online shopping e-commerce

According to a recently released survey by the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), during 2020, one in three digital buyers purchased their daily needs over the Internet.

This, the MCA reports, was a significant growth for online grocery shopping which was still far behind non-food online shopping.

The survey, titled “Insights into Buying Behavior Attitudes: Internet & E-Commerce Use by Consumers Survey 2021”, used feedback from 772 potential customers across Malta and Gozo. Data was collected via phone interviews during the months of August and September 2020. 

It found that 27 per cent of Malta’s digital users increased their use of online shopping during the COVID pandemic.

The majority of respondents – 57 per cent – reported no changes in their digital shopping habits, whilst 15 per cent said they decreased their online shopping. Only one per cent reported shopping online for the first time during the pandemic.

Looking to the future, the MCA finds that 15 per cent of digital users foresee an increase in their online purchasing, whilst 76 per cent do not envisage changes in their online shopping behaviour.

The MCA notes that “it will be interesting to see whether (and to what extent) this behaviour will stick post-COVID”, and asks whether the pandemic could be the catalyst for e-commerce growth in Malta.

In terms of more long-term trends, the survey identifies an explosion in the use of smartphones to access the internet, as in the four years prior to 2020, smartphone internet usage increased from 59 per cent to 82 per cent.

It finds that usage of tablets and personal computers to access the internet has also increased from 40 and 71 per cent to 41 per cent and 74 per cent, respectively.

Additionally, the survey finds that “an interesting trend seems to be emerging amongst those aged between 18 and 54, as these intensify their smartphone use in conducting internet banking and effecting payments”.

This, the MCA hypothesizes, could be caused by a combination between the novel payments apps launched in recent years, and the COVID pandemic. 

58 per cent of adults in Malta shop on the internet, with the use of smartphones, tablets, computers, and games consoles for accessing the internet continues to grow.  

By age group, those aged 18-24 are, perhaps predictably, the most likely to shop online, with 89 per cent of respondents in this group reporting that they do so.

This was followed by the 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 year old cohorts, which recorded an 84 and 83 per cent proportion using internet shopping respectively. 

On the other end of the spectrum, just over a quarter of those aged over 65 are reported to be digital buyers. 

With regards to marketing, the MCA finds that digital marketing is the most effective at driving online traffic and conversions, with a sizeable chunk of digital buyers claiming to have completed a purchase following a digital sales prompt – 45 per cent after viewing online ads, 26 per cent following a post/ad on social media, and 22 per cent after receiving a promotional email. 15 per cent followed an advert on traditional media.

The study finds that the majority of online buying by the Maltese population was from sites abroad, with 57 per cent of e-commerce users reporting they used eBay most regularly, 53 per cent using Amazon most often, and 26 per cent using Asos. 

Despite this, the study highlights a clear predisposition towards buying from local websites. Over the past few years, it reports, a number of local e-commerce sites have sprouted online, “intently enticing the Maltese population into buying online”.

A sizeable 53 per cent of digital buyers now buy from online suppliers based in Malta – a notable improvement from previous surveys.

According to the MCA, this increase in e-shops could be attributed to various factors, such as, the MCA eBiznify training, the eCommerce Grant scheme rolled out in the last 3 years, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced both retailers and people into compulsory online transactions to stay safe during these times. 

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