RealTime IT News

1998 a Slow Year For Spanish E-Commerce

Thousands of Spaniards rushed into cyberspace in 1998, but they left their pocketbooks behind. Though Spain saw an increasingly wired population last year, users shied away from electronic commerce.

"1998 was the great awakening for e-commerce in Europe, but still, unfortunately, not in Spain," said Rodolfo Carpentier, president of CommerceNet Spain. "We're well above the European average in Internet use, yet we're below average in electronic commerce."

Spain saw more than $22 million in electronic transactions last year, which is "truly ridiculous when you consider that we're talking about two million users," said Carpentier.

Spain's population is nearly 40 million. Roughly 2.3 million Spaniards currently have Internet access. While at least 600,000 are daily users, some 1.7 million are considered "habitual users."

According to CommerceNet, "less than 5 percent" of these users are engaging in e-commerce. This pales before the 20 percent rate touted for Japanese users.

"We're in the area where Germany is in terms of percentage of people with Net access, but we're unfortunately not up to par in e-commerce," said Carpentier.

One of the main barriers to e-commerce growth was the perceived lack of security in electronic transactions. In November, however, Spain adopted the SET certification system, which was widely regarded as the catalyst for increased electronic commerce.

In some cases, American companies beat Spanish companies in what could clearly be considered their home turf. Ironically, said Carpentier, the largest online purveyor of books to Spanish consumers was not a Spanish company, but rather the US-based Amazon.com.

According to CommerceNet, there are approximately 50,000 Spanish companies with web pages. Such figure are nonetheless difficult to gauge, considering that in addition to the ".es" domain, many Spanish companies also use the ".com" and ".net" domains.