Netcomm Suisse Observatory and ContactLab: 4.2 million online shoppers in Switzerland, almost 90% o

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Annual expenditure of around 2,000 CHF per person among online shoppers in Switzerland

Six in ten buy from abroad when they don’t find a product in Swiss online stores


The results of the Swiss Internet Users & E-Commerce Research on digital behaviour commissioned by the Swiss e-commerce Association Netcomm Suisse and carried out by Contactlab and Netcomm Suisse Observatory were revealed today at the Swiss E-commerce Conference. Switzerland is a mature market, with a very strong inclination towards online shopping and with specific habits that brands present on the Swiss market need to know in order to design business development strategies. Six in every ten online shoppers purchase from abroad because of the greater choice available: this should be seen as an opportunity to Swiss sellers, who should intercept this demand for products, goods and services and make them locally available.


Zurich, 27 November 2014 – What is the state of e-commerce in Switzerland? How much do Swiss online shoppers spend, what do they buy and what methods do they use when they shop online? How many prefer to buy from abroad rather than using local providers or those which have stores in the Country? These questions are answered by the Swiss Internet Users & E-Commerce Research2014, (Extract available at the first edition of the extensive research, which digs deeper into the digital behaviour of internet users living in Switzerland, commissioned by the Swiss e-commerce Association Netcomm Suisse and carried out by ContactLab, to be presented today in Zurich during the Swiss E-commerce Conference 2014.


In conducting the survey, a methodology was used so as to guarantee a true representation of Swiss internet use. A sample of almost 1,100 cases was defined on a socio-demographic level using analysis from the leading sources of official statistics (BFS). This research helps to make international comparisons between Switzerland and other European Countries (Germany, UK, Italy, France, and Spain) and, at the same time, to examine the contrasting details among the various individual Swiss cantons, enhancing its specificity.


An overview of a fully digitised Country

Switzerland is at the top of the European rankings for internet diffusion and for e-commerce access: today, almost 90% of the population between 16 and 65 are regular internet users, and almost all of them have made an online purchase in the last 12 twelve months (90%). This is a mature market: there are 4.8 million internet users and 4.2 million online shoppers in the 16-65 age range, from whom a certain level of dynamic interaction with the online offer can be expected.


“The Netcomm Suisse Observatory on e-commerce was produced to offer e-commerce managers, institutions and decision-makers a robust quantitative basis in order to understand the behaviour of online shoppers, evaluate market performance and implement public and private policies to support the growth of the sector”, says Carlo Terreni, General Director and Head of the Observatory. “We chose to entrust the task to Contactlab because of its methodological approach and its ability to analyse and interpret the information collected. Thanks to this, we are now able to provide businesses in the field of e-commerce and related marketing services with useful data to design strategies for market penetration and business development. This research becomes even more significant given that it is the first time that we have widespread data on the online habits of digital consumers in the Swiss market. We should not forget that this is a market which is very focused on the digital world, especially given that of a Country with just over 8 million inhabitants, 4.2 million of them are buying online.”


“Today, e-commerce in Switzerland is a market in which the average online shopper spends almost 2000 CHF per year”, Terreni concludes. “Thanks to this, we are now able to provide businesses in the field of e-commerce and related marketing services with useful data to design strategies for market penetration and business development.”


“We are very proud, along with the Netcomm Suisse Observatory, to be able to expand the map of digital behaviour of European users, extending the methodology of our European Digital Behaviour Study to this market. The specific nature of Swiss users’ behaviour, comfortable with using the various functionalities of the internet including e-commerce, should be seen as an opportunity for brands”, explains Stefano Lena, VP Sales at ContactLab. Our research analyses the market with a robust approach to offer sellers information which can be used and applied to their marketing strategies. If companies are able to understand the profile of their own targets regarding online shopping and the interaction between online and offline approaches, and to interpret their expectations and inclinations, they can establish indicators on the allocation of resources and investments, with positive outcomes for their business”.


Online purchases: an average of almost 2,000 CHF spent per person per year

For online users in Switzerland, online shopping is a common practice: 90% of them made an online purchase within the last year. In a year, an average Swiss internet user spends around 1,930 CHF. The amount spent by Swiss users is one of the highest in Europe (Fig. 1).


The main reasons for using e-commerce are the time-saving element and the ability to make a purchase at any time of day. Such choices are specific to Swiss online shoppers and demonstrate a highly-evolved online shopper profile.


Like in the rest of Europe, it is especially clothing which is bought online, purchased by more than half of online shoppers, followed at some distance by transport and tickets for travel (36%), books (32%), event tickets (29%), trips and holidays (28%). The categories in which Swiss internet users say they have spent the most on are holidays and tickets for travel. For all categories listed in the survey of Swiss users, they declared to have spent more online, on average, compared to the previous year.


