The Netherlands, a country of quaint, narrow streets and picture-perfect canals; a place where wind power and bikes are as much a part of the scene as the legendary Van Gogh and Rembrandt. It's also a supply chain gateway of the European market — thanks to centuries of trade, as well as an extensive network of transport routes and freight hubs, including Europe's largest port in Rotterdam — which makes it an important economic powerhouse with a large e-commerce space.
Ranking among the top six European e-commerce markets that contributed to 72% of Europe's total online sales in 2022, the Dutch e-commerce industry teems with potential. With an e-commerce penetration rate that comes second only to the United Kingdom and has estimated 13 million regular online shoppers, the Netherlands is one of the most popular European destinations for online retailers looking to expand. With an important side note.
Breaking into new markets and scaling your e-commerce business is a game of high stakes without a locally adapted delivery strategy and the best carrier services in place. This is when the real magic, or the real challenge, comes into play. Know your competition and transform your delivery experience — from product consideration until returns — into a solid differentiator where your brand name recognition and customer loyalty are truly won or lost.
Here's what you need to know about the last-mile delivery landscape in the Netherlands to achieve consumer convenience and a profitable delivery strategy for scalable growth.
Consumer delivery expectations in the Netherlands
In the first half of 2022 alone, Dutch consumers spent 16.1 billion euros online, which shows a 9 percent growth when compared to the same period a year before. They expect 37 percent of their total expenditures to be online by 2028.
The most popular product categories include fashion, consumer electronics, home and garden products. Home appliances and white goods, online grocery, and health and beauty categories are growing in popularity.
Dutch shoppers want the best from online shopping. With the Netherlands being a global supply chain hub, domestic consumers expect maximum delivery speed and convenience, from browsing to checkout to delivery. These high expectations gave momentum to a remarkable growth in sustainable, exportable last-mile delivery models.
Different delivery services in the Netherlands offer varying delivery times. In 2023, standard delivery carriers estimate a shipping time of two to three days, especially in less densely populated areas. With the rise of alternative last-mile solutions, same-day deliveries — as well as delivery during specific time slots during the day — are a common rule in urban areas.
Black Friday is a strong feature of the Dutch e-commerce calendar, with approximately a third of Dutch consumers planning to shop during the event. It comes just before Sinterklaas on December 5, a traditional Dutch gifting holiday and another equivalent of Christmas sales at the end of the month.
Thriving e-commerce market dominated by domestic brands
Dutch online shoppers are multilingual and tech-savvy but they do show a preference for domestic e-commerce marketplaces. Amazon launched in the Netherlands in March 2020 and came under significant competitive pressure from home online marketplace players Bol.com and Coolblue.
German Zalando and nationally-focused Wehkamp are the largest clothing marketplaces in the Netherlands that account for 5-10 percent of online fashion sales each. Other big e-commerce players include Uniqlo, H&M, Hema, Media Markt, Kruidvat, Etos and Albert Heijn.
Most popular e-commerce delivery methods in the Netherlands
Over 70% of online consumers in the Netherlands prefer home delivery, which boasts a 99% first-attempt delivery success rate. Only a little more than 5% of parcels in the Netherlands were delivered to collection points in 2022 — that's one of the lowest pick-up delivery method rates in the region. It's possible the use of pick-up points as an e-commerce delivery method will grow together with the density of parcel lockers across the country in the next year or two.
Your focus should be on choosing the best, multiple freight carriers in terms of shipping rates and consumer convenience, both local and global. Ingrid Delivery Platform supports e-commerce brands in carrier API integration, offering personalized support and reducing complexity and saving time.
Don’t see the integration you need? Adding new carrier products to Ingrid is free and unlimited. Book a demo to see how Ingrid can create the best delivery experience for you and your customers.
Three largest international carriers operating in the Dutch market
PostNL carries out universal postal and parcel delivery service in the Netherlands and the Benelux with about a 60% domestic market share. In recent years, the company evolved from a national mail carrier to a fully digitized logistics services provider. Today, they process two million parcels a day, largely including e-commerce deliveries.
Your other traditional carrier options may include FedEx, GLS, Evri, and TNT. Now, let's cover local delivery businesses that are driving the last-mile innovation in the Netherlands — and why you can't afford to overlook them.
The onset of sustainable urban freight solutions in the Netherlands
Over the years, local governments in the Netherlands have been transforming Dutch urban landscapes into car- and emission-free zones. Municipality measures saw the closure of car traffic on dense city streets, elimination of parking spaces, hikes in parking rates and introduction of environmental areas. Key cities like Utrecht and Amsterdam have introduced a complete ban of combustion engines for inner city delivery vans from 2025.
Cities meanwhile continued to swell with the influx of urban dwellers and real estate development. With the rise of online shopping and food apps, home deliveries, typically made by diesel vans, put fierce pressure on the entire supply chain, inner city traffic and the environment. Drivers had to spend more time en route, navigating congested delivery routes and scouring for rare, high-priced parking spaces.
With soaring fuel prices and fixed costs of shipping operations, delivery costs and fulfillment time also went up. How could municipalities combat truck traffic in inner cities while still helping businesses and shoppers receive goods in a fast and reliable fashion? Inner city transport had to be electrified to reduce emissions, and also made compact to ease the issues of congestion and limited parking.
Strong European sustainable last-mile players entering the market
With a growing market plus consumer and regulatory demands for sustainable last-mile delivery, established European carriers like Budbee are also thriving in the Netherlands. Working with many of Europe's largest retailers, they provide fast deliveries using bikes, electrical vehicles, and biofuels.
