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Swiss Online Shopping and Mobile Shopping Survey 2021

July 29, 2021 - Benjamin Manz

Independent online comparison service conducted a representative survey to determine how residents of Switzerland shop. The results show that preferred shopping channels vary hugely depending on the product being purchased.

The coronavirus crisis has boosted online shopping. An online survey of 1503 residents across Switzerland by reveals which shopping channels are most popular with Swiss consumers.

Shopping channels included in the survey were: online shopping via personal computer; mobile shopping via smartphone; mobile shopping via tablet; shopping in person at shops or branch offices; shopping via brokers; and telephone-based shopping. Participants also had the option of choosing none of these (for example, when the product in question was not relevant to them). Participants also had the option of choosing more than one shopping channel for a given product group, as many consumers purchase certain products through more than one channel.

Using the results for each product, calculated the percentages of survey participants which purchase products through different shopping channels. Because some consumers purchase products through more than one channel, the total for all shopping channels combined may exceed 100%.

Brick-and mortar stores still popular in spite of corona

In spite of accelerated digitization, many products have continued to be purchased primarily through brick-and-mortar stores rather than online during the coronavirus crisis. Groceries take the lead, with 96% of residents buying their groceries in stores. Prescription glasses are next in line (94%), followed by furniture (91%), cars (90%), bicycles (90%), motorcycles (87%), cosmetics (87%), shoes (86%), gifts (84%), electrical appliances (80%), and clothes (80%).

Still: “The trend towards the digitization of shopping in Switzerland will continue,” expects CEO Benjamin Manz.

You can find interactive overviews of consumer preferences for different shopping channels here:

Further digitization of shopping is likely

Many products like flight bookings, travel bookings, railway tickets, music and software are already more widely purchased online than in stores. A number of other products are likely to join this list soon, according to estimates. Products which are likely to be purchase primarily online in the future include bank accounts, computers and electrical appliances.  

“It is also only a matter of time before mobile phones replace personal computers as the primary medium for online shopping,” says Manz. This trend is visible in that mobile shopping is already significantly more popular among young adults than older consumers.

Online shopping most popular for airline and travel bookings

Swiss consumers are more likely to purchase airline and travel bookings online than any other product.

The Internet is the primary channel for airline bookings, with 88% of residents purchasing flight tickets online. Of these, 73% purchase bookings via personal computers, 24% via smartphone, and 19% via tablet.

Other travel bookings follow a similar pattern, with 86% of residents booking travel online. Of these 72% book travel using personal computers, 25% using smartphones, and 18% with tablets.

Mobile shopping preferred for railway tickets

The Internet is by far the most important shopping channel for railway tickets, with 82% of survey participants buying railway tickets this way. An interesting insight is how consumers buy railway tickets online: 36% buy tickets using personal computers, 55% use smartphones, and 12% use tablets.

Railway tickets are the only product included in the survey which is more widely purchased via mobile than using personal computers. “The primary reason for this is likely the SBB app, which is very popular,” explains analyst Noé Stemmer.

Groceries: Brick-and-mortar stores still dominate

Groceries are the product which consumers are most likely to purchase in shops. In spite of corona, 96% of residents do their grocery shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

However, one-fifth of residents (18%) do some amount of grocery shopping online. Of these, 13% use personal computers for online grocery shopping, 7% use smartphones, and 4% use tablets.

Cars, motorcycles and bicycles are a brick-and-mortar business

Cars, motorcycles and bicycles are still purchased primarily offline. Dealers (including garages) are the most important shopping channel for cars by far, with 90% of consumers buying their cars this way. Only 15% of car buyers use the internet as a shopping channel. The numbers are practically identical for motorcycles.

For bicycles too, the Internet as a shopping channel plays a secondary role. Only 15% of residents buy bicycles online, compared to 90% who buy bicycles in stores.

Computers, software and electrical appliances

Thanks to Brack, Digitec and other online electronics dealers, residents of Switzerland are relatively likely to purchase electrical appliances and computers online. But brick-and-mortar stores are still the more important shopping channel: 80% of residents buy electrical appliances in stores, and 56% buy these online. Computer purchases follow a similar pattern: 69% of residents buy computers in stores, while 52% buy computers online.

For purchases of software, online shopping has now become the dominant channel. 75% of consumers buy software online, while only 38% buy software in stores.

