Expand into Spain: the up-and-coming ecommerce market

Compared to other European countries, the Spanish online market has developed relatively slowly. Since it can’t be classified as mature yet, it’s an attractive destination for international online sellers.

Spain has gone through hard times recovering from recession. But now, according to Secure Trading, with 60% of the population shopping online, Spain is the largest ecommerce market in southern Europe, leaving behind Italy and Turkey.

Read more about the Spanish marketplace and how to win the Spanish online buyer.

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 Spain: the up-and-coming marketplace with lots of online sales potential

According to the study carried out by Comision Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia, in the case of Spain, more products are bought abroad than sold. Hence, this up-and-coming marketplace has lots of cross-border trade potential.

For starters, a few online sales related facts and figures:

  • 8% of all internet users are Spanish
  • On average, EUR 513 per person is spent online annually
  • One of the the biggest online shopping days in Spain is Cyber Monday
  • The leading internet retail category is Apparel and Footwear, followed by Food and Drink.
  • Spanish is the third most commonly used language online, after English and Mandarin.

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The Spanish online buyer

Spaniards speak loudly, are affectionate with newly-met people and love drinking and eating…

… this is the image that may come to your mind when you think of a typical Spanish person. Right or wrong…

… affected by the crisis, Spanish buyers have been hungry for cheaper prices and these can often be found online. There are around 47 million people living in Spain, 59% of which are Internet users.

So what are Spanish online buyers like?

eBay online sales seasonalityAccording to Landmark Global, the typical online shopper:

  • Is 25-49 years old (35-49 year olds in particular)
  • Lives in urban areas and works full-time
  • Is university educated
  • Comes from a medium to high professional social class.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Spanish love freebies: it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s free, they will love it.

The Spanish buyer goes digital

Spaniards love street shopping. However, since the arrival of new technologies, habits have started changing. For instance, iPad Sunday is a new phenomenon that describes the peak shopping time occurring on Sunday, usually between 6pm-7pm.

Interestingly, on iPad Sunday, Spaniards spend more (in terms of average value per order) with their tablets (EUR 42) than their smartphones (EUR 34).

Overcome trust issues & win the Spanish online shopper

Generally, Spaniards like shopping online, but unfortunately some of them fail to complete their online purchases. Not only because the buyer finds the price too high, but also due to confidence and trust issues.

Some shoppers may feel uncomfortable not being able to physically see the product. Others may be put off by the necessity to enter personal details whilst making online payments.

What are the main reasons for incomplete online transactions?

  • The free shipping option is not available
  • Products are too expensive
  • Shoppers don’t feel confident when it comes to returns
  • Shoppers don’t feel safe when it comes to payments and may not want to give out personal details.
  • Shoppers can’t see what they’re about to purchase and may not have enough product information, which may result in a lack of trust.

To increase your chances of making a sale, you need to overcome any potential trust issues. For instance, by providing shoppers with a great deal of product information, photos and customer reviews. You should also work with an experienced and trusted payment service provider.

To give Spanish online buyers more confidence, online sellers should:

  • Provide consumer opinions proving that other shoppers haven’t had any issues with their purchases
  • Offer secure payments with tools like Google Wallet or Paypal
  • Make sure shoppers know about the possibility of returns so that they don’t feel intimidated by an irreversible purchase
  • Provide shoppers with easy ways to contact the merchant
  • Provide shoppers with enough information and detailed product descriptions.

spanish online buyer

Source: Landmark Global

In a nutshell:

  • Spanish online shoppers have an exceptional fondness for finding low prices and being offered freebies.
  • They value simple returns.
  • They want to feel confident when purchasing a product that they can’t see and when they have to enter personal details online.
  • When it comes to shipping, Spanish shoppers like to see their purchases delivered within 3–5 days.

Popular ecommerce categories in Spain

In terms of product preferences, Spanish consumers resemble their other European counterparts. They often shop online for clothes & footwear, home electronics and books. In addition, Spaniards like to buy car accessories and food online.

Cetelem’s El Observatorio Cetelem Ecommerce 2015 study provides a few interesting facts about categories and online sales in Spain.

According to the study, leisure products are particularly popular with Spanish buyers: 65% buy entertainment tickets, books, music, and restaurant reservations online. In fact…

…there’s a wide range of product categories that Spanish consumers are interested in, which is promising for cross-border transactions.

In 2015, 30% of total retail sales were made online; other product categories Spanish consumers were enthusiastic about include:

  • Travel (63% of buyers purchased online)
  • Fashion (55% of buyers purchased online)
  • Electronics (54% of buyers purchased online)
  • Footwear and accessories (51% of buyers purchased online).

What is noteworthy is the tendency of Spanish shoppers to turn to their friends and family for recommendations before making a purchase. In other words, the retailer’s reputation and ratings are extremely important.

The study also highlights the fact that …

  • 35% of shoppers made a purchase using a mobile device (compared to 23% in 2014).
  • 72% of Spanish consumers prefer to pay via PayPal.

spain ecommerce 1

Ecommerce in Spain: payment methods & the mobile trend

The most popular card schemes in Spain are Visa and MasterCard (57.1% and 39.9% share, respectively). Alternative payment methods include Allopass, Cash on Delivery, SafetyPay, Teleingreso or Trustly.

