E-commerce in the Balkans: Rise of local players

By Petar Galev, Viktor Laskov, Perceptica

The e-commerce scene in most countries in Southeast Europe is usually split between major international retailers and local players. Chinese retailer AliExpress used to hold a significant sway in the region, mostly with the cheap prices and oftentimes low shipping costs. The company was particularly successful in countries like Bulgaria, Serbia, and North Macedonia. However, the last two years have marked a notable shift from that trend – expressed in the graph below.
In the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people started getting wary of goods shipped from China. This included rumours spreading through social media of the virus being contracted from the surfaces of shipped goods. This led to a significant drop in interest in AliExpress. Although competitors like Amazon also felt it, the impact on the Chinese retailer was significantly harder.
The subsequent months of 2020 saw a period of recovery, with people searching for ways to shop as many items as possible online. This process was most visible in Bulgaria and to a lesser extent in other countries. By that time, Amazon had already caught up with its competitor and managed to overtake it in 2021 when shipping costs from China to Europe went through a major hike.

Local/regional retailers

The e-commerce scene in most SEE countries features an increasing number of local retailers who are also vying for domination of their respective markets. Their media strategies tend to be different and lead to varying results, also dependent on their focus. Most often than not, the list of top e-retailers per country would feature a tech-oriented website, as well as companies focused on fashion or cosmetics.

Southeast Europe

The analysis takes a look at the media strategy and performance of two of the biggest e-commerce websites in five countries from Southeast Europe. It features information on how popular they are on different platforms, how search interest in them fares as well as whether they are reliant on the holiday or Black Friday season.

Here is a full list of the analysed indicators alongside a short explanation what stands behind each of them.

Search Interest

This indicator looks into how popular the website is in comparison with other major e-commerce outlets. Its results are measured against the other biggest local e-commerce website as well as against the two largest global outlets present in the country (Amazon and AliExpress). A result of over 50 indicates that the outlet in question is dominant on the local market – in terms of search interest.

Number of Website Visitors

The indicator looks at the total number of unique monthly visitors the website gets and compares it against the number of internet users in the country (as per publicly available data). A score of over 50 suggests that the website is particularly popular and draws a significant portion of the country’s online audience.

Social Media Presence

Social media presence once again measures a website’s entire social media base (combined number of followers across all platforms) against the overall number of social media users in the country. Here, a score of over 20 suggests a successful presence, while a score of over 50 is reserved only for the most popular pages in any given country.

News Media Presence

This indicator measures how popular local outlets are in news media in comparison with global players. It shows the share of articles each major competitor has out of all news publications mentioning any of the two largest local and global competitors. The indicator considers all publications from print and online news outlets over the course of the past year.

Reliance on Black Friday/Holiday Deals

The final indicator looks at how reliant each e-commerce website on holiday deals (and Black Friday in particular) is for its media strategy. It measures search interest and news media presence during a website’s annual peak in comparison with the average levels throughout the year. A score above 50 suggests that an outlet puts over twice as much effort during its most busy season than it does on average during the rest of the year. Conversely, a score close to 0 suggests that the website puts pretty much the same amount of effort throughout the year and does not treat holiday deals as particularly important.

Country Profiles


eMag Bulgaria vs RemixShop

As arguably the leading e-commerce retailer in Bulgaria, eMag predictably scores better in most categories covered by the analysis. It has a much more popular website, ranks higher in search, and attracts significantly more media attention than its counterpart. Typically for a tech-oriented retailer, eMag is heavily reliant on Black Friday deals. The media conversation and search interest around the website tend to peak at about the same time – when it announces its Black Friday sale. While consumers do remain interested in the website throughout the year, the average levels are much lower than what is witnessed in this particular week.

RemixShop, on the other hand, is more popular on social media which it uses to boost interest in its products – as opposed to interest in its own website. Unlike most other countries, Bulgarian retailers seem to focus solely on Facebook and Instagram as part of their marketing effort – at least as far as social media platforms are concerned. RemixShop has a bigger following on both.


Ekupi vs Notino

Ekupi.hr is a large Croatian online store selling a wide range of products such as clothing, footwear, electronics, toys and books. Notino is an online cosmetics store, a major player in Europe, present in 25 countries.

Both platforms note a similar presence on social media, but the situation is very different when it comes to traditional news media, where ekupi.hr is far more active. Ekupi.hr and Notino.hr both experience a boost around Black Friday, as is to be expected.

Ekupi.hr is in the lead when it comes to daily website visitors, due to the wider range of products offered, which naturally caters to a larger share of internet users. When it comes to long term interest in both websites, they maintain be a lot more sustainable, as eMag peaks during Black Friday, while Dedeman keeps stable numbers across the board across the entire year, without notable steady levels across the year with Notino gaining traction over the past half a year and appearing to catch up and even overtake ekupi.hr in some weeks.


eMag Romania vs Dedeman

eMAG is a Romanian company, owned by Naspers, which sells IT equipment and components, electronics, home appliances, personal care items, automotive products, sporting goods, books, music, movies, furniture and household products and garden, pet products, children’s items, toys. Dedeman is a Romanian company that sells construction materials and interior design products.

eMag is a company with strong presence on the market via its main eMag brand as well as other brands such as Fashion Days. When it comes to media presence, eMag is way more prevalent on both traditional and social media. The situation changes when one looks at the consumer search interest, where eMag still comes first, but this time around Dedeman is a close second. Dedeman’s total exposure is lower, but appears to be a lot more sustainable, as eMag peaks during Black Friday, while Dedeman keeps stable numbers across the board across the entire year, without notable peaks, but also without any significant falls in coverage.


Gigatron vs Tehnomanija

The fact that both analysed websites in Serbia are focused on technology more or less pre-determines the similarities observed in terms of their media presence. Both Gigatron.rs and Tehnomanija.rs heavily relied on Black Friday deals as well as, to a lesser extent, on the Christmas holidays shopping spree. They also matched each other in terms of the overall search interest generated – significantly higher than any of their global competitors. The same goes for their news media presence.

What distinguished the two was the overall popularity of their websites, as well as their social media presence. Gigatron excelled in both categories. The social media aspect is particularly interesting as Gigatron seems to be significantly more popular than its competitor on Facebook and Instagram, with the latter being of growing importance for e-commerce in the region. As was the case with other countries in the region, none of the companies dedicated much effort on Twitter, where only Gigatron has a presence, albeit with a really meagre following.


Mimovrste vs BigBang

Unlike most other countries on the list, Slovenia’s e-commerce field offers a much more balanced picture. It is also a rare example where the likes of eBay and Amazon have long since been more popular that their Chinese competitor AliExpress.

Each of the two analysed websites has some particularly strong points. Heavily tech-oriented bigbang.si, for example had a strong showing on news media in the past year. Most notably, media coverage focused on the fact that the company had managed to deal with the pandemic better than most.

A bit of an all-round retailer, mimovrste. com had more success in terms of search interest (with one notable peak for Black Friday) and the number of website visitors it received. In fact, it easily slots into the top 20 most popular websites in the country.

One aspect of their performance both websites could look into improving comes in their social media presence. While overall mimovrste.com is slightly ahead in this respect, bigbang.si has a significantly better following on Instagram – a network more and more e-commerce websites have targeted as a platform that could help drive sales.


Perceptica (www.perceptica.com) is a team of professionals specialised in creating innovative in-depth reports based on online media analytics. Mapping brand perceptions among customers provides valuable insights for helping brands, individuals and organisations thrive.

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