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SME’s Digital Trends Study pegs Puerto Rico’s online sales at $458M

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The 2021 edition of the Puerto Rico Sales and Marketing Executives Association’s (SME, in Spanish) Digital Trends Study confirmed that nearly 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico are doing their shopping online, a movement that has grown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, commissioned to economic analysis firm Estudios Técnicos, showed that the increased activity has pushed annual online purchases in Puerto Rico to $458 million. In 2016, monthly online transactions averaged $135 vs. $329 in 2021.

“An important area of opportunity for local entrepreneurs is the increase in e-commerce. Not only did we see an increase in the percentage of people who make purchases online, but also the amount they spent,” said Anitza Cox, director of analysis and social policy at Estudios Técnicos.

Of the surveyed participants, 49% said they do their online shopping from businesses outside Puerto Rico, 44% said they buy both on and off-island, and 7% said they only buy locally.

“When you add up the group of people that only buy locally with those who make online purchases from local as well as off-island businesses, its 51%, up from the 21% in 2016,” Cox said.

“Of those people, 38.5% said the frequency with which they shop has been greater during the pandemic, which is very good news for local businesses,” she said.

The sweeping study that has been carried out for 15 years consisted of 673 interviews of people chosen based on the Housing Census, between the last week of April and early May.

The SME was forced to cancel last year’s edition due to the pandemic, which also led to the addition of new elements in this year’s study, including segmenting the use of digital media according to work, personal or academic needs, taking a deep dive into messaging trends and the Internet of Things, as well as sites or apps providing discounts or special offers, Cox said.

Other findings of the study showed that 2.8 million people in Puerto Rico over the age of 12 have a mobile phone, which is the principal means to connect to the internet for 96% of them. The most-used local apps are: ATH Móvil (37.5%), Banco Popular (26.1%), El Nuevo Día (7.4%), Wapa TV (4%), and Primera Hora (3.9%).  

The mobile phone has also become the preferred tool for online shopping, with 79.4% of people using them for that purpose. In the area of services, apps to transfer money stand out, with ATH Móvil being the favorite for 99.5% of the participants surveyed, followed by food apps like Uber Eats (82.6%) and UVA! (7.2%); transportation services such as Uber (94.3%); online grocery shopping through Supermax Online (38%), EconoToGo (24%) and Sam’s Club (24%); and pay-at-the pump apps for Puma FastPay (66.7%) and the Shell Motorist App (13.3%), the study showed.

The five most-visited local websites in the past 30 days were: El Nuevo Día (10.8%); Clasificados Online (7.2%); Primera Hora (6.2%); Wapa TV (5.2%) and the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP, in Spanish) with 3.7%. On average, users spend 14 hours online for personal, work or academic reasons.

The use of media in a typical week puts traditional television and social networks on the same level, both reaching 70.6% of use, with radio 56.8%, video streaming 49.2% and music streaming 43.2% rounding out the top five spots.

As far as local media outlets with online-only presence, the most visited are Noticel with 27.1%, El Calce (9.6%), Sin Comillas (2.4%) and News is my Business with 2.1%.

In turn, local news outlets with paper and online presence were ranked as follows: El Nuevo Día (52.9%), Primera Hora (42.3%), El Vocero (33.3%), Metro PR (31.3%) and Caribbean Business (5.5%).

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.
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