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Why are Spanish Consumers Still Wary of Online Shopping?

Mobile Shopping

PwC’s Total Retail 2016 report highlights how far Spain is lagging behind other Western European countries in terms of online commerce, particularly mobile shopping.

26 de mayo de 2016

Spain is the European country with the highest smartphone penetration rate in Europe, with 7 out of 10 adults reportedly owning a smartphone. Internet usage through mobile devices is also one of the strongest in Europe. Yet it appears Spanish consumers are still a lot more wary of using their phones as shopping devices than their continental counterparts, according to PwC’s latest Total Retail 2016 report.

For this latest project, the legal and financial consulting firm interviewed 23.000 consumers from 25 different countries around the globe, in a bid to keep track of the world’s stance on e-commerce.

The results are fairly astounding, if not particularly satisfactory for Spanish online sellers. Less than 1 out of every 2 (48%) Spanish shoppers make a purchase over the Internet at least once a month, with that figure falling all the way to 19% for consumers who do it once a week or more.

When reducing the question to mobile devices only, it gets worse: just 7% of Spanish shoppers use their smartphone to buy something on a weekly basis, rising to 18% for the “at least once a month” group.

Mobile Shopping

Percentage of people who use their phone to shop online (At least 1. Once a month; 2. Once a week)


While these figures are in sharp contrast with the smartphone penetration rates mentioned earlier, they are also much lower than any other Western European country. The Global average for smartphone purchases is of 12% weekly and 28% monthly, with China leading the charts at 36% and 66%, respectively. Only Poland (6% and 16%) ranks lower than Spain.

The picture is similar for total e-commerce, with a Global average of 29% (weekly) and 65% (monthly) and China again showing the best figures (71% and 94% [though considering the rate of telephone penetration in more rural and poorer areas of China, and therefore their accessibility for interviews, those numbers could be somewhat skewed]).

What explains these consumer habits? According to PwC’s report, a big reason for Spanish consumers’ skepticism towards online shopping could be the lack of proper platforms: 48% of those interviewed claimed “Ease of use and comfortability” to be the main factors that influenced them to shop online. This idea is reinforced by the fact that Spanish shoppers’ are just as fearful of being hacked or having credit card details stolen online as most other countries (62%, to Germany’s 61%, France’s 56% or the United Kingdom’s 66%).

According to Javier Vello, who led the Spanish side of the report, “perhaps our retail companies haven’t spent enough resources [on Internet shopping channels], and the systems and processes set in place aren’t as simple as our consumers are demanding”.

The full Total Retail 2016 report can be read here. An executive summary is also available (in Spanish).