The preferred purchasing methods and Swiss users’ opinions of them

In Switzerland, online shoppers make purchases mainly using three e-commerce models: online shops with offline equivalents, producers’ e-stores, and specialised e-commerce stores with various offers and brands. Other models, such as price comparison sites and wholesale e-commerce sites, are also used by one in four online shoppers. The success of some models can be explained by the high quality of online service and the customer experience they are able to generate, which is transformed into a feeling of loyalty towards a given method.


For a further characterisation of the Swiss online shopper, we can examine payment methods (Fig. 2): to make online payments, Swiss online shoppers prefer the invoice (55%), followed by credit card payment (40%) and Paypal (35%). Swiss users are also rather different in this aspect compared to other European shoppers, who generally prefer Paypal (first choice in all five of the countries features in the survey).


Connectivity and email use: the habits of internet users during navigation

As seen above, Switzerland is one of the most highly-evolved countries in terms of habitual internet use: 90% of the Swiss population between the ages of 16 and 65 years regularly connect to the internet, either on their PCs or mobiles. In Switzerland, a quarter of internet users are so-called “triple device users”, connecting either with a PC, a smartphone or a tablet. The average connection time during a navigation session is 3 hours. The use of email is the most widespread activity and accessed on a daily basis; according to the research, there is a close link between receiving email communications from brands and making purchases. Therefore, also in Switzerland, exposure to direct digital marketing activities has a direct influence on purchases, whether online or at a point of sale.


The percentage of mobile users (62%) is very high, and further growth is expected if Switzerland follows the same trend as the rest of Europe (in one year in Europe, the growth in internet users who connect with mobile devices saw an increase ranging from +15% to +50%). This dynamic of hyper-connectivity will inevitably have an impact relations with various information and purchasing channels, both online and offline.


More than eight Swiss email users in ten recall having activated an email newsletter service. Loyalty shown to these emails sent by brands appears to be very high, with 60% of subscribers finding the content that they receive credible and reliable. One in five of these users is also willing to provide more personal information in order to receive more personalised messages. What is more: among all the contact methods with brands available today through digital communication instruments (email, social network pages, chat and push notifications), Swiss internet users believe that email is the most effective (55%) (Fig. 3).



However, the Swiss user is very selective, only consulting recognised communications which generate real interest and offer a practical service (time-saving and capitalising on purchasing opportunities). When this is the case, the Swiss internet user is one step away from making an online purchase: 59% of those with a subscription to a newsletter has made an online purchase directly after clicking on a link in an email, while 52% have been persuaded after reading an email newsletter to go to the store to buy the products shown in the message at the point of sale.


Purchases in Switzerland vs. purchases from abroad

62% of Swiss online shoppers have bought products and services on foreign websites in the last 12 months. Germany is the Country from which most products and services are purchased, followed by France and USA. 4% of online shoppers exclusively buy from abroad; on the other hand, 38% only buy from Swiss e-commerce sites (Fig. 4). Those who purchase from outside Switzerland generally spend more, almost 2,500 CHF (+28% vs. average online spending per year); these users are generally driven to purchase from outside the Country when they do not find what they are looking for in Swiss e-stores or to be able to choose from a wider variety of products.


“The issue of cross-border purchases is very relevant in our Country: now we finally have real data which we can use to direct our marketing strategies”, adds Terreni. “Swiss online shoppers buy from abroad if they don’t find the product they are looking for, or perhaps if they want a different version of a given product. National sellers should harness this significant opportunity to intercept the demand for products, goods and services currently purchased abroad, which could be satisfied on a national level”.


The most highly-regarded e-commerce operators are Amazon and Ebay which together represent 37% of the foreign websites named.  


Resistance to online purchases

Switzerland, as demonstrated above, is a highly digitised Country; the internet is used by 90% of the population and e-commerce is used by 90% of these internet users. Analysis on 10% of the users who do not yet use e-commerce shows that the main reason of not making a purchase online is the reduced confidence in the product sold online, hence they prefer a physical store, where the seller can win their trust and they can touch the product. This is an attitude which is more widespread in Switzerland than elsewhere: for instance, shoppers in Germany and UK seem to be less insistent on personally checking the quality of the products or getting advice from in-store staff.


“The research also contradicts some prejudices and fears linked to e-commerce,” Terreni points out, “showing that in Switzerland there are very few digital users who choose not to make purchases online. When this is the case, unwillingness is mainly due to the lack of the physical nature of the product and the absence of human contact, excluding fears linked to the safety of online payments.”



For further information please contact



Viola Venturelli
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NetComm Suisse Association - Swiss e-commerce Association
Communication Platform iPress

Marisandra Lizzi
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Martina Mauro
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NetComm Suisse Association - Swiss e-commerce Association

Giada Peter
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published on 11/27/2014

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