fully harmonized with
the EU Directive being introduced in Macedonia in 2000. There are two institutions
that control the legal work on e-commerce companies State Market Inspectorate
(DPI) [33] and Agency for Electronic Communications (AEK) [34]. There are also
other laws and legislation which apply to e-retailers: Law on electronic signature;
Law on electronic communications; Trade Law; Law on customer right protection. In
Macedonia, there are 14 banks that work with e-commerce. There is one payment
processor in Macedonia Casys [35]. Most of the banks work with Casys, and several
of them work with a foreign payment processor. The banks in Macedonia are trying
cut all the fees and monthly commission, and their fees are per transaction [16].
Similar as in Serbia, in Macedonia, there is a Cyrillic domain (.мкд) and Latin
(.mk). The Cyrillic domain was introduced to the country in 2014. The MK-DNS
foundation (Macedonian Academic Research Network) is an organization for register-
ing Macedonian national domains. There are 35.000 registered domains until the end
of 2016 [36]. E-retailers in Macedonia mostly choose „open source“ solutions in
which they find control, security and stability [37]. According to the hosting, they
choose mostly hosting company that has servers in other European countries or USA
[38][39]. Macedonian e-retailers pay attention to marketing activities, especially digi-
tal marketing activities: Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, So-
cial Media Marketing, Pay-per-Click marketing, e-mail marketing, blogs, e-
magazines, banners. About the logistics in Macedonia, they offer quite decent and
inexpensive domestic services. However, the international delivery is more expensive
than domestic one.
5 Conclusion
From the analysis conducted in this paper, we may conclude that lagging behind,
Serbia and Macedonia are attempting to follow good practices of developed countries,
such as Germany. Key indicators from the field of e-commerce for the three countries
are summarized in Table 4. In Macedonia, there are 669 registered e-stores, in Serbia
1000 e-stores, in Germany above 50.000 e-stores. However, in Macedonia, only
17% of the e-stores work, which gives the number of 114 e-stores and in Serbia only
25%, which gives the number of 250 e-stores and in Germany 85%, which gives the
number of 46.770 e-stores.
From active e-stores analysis, that is the number of active stores per capita, the re-
sult is evident, Germany with 0,58 stores on 1000 citizens is the leader. There is a
small difference between Macedonia and Serbia, with about ten times less active e-
stores per capita.
According to the percentage of people that shop online, the result is also that the
leader is Germany with 90% of the internet users that shop online. The percentage in
Macedonia and Serbia is much lower, with 14,8% and 26,3% respectively.
An important indicator for e-commerce development is the total annual amount of
money spent in the e-commerce sector. The distribution between the three countries is
very similar to the previous paragraph, indicating German supremacy, with 59 billion
euros in Germany, 94 million euros in Serbia and 63 million euros in Macedonia.
What are the main reasons for the underdevelopment in e-commerce in Macedonia
and Serbia? Some of the answers could be found in following: the transition from
communism to capitalism took decades; both countries confronted serious obstacles
in the process of structural adjustments; the privatization of the state-owned compa-
nies was time-consuming and inefficient. Furthermore, the adjustment of the legal
system to EU requirements is still on-going, and legal protection is still pointed out as
problematic for foreign companies. Both countries are burdened with political insta-
bility. They receiving insufficient direct investment.
In Germany, on the other side, there was simply taking over of the economy of the
West Germany, and quick transfer of the laws of the West to the East Germany. In
addition, there have been more investments from West to the East Germany than from
whole EU in Serbia and Macedonia.
IT sector has followed these weaknesses and obstacles. And it has an impact on e-
So, inadequate economic development, incomplete legal framework, neglect of the
importance of incorporation of IT strategies in Business strategies of the companies in
Serbia and Macedonia conditioned the poor development of e-commerce.
The main conclusion that emerges from this analysis is that developing countries
must follow the positive example of the developed European countries. Furthermore,
initial measures must be contingent to the country’s environment and culture. The
several recommendations that Macedonia, Serbia, and other developing countries
should follow in order to develop their e-commerce sector are:
Government should build legislative framework in order to create favourable envi-
ronment for e-commerce.
People must be more informed. Government should raise awareness of the ad-
vantages of e-commerce and digital economy in general.
Government should introduce one-stop-shop for e-commerce business information,
in order to ease e-commerce business starting and conducting.
Government should closely track the development of e-commerce by measuring its
development indicators.
Government should encourage banks to offer favourable loans for e-commerce
Government should encourage establishment of several payment services for e-
The logistic network in the countries should be improved.
One of the conclusions of this analysis is that the younger generation uses the In-
ternet equally, and the demand of online services will grow regardless of the country.
The discrepancy of e-commerce development between Germany and Macedonia and
Serbia should not be demotivating for developing countries, but it should be seen as a
growth potential. They should exploit the best practices from developed countries
such as Germany, to follow their development path towards developed e-commerce
and digital economy.
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