Urban consolidation centers (UCC)
That's how the idea of reducing truck traffic via freight hubs called Urban Consolidation Centers (UCCs) was born in the Dutch city of Nijmegen. Rather than entering the city, long-haul trucks would enter designated freight hubs on the outskirts of the city. Here, consumer orders and other cargo could be offloaded and reassigned to more compact and emission-free modes of transport, like electric vehicles and delivery bikes, for last-mile delivery. Today, Nijmegen's UCC is one of about a dozen such facilities across the Netherlands.
Pick-up and drop-off points (PUDO)
Considering the popularity of parcel pick-up and drop-off (PUDO) points around the world, PostNL set out to invest approximately 450 million euros to set up 1500 PUDO points by 2024 to enhance consumer experience and evidently ease the pressure of last-mile deliveries. They're also opening the existing network of parcel lockers to other carriers in 2023.
An increased use of service points or parcel lockers could relieve some of the logistical pressure, but these delivery alternatives are yet to be popularized among Dutch consumers. Enter another solution — urban last-mile delivery by electric cargo vehicles and bikes.
Three local carriers driving last-mile innovation in the Netherlands
Meet Peddler, a Dutch delivery marketplace with an on-demand approach to local shipping. With operations spanning across Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, Peddler's ship-from-store and ship-from-hub delivery services cater to both local and international brands — a truly new take on 'fast' and 'convenient' microfulfillment.
Online consumers shopping through Peddler can choose same-day deliveries until as late as 5PM, as well as an all-week express offering in a 60-minute window. They can also opt for a Click & Collect service to reserve items online and pick them up in-store at a convenient time.
All deliveries are done by sustainable cargo transport, which helps retailers achieve up to 60% emission reduction. Are you interested in adding an emission-free and scalable carrier alternative to your delivery options in the Dutch market? Integrate with Peddler via Ingrid Delivery Checkout.
Cycloon is another successful example of a local delivery business. Available in over 60 Dutch towns and cities, Cycloon makes same- and next-day parcel deliveries throughout the Netherlands in a sustainable and socially responsible way. They'll have your parcels home delivered at a time when it's more convenient for your consumers — in the evenings, without surcharges.
To ensure a reduction of traffic pressure in inner city and keep CO2 emissions to a minimum, Cycloon riders deliver by cargo bikes or green gas vehicles in case of bulkier items and greater distances between cities. Integrate with Cycloon via Ingrid Delivery Checkout to offer flexible, next-day home deliveries from your warehouse or store — and reduce the carbon footprint of your operations while you're at it.
Amsterdam-based Sparqle is a last-mile delivery solution for retail and e-commerce that picks up and delivers goods from stores and hubs, including consumer goods, food and medicine. Active in the 20 largest Dutch cities, Sparqle's own SaaS platform additionally optimizes delivery routes to reduce the cost of shipping and improves tracking for the best consumer experience. All deliveries are 100% sustainable and done by bikes.
Should you offer free shipping?
It's one of the most popular delivery tactics in e-commerce to offer free delivery on all orders. It doesn’t mean, however, that it’s the best solution for your business.
Sure, free shipping brings in sales. Long-term though you need to be strategic about the way you offer it to achieve scalable business growth. Rising interest rates, online sales decline, risk-averse venture capitalists and high shipping rates — e-commerce businesses are facing a rough economic outlook.
What if your customers started paying for delivery? It's a slow but steady shift — in the 'new normal', profiting from order deliveries suddenly sounds like a pretty good idea. Not only could it be translated into revenue that can cover the shipping costs, but could also leave you with a profit.
"There's a 'sweet spot' where paying for delivery might mean selling fewer products but still earning more."
Anders Ekman, Co-Founder & CBDO of Ingrid
Experiment to set your optimal delivery pricing strategy
Make use of a data-driven delivery pricing in a way that benefits both your consumers and your e-commerce business at the same time. If you're not sure where to start, consider your associated shipping costs and combine multiple delivery rates and delivery methods to find the best fit for your company.
One common rate structure is setting free delivery criteria for a certain shopping cart value, combined with a fixed delivery rate across all products, if they are fairly similar in dimensions, or groups of products.
Based on your average order value (AOV), you could charge a flat rate for orders under 50 EUR, for example, to get the delivery costs back, and provide free delivery for orders over 50 EUR. If your typical order size is 30 EUR, this strategy should work wonders for your e-commerce business. The idea is to encourage your consumers to add more to their cart in order to reach free delivery.
For many businesses, though, setting up a free shipping threshold can be challenging, especially without any data insights. If you’re using a delivery platform like Ingrid, you can easily A/B test your delivery offering.
Delivery pricing strategy example — IDEAL OF SWEDEN
IDEAL OF SWEDEN is a global fashion and lifestyle brand for premium phone accessories. When the brand decided to introduce delivery fees without any data on delivery pricing at hand, it was unclear at what price point potential consumers would still make a purchase after adding products to the cart.
To address the challenge, IDEAL OF SWEDEN entered the initial phase of A/B testing delivery price points in each market, starting with the Netherlands. Thanks to Ingrid's Free Shipping Indicator feature, they were able to set the free shipping criteria to a cart value of 45 EUR or above to test consumer preferences in the Dutch market.
The idea behind a free delivery offer was to raise the AOV, transaction conversion rate (TRC) and the number of upsell products — displayed underneath the free shipping indicator — added to the initial cart value. Result? An 7.81% increase in the TCR and a 7% AOV boost.
Delivery experience as a competitive advantage
Entering new markets and scaling your business is a lot easier when you can offer the best carrier services. Your online e-commerce business literally can't afford to be sub par. Besides, the delivery cost of online retail will only keep growing.
To set the right delivery strategy and keep improving it at all times, integrate with the right technology partner like Ingrid to suggest real-time, most cost-effective, and convenient delivery options for every purchase and location, while ensuring the optimal delivery pricing spot for your business.
Book a demo to see how Ingrid can help you profit from your delivery experience.