Clothes, shoes, prescription glasses and cosmetics

Brick-and-mortar stores are the most important shopping channel for clothing. A high 80% of residents buy clothes at stores. However, 59% of residents do some amount of clothes shopping online. 44% of residents do online clothes shopping on personal computers, 25% on phones, and 14% on tablets.

Buying shoes online is somewhat less popular than buying clothes online, with just 46% of residents having bought shoes online. 86% of residents buy shoes in stores. The same applies to cosmetics: only 35% of residents buy cosmetics online.

Purchasing prescription glasses remains almost entirely an offline activity, in spite of the fact that online dealers have been around for a long time now. 94% of residents buy prescription glasses in stores, while only 8% buy glasses online.

Furniture, gifts and books

Residents of Switzerland continue to prefer brick-and-mortar stores for buying furniture. 91% of residents buy furniture in stores, while just 35% do any amount of furniture shopping online.

The landscape looks very different for gift shopping. Although brick-and-mortar stores are still the most important gift shopping channel by a wide margin (84% of residents), a relatively high 66% of survey participants buy all or some of their gifts online. 52% buy gifts online using personal computers, 28% use phones, and 17% use tablets.

Book shopping results provide interesting insights. 69% of residents buy books in shops, while an identical portion (69%) order books online. This trend is likely due to the success of tech giant Amazon.

Banking: Credit cards online, mortgages at the bank

The majority of Switzerland’s residents (63%) visit bank branch offices to open bank accounts. 33% open bank accounts online with personal computers, 13% using smartphones, and 7% using tablets. In total, 41% of residents perform some or all of their bank account subscriptions online.

For credit cards, online channels are more widely used. 55% of residents apply for credit cards online (43% using personal computers, 14% using phones, and 9% using tablets. A lower 45% of residents apply for credit cards at brick-and-mortar establishments.

Branch offices are still the go-to destination for mortgages, with 57% of residents mortgaging their homes this way. Brokers are the next most popular option (35%). Only 18% of residents apply for mortgages online.

Online channels are more popular for personal loans – which are generally less complex than mortgages – with 33% of residents having applied for personal loans online. 50% of residents apply for personal loans in person at branch offices, while 28% apply for loans through loan brokers.

Online channels popular for health insurance

Interestingly, the way in which Swiss consumers buy insurance varies broadly depending on the insurance in question.

For health insurance, online channels are the most popular. 50% of residents have applied for health insurance online (41% using personal computers, 9% using smartphones, and 9% using tablets). 24% of residents buy health insurance in branch offices and 27% from insurance brokers. 20% of residents have applied for health insurance over the telephone.

Insurance brokers are the most popular option for buying property insurance (43% of residents), followed by online channels (35%), branch offices (28%) and telephone-based channels (16%).

Life insurance is also most widely purchased through brokers (53%), followed by branch offices (33%), online (24%) and over the telephone (11%).

How Swiss consumers buy mobile and Internet plans

Online shopping is the most popular channel for buying mobile plans and Internet plans.

55% of survey participants apply for mobile plans online (42% using personal computers, 19% via smartphone, and 10% via tablet). But 51% of residents prefer to buy their mobile plans in stores.

Online shopping is more predominant for subscriptions to Internet plans. 66% of residents subscribe to Internet plans online (52% via personal computer, 18% via smartphone, and 12% via tablet). Only 37% of residents subscribe to Internet plans in stores.

Young adults use mobile shopping more often

Generation gaps play a role in shopping habits, and this is most clearly visible in the use of mobile shopping. The youngest age group included in the survey – adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years old – use their phones to shop online more than adults in older age groups.

Airline bookings are one example: 77% of adults aged 18 to 25 buy airline tickets online using personal computers, and 36% use smartphones to book flights. By comparison, 73% of adults between the ages of 26 and 49 book flights using personal computers, and 31% via smartphone. Of residents ages 50 to 74 years old, 72% book flights using personal computers and 11% via smartphone.

Regional differences

Online shopping is somewhat less popular in rural areas than it is in Swiss cities. There are also interesting differences between German-speaking and French-speaking Switzerland. Mobile shopping is more popular in German-speaking Switzerland than in French-speaking Switzerland.

View the interactive graphics now:

All shopping channels overview (in German)
Online shopping overview (in German)
Offline shopping overview (in German)


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Expert Benjamin Manz
Benjamin Manz is CEO of and an independent expert on banking and finance.