IESE Insight

7 trends shaping e-commerce in Spain

Online shoppers prefer shipping that’s free, rather than fast, and sustainability that doesn’t cost more. That’s according to a 2022 study on the future of e-commerce in Spain.

Ecommerce in Spain

7 out of 10 shoppers surveyed make purchases online at least once a month.

November 16, 2022
  • Interest in sustainability is growing in the realm of e-commerce, but consumers are reluctant to pay more for it.
  • Free shipping is a must: 9 out of 10 consumers prioritize receiving their package at no additional cost over ultra-fast or home delivery.
  • The second edition of the Veepee-IESE study on the future of e-commerce in Spain finds the nation’s e-commerce habit is consolidating as digital purchases continue to grow.

Following a dramatic surge in online sales triggered by Spain’s pandemic lockdown, e-commerce in the nation is consolidating: 43% of surveyed consumers bought more online this year than they did last year. Seven out of 10 make purchases online at least once a month. This is reflected in the second annual Veepee-IESE study on the future of ecommerce in Spain, carried out by the flash-sales firm Veepee and IESE Business School. The study aims to capture the shopping habits of digital consumers and other trends in the e-commerce space. Here’s a rundown of its most salient findings.

Sustainability that doesn’t cost the consumer

Online shoppers show a growing interest in sustainability but are not willing to pay much for it.

  • 50% of consumers buy and sell second-hand products online in Spain.
  • 53% are willing to buy “on demand” to be more sustainable and reduce overproduction waste, despite the increase in delivery time that on-demand purchases entail.
  • 31% regularly use clothing-recycling services.
  • Only 1 in 3 consumers is willing to pay more for greener or more sustainable options, with the majority drawing the limit at a 10% premium.

Delivery that’s free and on target

Up to 90% of online consumers prioritize free deliveries over getting the package at home (versus a pickup spot) or very quickly.

  • 30% would rather pick up the order at a delivery point if this saves money.
  • 6 euros is the upper limit that online shoppers are willing to pay for fast deliveries (in 24 to 48 hours) or to receive packages at home.
  • 14% would pay an annual subscription to receive free shipments, with an average annual rate of 27.50 euros (equivalent to 2.30 euros per month).

Regular returns at a minimal cost

Most online consumers in Spain (7 out of 10) make returns on a regular basis, although these returns represent fewer than 10% of their purchases.

  • 21% of digital buyers are willing to pay for returns, but never more than 10% of the original value of the product.
  • 3 out of 4 choose to go to the store to save on return costs.
  • 1 out of 3 keeps the product or try to sell it via second-hand shopping platforms.

Mobile phones, essential shopping tools

For online purchases, more than 3 in 4 consumers habitually use their phones, although other devices are also popular.

  • While 77% report placing orders via their phones, 50% use a laptop, 32% a desktop computer and just 18% a tablet.
  • 73% of digital purchases are made through websites, and 6 out of 10 explicitly prefer websites over apps.

At least 20 euros per month

In Spain, 60% of consumers spend between 20 and 100 euros each month online, and 28% spend more than 100 euros a month.

  • Only 12% of online consumers tend to choose to pay via installments.
  • But among shoppers who buy online at least once a week, 1 in 5 opts to pay in installments. Generally speaking, the more frequent the shopping, the greater the tendency to pay over time.
  • Only 5% of those who only purchase semi-annually or less frequently pay in installments.

Favoring fashion and travel

Fashion and travel continue to be the two most sought-after product categories online, as they were last year.

  • 39% of shoppers surveyed plan to buy more clothing and accessories online post-pandemic, and 35% plan to spend on travel — dubbed “revenge travel” in some media outlets.
  • Meanwhile, buying tickets for concerts and shows is planned by 33%, and purchasing technology products is on the horizon for 32%. Of the top shopping categories, only technology's popularity has declined slightly since last year (from 34%).
  • Food delivery is also on a downward trend, with 23% of consumers surveyed planning purchases, compared with 26% a year ago. Finally, only 7% plan to shop for sporting goods online, compared with 8% last year.

An omnichannel customer journey

While online consumers' first contact with a brand is usually via traditional channels (physical stores and friends' recommendations), the digital world is increasingly important for gathering information and making the sale. In addition, multi-brand marketplaces are becoming a valuable source for product searches.

  • 8 out of 10 surveyed learn about new brands from friends’ recommendations and/or from seeing them in physical stores.
  • 80% use search engines and online shops to compare prices before deciding to buy.
  • 7 out of 10 discover brands and research purchasing decisions via marketplaces. Multi-brand marketplaces are valued for their variety of offerings and competitive pricing, as well as for their after-sales services, shipping prices, punctual and flexible deliveries, and better return options.
  • 50% of shoppers consult social media in search of product and brand information. Instagram is currently the most influential network in Spanish e-commerce.
  • 59% of Generation Z consumers discover new brands via influencers, a percentage that drops to 28% when all consumers are taken into account.
  • In the realm of travel, 3 out of 4 trips are purchased online in Spain. The picture is very different for food: only 1 in 4 grocery carts is filled online. In terms of fashion, technology and beauty, on- and offline purchasing patterns are more balanced.

Methodology, very briefly

The second edition of the Veepee-IESE Study on the future of e-commerce in Spain analyzed the online shopping habits and customs of 1,605 digital consumers who are over the age of 16 and residing in Spain.

More info:

The full study (in Spanish) can be downloaded here: "II Estudio Veepee-IESE sobre el futuro del ecommerce en España."

The 2021 study is summarized here: "10 trends shaping e-commerce in Spain."

"Retail Revolution: How retailers can prepare for an omnichannel future" is featured in IESE Business School Insight #162 (September 2022).