The e-commerce sector in Spain is gradually catching on, and experts are cautiously optimistic about the future according to El País today.

Spaniards did not take to on-line shopping and on-line banking as enthusiastically as most of their EU and US counterparts, and Spain has consistently occupied one of the posts at the rear end of the international rankings of number of active Internet users in developed countries. Despite all the hype, by 2000 the numbers of people in Spain using Internet to buy products or services, was well below that of other European countries.

Today however, according to El País, things are changing, and e-commerce statistics are steadily improving from year to year. According to the Electronic Commerce Study B2C (don’t open the link unless you speak Spanish and are really interested in the contents – it takes AGES to load), carried out by Red.es and the Spanish Association for Electronic Commerce (AECE), the number of e-consumers in Spain rose by a million in 2003, 35% more than the previous year.

El País asks experts why e-commerce trends in Spain have not matched figures in other European countries. In the opinion of those consulted, Spain was always bound to react slower to online buying, because the mail catalogue business was never a big thing over here. For many Spaniards, going out shopping continues to be a big part of their daily and social life. Big supermarkets only started to take off here 15-20 years ago, and many small Spanish barrios still boast an impressive array of successful, small local shops surrounding welcoming plazas with small parks for children and including thriving butchers, fishmongers, ironmongers, fruit and veg etc, still resistent to the increasing presence of larger supermarkets.

According to the El Pais article, the e-commerce market niches which have made their mark in Spain include the sale of bus, plane and train tickets, books and online banking. But, according to sources quoted in the article, Spaniards are still worried about how safe it is to use their credit cards in online transactions, and as many as 22.6% seek alternative ways of paying for their purchases (e.g. pay on delivery).

At the moment 30% of Spain’s population uses Internet and the figure is, at last, steadily growing. And 23.2% of these Internet users made an online purchase of some kind or other last year. Also, even though the Spanish population in general remains reticent to purchasing online, Internet is affecting consumer choices here in the sense that almost 77% of Spanish Internet users use the network to compare availability, price and quality of products they are looking for, even though they end up going to a traditional shop to physically buy the product Internet has helped them to choose.