Catalonia vs. Spain: Five Things Digital Marketers Need to Know – eMarketer

In a hypothetical world where Spain granted Catalonia its independence, what are some of the similarities and differences that would exist between these two nations from a digital perspective? eMarketer breaks down five key distinctions that marketers need to know to be successful in both marketplaces.

Internet Penetration Is More Widespread in Catalonia

According to data published by Asociación para la Investigación de Medios de Comunicación (AIMC), Catalonia has consistently outpaced Spain as a whole in terms of internet penetration.

Since the AIMC began tracking internet penetration in Spain, Catalonia—considered an “autonomous community” by Spain’s government—has had the country’s second highest penetration rate for internet use, at 82.0%, compared with a countrywide rate of 79.4%. The only other community to surpass Catalonia’s figure is Spain’s capital, Madrid, with an 83.6% internet penetration rate as of May 2017.

Internet User Penetration in Spain, by Region, 1997-2017 (% of population)

Ecommerce Is Broadly Similar

Catalonia accounts for almost 20% of Spain’s total GDP—more than any other of the country’s autonomous communities. If independent, it would be one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. Ecommerce has seen steady growth at the hands of these relatively well-off consumers, but it isn’t especially robust compared with Spain as a whole.

According to the latest ecommerce numbers from the Centres logístics de Catalunya (CIMALSA) and Institut Cerdà, ecommerce in Catalonia expanded 14.3% at the end of 2016 compared with 2015. That growth was in line with the 14.8% expansion in retail ecommerce sales in Spain overall last year, according to eMarketer’s latest estimates.

CIMALSA and Institut Cerdà figures also showed a 6.6% increase in the number of consumers buying online within the past three months as of December 2016, propelling Catalonia’s digital buyer total to 2.25 million. By comparison, eMarketer estimates Spain’s overall digital buyer total increased 8.2% in 2016.

Social Network Preferences Differ

Catalonia outdoes Spain for social network use by a wide margin. In a June 2017 survey of consumers in Catalonia by the Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió (CEO), 72.3% of respondents stated that they used social networks daily. These figures increase dramatically when looking at respondents ages 18 to 35, among whom 94.9% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 94.0% of 25- to 34-year-olds reported using social media daily.

By comparison, eMarketer estimates less than half (45.8%) of Spain’s total population will visit social networks at least once per month in 2017.

When social network users in Catalonia were asked about their most used social network, WhatsApp led the way with 67.8%, with Facebook a distant second, at 24.5%. Yet when asked what the their second most used social network was, Facebook came in first, cited by 53.9% of respondents, followed by WhatsApp (19.4%) and Instagram (15.7%).

As a country, however, a March 2017 study conducted by ADGLOW and Elogia for the Interactive Advertising Bureau Spain (IAB Spain) showed 91% of social media users in Spain ages 16 to 65 used Facebook, followed by WhatsApp (89%), YouTube (71%) and Twitter (50%).

Television Leads the Way for Total Media Ad Spending

Spain as a country is still recovering from a recession. But despite uncertainties about the economy, total media ad spending continues to rise—and Catalonia is playing its part.

According to a March 2017 study by InfoAdex, advertisers in Catalonia increased their annual ad expenditures by 20.3% from 2012 to 2016. By comparison, eMarketer estimates total media ad spending increased by about 14.0% on a national scale during that period.

InfoAdex also looked at total ad spend generated by advertisers in Catalonia within Spain’s media in 2016 and total ad investment by advertisers in Spain within the media in Catalonia. It found advertisers in Catalonia spent €989.5 million ($1.51 billion), a figure up 4.7% from the previous year and representing 23.6% of total ad investment in Spain. Meanwhile, media in Catalonia received €258.8 million ($287.1 million) from advertisers elsewhere in Spain, amounting to 6.2% of the national total.

According to InfoAdex, TV remains the largest ad spending channel in both Catalonia and Spain in general, but its presence is greater in Catalonia. Conversely, most other media receive a greater share of ad dollars in Spain.

Total Media Ad Spending Share in Catalonia vs. Spain, by Media, 2016 (% of total)

Similar to other countries in Western Europe, TV remains the main media of choice for staying up to date with current events and watching sports in Spain, including Catalonia. Radio and print, on the other hand, continue to lose share in the overall ad market, as consumers continue to make their shift online.

Among residents in Catalonia, media consumption—TV in particular—tends to gravitate to local providers for reasons of both language and nationalism in general.

“In Catalonia, more so than in other autonomous regions of Spain, the regional TV channel TV3 is the most viewed channel, above Madrid-based channels such as TVE or Telecinco,” said Oscar Orozco, eMarketer’s senior forecasting analyst for Spain. “TV3, its online portal as well as Catalunya Ràdio appear to represent a source of familiarity and trust for viewers in Catalonia, making it among the most visited media institutions in the region.”

Local Domain Extensions Are Gaining in Popularity

As search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) become ever more intertwined into companies’ digital strategies, choosing a country code top-level domain has many unique advantages. The most obvious and important one is the ability to display local results on the first page of search depending on the IP address of the person searching.

With this in mind, data released by the Fundació puntCAT, the owner of the .cat domain extension, revealed that a total of 112,912 active .cat domains were registered as of April 2017—up nearly 5% year over year after a decade of double-digital annual growth. Catalonia’s total increased 2.7%, to 1,862,222, for the more general .es extension for Spain during the same period.

“The .cat domain has a large linguistic and cultural community behind it that wants to express itself in its own language,” said Eduard Martín, CEO of Fundació puntCAT.

Even though the number of .cat extensions are significantly smaller in number, 76.4% of those who bought .cat domains continue to renew them on an annual basis, according to Fundació puntCAT.

“This community is also aware of the advantages that this domain has, such as better positioning in Catalan searches and the segmentation and penetration of markets,” Martín said.

Matteo Ceurvels

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