What is driving the current industry trend are mobile methods of payment and contactless technology. Spain is a fast-growing mobile commerce market in Europe

According to a survey by Nielsen, Spain is leading the UK, Germany, France and Italy in terms of their intention to buy online via mobile devices. 38% of respondents in Spain reported that this was their intention, compared to 25% in the UK.

Ecommerce in Spain: social media & online sales

45% of Spanish people have shared information on social networks: it’s more than the global average of 36%. Spaniards like using social networks, also during the shopping process, e.g. to check out opinions and reviews about products and brands.

2 out of 3 internet users value recommendations from other users. Opinions are sought for on specialist portals (59%) and blogs (31%). Online shoppers also utilise social media to find out about brands: Facebook (41%), Twitter (38%) or Instagram (21%).

65% say that they consider making another purchase from companies that have serviced them via social media. However, 65% don’t approve of companies that use social networks to substitute for catalogues or to advertise offers.

Logistics in Spain

When it comes to logistics, Spain is a bit behind the leaders from Western Europe. Correos, the Spanish postal operator, is trying to embrace the ecommerce demands with carriers such as Seur and MRW. Seur focuses on home delivery and MRW operates both home delivery and pick-up locations.

Spain & cross-border trade

Spain is one of the European markets with a big potential for both domestic and cross-border ecommerce. Out of the top 5 etailers in Spain, 4 are foreign: Amazon, Apple, and PPR Group.

Moreover, in the 1st quarter of 2013, the amount of transactions made in Spain on foreign sites accounted for 56.5% of ecommerce transactions. Among countries preferred for cross-border e-shopping are France, the United States, Germany and China.

According to Statista, B2C e-commerce sales in Spain are expected to grow to 28.04 billion US dollars by 2017.

B2C ecommerce sales in Spain from 2014 to 2017 (in billion U.S. dollars)

eCommerce sales spain 2014 2017

Source: Statista

According to Paypers:

  • The number of transactions made in Spain on foreign sites accounted for 56.5% of ecommerce transactions.
  • When it comes to overseas purchasing, home furnishings and clothing & footwear are a popular choice.
  • Spanish shoppers mostly buy from the UK (14.2%), China (12.5%), the US (10.3%) and Germany (9.9%); in percentage of total Spanish cross-border purchases.
  • Spanish etailers mostly sell to the UK (3.9%), Italy (3.5%) and France (3.9%); in percentage of cross-border sales from the respective countries.

Cross-border ecommerce in Spain: challenges and room for improvement

Ecommerce in Spain is full of potential, but it’s also a challenging area with room for improvement. For instance, online payment methods still leave a lot to be desired.

Most issues have to do with security and practicality. There are many frustrated attempts to make payments daily: 35% of consumers trying to make a purchase aren’t able to do so. The main reasons for these failed attempts include:

  • too rigid antifraud filters
  • restrictions on credit card purchases
  • a lack of choice of payment methods.

Improvements should also be made in the area of m-commerce. Mobile potential is underused. Even though Spain has one of the highest penetration rates for smartphones, many Spaniards may still not be very used to m-commerce. Only 6% of smartphone owners use their phone to buy online.

It’s only a matter of time before m-commerce explodes and online sellers should stay alert. Especially when it comes to the adaptation of their websites for mobile devices.

If you’re interested in comprehensive, quality data about ecommerce topics of your interest, we have some international sales reports and free guidebooks to help you grow your online sales!

Want to sell online in Spain? Think about the language first!

localisation ecommerceThe stereotype has it that Spaniards speak English in a way that leaves a lot to be desired. According to a study conducted by the OCU, 9 out of 10 Spaniards feel embarrassed whilst communicating in English.

Thinking of selling in Spain? Think about the language as a key driver: the official language is Spanish, spoken by 72% of the population. Moreover, around 414 million people worldwide speak Spanish as a native language. This number ranks Spanish second to Mandarin when it comes to the number of native speakers.

An important takeaway here is …

Much of ecommerce in Spain is driven by language, rather than by geography.

This places many of Spain’s international customers in South America.

So if you are thinking of selling online in Spain, communicate in Spanish! Adapt your offers to the local buyer. At the same time, there is a chance that millions of other Spanish native speakers outside of Europe will find your offers too.

When it comes to global ecommerce, language is the key driver in most case, but luckily the language barrier is finally overcome!

language barrier international ecommerce

In a nutshell

Even though Spain has been affected by a big financial crisis and high unemployment rates, the ecommerce sector has actually experienced a growth. ecommerce has enabled Spaniards to increase their purchasing power.

Spain is one of the hottest countries on the European continent: not only in terms of temperatures but also international ecommerce potential.

Since in Spain more products are bought abroad than sold, online sellers should definitely consider international expansion into the Spanish marketplace.

Are you one of them? Start selling in Spain now!


Sources & further reading

The ecommerce market in Italy is booming [Global ecommerce]
France: the third biggest marketplace in Europe
Why is the United Kingdom an eCommerce success story? [Top marketplaces]
Germany: biggest online market in Europe
United States: global ecommerce superpower
Time for global online sellers to conquer Australia: facts & practical tips


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