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Post-2008, Spain suffered years of economic gloom, which depressed consumer spending power and business activity. Now, though, many residents see clear signs of progress, as GDP performance improves, employment is rising and optimism is growing.
For example, the proportions of internet users in Spain who plan to buy goods and services—whether offline or online—have risen markedly in the past year, and are broadly comparable to levels in other EU-5 countries, according to a May 2016 Cetelem - Spain report, based on research by TNS Sofres and Bipe.
More than half (55%) of adult web users in Spain polled in November and December 2015 said they were likely to make leisure and travel purchases in the following 12 months, not far behind the 59% of web users in Germany who said the same. Similarly, 41% of respondents in Spain aimed to buy major home appliances, compared with 29% in France, 40% in the UK and 46% in Italy.
Spain’s digital transformation is gaining momentum too. Many people taking belated advantage of digital options are older consumers in Spain, ages 50 and up; the Cetelem study paid special attention to this demographic. Historically, these seniors were among the most hesitant to use the internet or experiment with shopping online, but those defaults are shifting.
When researchers asked seniors where they most often bought various items, the internet was a common destination. Two in five (41%) said they bought travel on the web, and the same percentage bought leisure products. One-third (32%) said the internet was a top source when they purchased consumer electronics, and 23% said they often went online to buy clothing. Food was the only category for which physical stores had an overwhelming advantage.
Even the more radical shifts in behavior brought about by technology are reaching Spain’s older residents. The sharing economy is a case in point. On the whole, younger people were keener on digitally enabled collaboration of various kinds, such as individuals exchanging services or sharing cars; 76% of respondents under 35 had a positive or very positive view of such practices. That percentage fell to 70% among those ages 35 to 49. But even among those ages 60 to 75, 55% said they had a positive opinion.
And, while most seniors online in the 28 EU countries paid relatively little attention to brand advertising, Spain was one of the few nations that bucked this trend; 58% of older consumers there said they did take note of branded ads. Seniors in Italy also registered a higher-than-average level of attention to advertising (55%), while response rates in the UK and France were just 30% and 28%, respectively.
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