International Business Strategies

Market Quick-Look: Turkey

Despite recent challenges, Turkey remains a promising emerging market for cross-border e-commerce.

Erdem Tokmakoglu's avatar
Erdem Tokmakoglu

July 12, 2016


We’ll soon launch an ongoing series spotlighting key global online markets, and sharing our exclusive analysis and advice on how to smartly engage their consumers. But before we deep-dive into those markets, we’ll start with a shorter “quick look” at Turkey.

Turkey has been in the international news lately. Heartbreakingly, it’s for all the wrong reasons.

A recent terrorist attack rocked Istanbul Atatürk Airport, killing 45 people and injuring more than 230. For months now, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has faced increasing political and social pressures—including criticism that his policies are becoming increasingly authoritarian. This may impact Turkey’s relationship with Europe, and beyond.

In April, personal data for over half of the country’s population was leaked online, presumably by hacktivists keen to criticize the government’s leadership, and expose weaknesses in Turkey’s ageing IT systems.

And in late May, online payment juggernaut PayPal Holdings Inc. suspended its operations in Turkey, by order of the Turkish government. The impasse is a side-effect of recent Turkish policies, which require Western technology and social-media companies to move some of their data centers inside Turkey’s borders.

The policy is meant to streamline government compliance checks and generate tax revenue, though critics claim it was also created to censor dissenting online speech critical of current Turkish leadership.

These unfolding events are a drag, mostly because there’s a lot for expanding Western companies to like about Turkey—particularly as an online market. Turkey remains in its nascent days as an online marketplace, but it’s growing fast.

From 2013 to 2014, the e-commerce sector grew by 35%. This year, e-commerce will reach around $6.9 billion, and is on track to hit nearly $11.5 billion by 2020. As Deloitte wrote in 2013, “Comparing to the developed countries, there is a huge potential for the following years in terms of e-commerce business in Turkey.”

The country’s economy is resilient, too. In Q1 2016 alone, it grew by nearly 5%.

Bright Signs of Promise

Turkey’s population is fairly young. The country has a total population of 77.7 million, with half of that under the median age of 30.7. Fifty-one percent of the total population has Internet access; the number of smartphone users will soon reach 35.2 million. Mobile phone penetration is at 100%. Turkey has a massive pool of educated early adopters and tech-savvy users.

Last year, over 30% of Turkey’s Internet users shopped online, with an average order value of about $91. Generally speaking, consumer tastes are similar to Europe’s. And thanks to a Turkey / EU customs union, taxation and standards are harmonized.

The market does present challenges beyond the ones mentioned at the beginning of this article. Politics are polarized, and local markets can experience fluctuations. Regulatory frameworks and bureaucracy are generally slow and inefficient. The market is mostly liberal and open, however, with its primary drivers being industry and service sectors.

We recently examined worldwide macroeconomic factors, and cross-referenced them with Internet performance metrics to generate our MotionPoint Index™ list of Top 30 global markets (as seen in our Trendbook e-book series). Out of the 96 countries that qualified for inclusion in the MotionPoint Index, Turkey ranked 59.

While current economic factors prevented Turkey from ranking higher, we believe it remains a high-priority e-commerce market for first movers—especially considering its early-adopter, educated young population.

Erdem Tokmakoglu's avatar
Erdem Tokmakoglu

July 12, 2016


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