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The Programmatic Globe: Spain

Our Head of Global Advisory Services goes deep on the state of programmatic and e-commerce in Spain

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Here at Sociomantic, we’re lucky enough to get to work with marketers in over 70 markets, helping them from our 22 offices around the globe to take advantage of the many benefits of programmatic advertising tech powered by local market expertise.

In working across these diverse regions, one thing has become crystal clear: when it comes to e-commerce and programmatic marketing, no two countries are alike. And no one has a better view on the differences and eccentricities of these different markets than our VP Global Advisory Services, Lothar Krause.

That’s why we’ve invited him, with support from each of our local teams, to share unique, market-specific insights about the ins-and-outs, the ups-and-downs, the triumphs and challenges of programmatic advertising in each of the countries or regions that we are stationed. Next up: Spain. 


Spain’s economy has been in a tough spot these past few years, which means that Spanish consumers are still very value-conscious and e-commerce is relatively small, compared to other European markets. However, today we see that the country is recovering and its is economy is growing again. Digital shoppers in Spain are extremely mobile-savvy and when they do shop online, tend to purchase frequently. Still, even at its size, Spain is in fact Europe’s fourth largest retail e-commerce market, and shows a lot of potential for growth.

In fact, the opportunities for online retailers are huge. Programmatic technologies and data strategies offer the tools to reach price-sensitive consumers with the right message at the right time on the right device. However, Spanish marketers need to become more open to new solutions and adopt them more quickly in order to compete with the international retail giants that are tapping Spain’s e-commerce growth.

E-commerce in Spain: Domestic David against Global Goliath

Compared to the UK, Germany and France, e-commerce in Spain is relatively small. The potential for long-term growth, however, is significant. Spanish consumers are getting more connected and more open to the benefits of e-commerce. Spain’s digital buyer population rose 7.9 percent in 2015, representing 60 percent of internet users. In three years, it is forecast to be 67.3 percent of all internet users. This makes Spain the country with the fastest growth in digital buyers in Western Europe through 2019. What’s more, digital buyers in Spain shop frequently: almost 75 percent make digital purchases at least once a month, and 20 percent shop four or more times a month.

The players that benefit the most from this growth are international e-commerce heavyweights. Amazon, eBay and Alibaba are the top three retailers in terms of unique visitors per month. Madrid-based El Corte Inglés, the largest department store group in Europe, makes the fourth spot on the list, followed by MediaMarkt, Inditex Group and Carrefour. For Spanish retailers, this means strong international competition with huge marketing budgets.

This is why media personalization will be key to success in this tough retail market. Spanish consumers are very price-sensitive and eager to find the best value for their money. This creates an opportunity for local marketers, but they have to get their online marketing and data strategies aligned to this opportunity in order to stay ahead.

New Solutions are Changing Marketers’ Mindsets

Spanish marketers are increasing their investments in new technologies and strategies. Trends like data integration, programmatic, customer journey optimization, new attribution models, omni-channel, cross-device and mobile are taken seriously and marketers are eager to fine-tune their existing strategies. In order to catch up with the European market-leaders, however, Spanish marketers need to speed up their adoption processes and become more open to experimentation.

That’s why advanced online advertising approaches like integrated full-funnel campaigns, programmatic branding, CRM integration or CLV optimization were adopted more slowly than in other European markets like Germany or the UK. Luckily, word of mouth is very strong in the Spanish business, and best practices are spreading fast enough so that we see a rise in the demand for first-party data strategies and sophisticated campaign segmentation.

Digital channels are taking center stage in Spain today. Overall media ad budgets were declining or stagnating due to economic turbulences, but got back on track in 2015 with 1.5 percent year over year growth. Meanwhile, digital ad spend is rising rapidly, and display advertising plays an important role in this growth: 62.1 percent of advertisers are planning to invest in this channel and the industry is becoming more aware of the benefits of data-driven personalization.

Hence, programmatic display will be an important driver for e-commerce sales in Spain over the next three years. Budget efficiency, user-individual personalization for value conscious consumers, first-party data integration—all of these will help Spanish retailers to compete with global players and increase their online sales.

The Mobile Revolution

Did you know that with 83 percent of mobile phone users owning a smartphone, Spain is ahead of the US, UK, Germany and France? Spain has also one of the highest levels of mobile phone penetration in Europe, with only Denmark, Finland and Norway ahead. This makes Spain the fastest growing market in terms of smartphone users accessing retail sites through their mobile phones, with an astonishing growth rate of 66.5 percent. Spain is also the host of the world’s largest gathering of the mobile industry, with the yearly Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona in February—a must-attend for all mobile professionals.

Advertisers are aware of the mobile trend and are investing more in mobile advertising. Mobile internet ad spending in Spain is expected to rise 75 percent, accounting for 13.5 percent of digital spending. We see many advertisers that generate mobile revenues at a great ROI through mobile advertising. The demand for mobile solutions in Spain is increasing and there have already been many success stories, but there’s also a lot of catching up to do in terms of personalizing messages across devices and fighting channel-driven approaches.

From a Local

Miguel Ochoa, our Managing Director Spain, weighs in on the trends in his market:

“The Spanish market is at a turning point. Advertisers do have the tools to take advantage of the changing tides, but they need to accelerate their adoption of these technologies and dig deeper into the possibilities for their specific industry. In order to do so, they need to leverage their first-party data assets and break their silo thinking between online and mobile, as well as between different data sources. Full-funnel campaigns, CRM integration, CLV optimization—today’s programmatic technologies hold a lot of potential for advertisers looking to gain and keep their piece of the growing e-commerce market.”

Want to learn more about using full-funnel programmatic display to drive sales and customer loyalty in Spain? Be sure to reach out to our Spanish team to learn more.

Check out previous posts in the Programmatic Globe Series:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. France
  3. Turkey
  4. United States
  5. India
  6. Russia
  7. Brazil
  8. Germany
  9. Poland & CEE
  10. Benelux