Coronavirus pandemic permanently changes buying patterns in Switzerland

KPMG study on online shopping in the DACH region

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the buying patterns of 40 percent of the Swiss population. Online grocery shopping in particular has become more acceptable. Nearly half of consumers believe that the coronavirus pandemic has changed their online shopping behavior permanently. Despite that, consumers are still looking forward to in-person shopping experiences. These are some of the insights offered by a representative KPMG survey conducted in the DACH region.

Dominik Weber

Head of Media Relations

KPMG Switzerland


Download the study in German:

The people of Switzerland are doing more of their shopping online as a result of the corona virus crisis. According to survey respondents, this is mainly attributable to contact restrictions and the absence of a shopping experience due to the hygiene measures in place. These are some of the findings revealed by KPMG’s latest survey of 3,152 consumers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Nearly half of the 1,051 Swiss people questioned consider online shopping practical, convenient and easy, with 43% of respondents even indicating that they make online purchases several times a month. According to the survey, the product categories of fashion, leisure, cosmetics & personal care and electronics still hold the most sales potential going forward, even once the coronavirus crisis is over.

Generational differences in shopping behavior

The younger the shopping public, the higher the online spending compared to bricks-and-mortar retail. A third of Switzerland’s Generation Z (18- to 24-year-olds) does more than half of its spending online. While a quarter of the Millennials (25- to 39-year-olds) surveyed indicated that they spend more money online than in bricks-and-mortar stores, this figure is 16% for members of Generation X (40- to 55-year-olds). Baby Boomers (56- to 89-year-olds) mainly spend their money in stores and only 9% of the people in this group do more than half of their spending online.
“Despite the growing importance of e-commerce, bricks-and-mortar retailing will continue to play an important role going forward,” says Jürg Meisterhans, Partner and Sector Head Retail at KPMG Switzerland, with confidence. “The past few months have shown us in no uncertain terms that the shopping experience, social contacts and personal, face-to-face advice cannot possibly be replaced by an online experience.”
Baby Boomers and Generation X mainly do their online shopping through websites. The younger the age group, the more frequently they use apps for their purchases. In fact, Generation Z actually makes more than half its online purchases via app.

High cost of shipping frequently results in cart abandonment

Online shoppers looking to make a purchase don’t conclude every transaction. The survey’s respondents most frequently cited excessively high shipping costs as the reason. 69% of those surveyed have already discontinued an online purchase for this reason, while 48% of respondents indicated that they had abandoned a cart because their preferred method of payment was not offered. Insufficient product availability or overly long delivery times were cited as obstacles by 46% of those surveyed.
The respondents consider meaningful product descriptions, correct product details as well as free shipping and returns to be an online shop’s most important quality indicators. Other key decision-making criteria when making an online purchase included trust in a retailer, both in terms of data protection and delivery of the goods, as well as the store’s user-friendliness.

More willingness to purchase groceries online

The survey shows that online grocery shopping has become more acceptable in Switzerland. In fact, groceries were the product category that reported the highest number of first-time online purchases during the coronavirus pandemic. Around two out of every three consumers occasionally buy their groceries online and 11% actually indicated that they do this on a regular basis. The survey also reveals that shelf-stable products enjoy a high level of acceptance since they pose fewer quality and transport risks than fresh and refrigerated products. 89% of respondents indicated that they were open to the possibility of purchasing shelf-stable products. At 44%, the willingness to shop online for fresh and refrigerated items or for fruits and vegetables is substantially lower. The main reason for this is that customers want to see the quality for themselves or are hoping to find some inspiration in the store.

Online retailers: no one provider dominates the Swiss market

When it comes to revenue, Amazon is very clearly in the lead in both Germany and Austria. In Switzerland, on the other hand, Zalando is number one followed by Galaxus and Amazon. One aspect that stands out is that unlike in neighboring countries, the people of Switzerland make their purchases through many different shops and no single online retailer dominates the market.


The analysis is based on an online market research survey with a sample size of 3,152 people, 1,050 of which from Germany as well as 1,051 each from Austria and Switzerland. The survey is representative of the population in terms of the ratios for age and gender (ratio combination), town or city size, household size, and net household income. The survey was conducted in the period from 12 January to 19 January 2021.

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