Do you use mobile banking? If so, congratulations – you are a minority. Only 1 in 8 Bulgarians have such a service on their phone or computer.
And if you use the the Internet – which would make sense if you were reading this article – you are doing it from one of the most poorly connected regions in Europe.
This is what Eurostat data on the digital society shows. In fact, the second indicator, that of the low percentage of people online, derives much of the other results associated with low consumption of online services.
It is important to note that the vast majority of the data is from May 2020, i.e. have partially, but not completely, caught the trend of accelerated digitization in the country due to covid.
In the northeastern region of Bulgaria, for example, only 5% of consumers use mobile banking. The results are similar in the south-central, north-west and south-east – around 7%. The difference is significant compared to the South West region, which includes Sofia, where the percentage climbs sharply to 24%.
Opposite Europe are the Scandinavian countries – the regions with the highest percentage of consumers using mobile banking services are in Norway, Denmark and Finland.
The explanation is, on the one hand, in the offer. This service is a relatively recent phenomenon: most banks have had mobile applications only for a few years and rely on complete solutions in an even shorter time. Bulgarian banks, like their consumers, are embracing change relatively slowly, unlike the ever-growing number of fintech companies in the country, which however focus on foreign markets.
On the other hand, there is the problem of demand: Bulgarian consumers are predominantly older and traditionally conservative, especially those who have a problem with trust in the banking services themselves (after two crises with failed banks, that’s understandable enough).
Bulgaria lags behind in another online niche: online shopping. Although in this case the data suffers from a timeliness due to the coronavirus, the north-central, south-east, south-central and north-west are the only four regions in the EU where , in 2020, less than 30% of people made their purchases. online in the 12 months preceding the study. The South West region is again the best represented, and the explanation is again Sofia.
A survey conducted this year by Trend shows that 56% of Bulgarians have never ordered anything online. Interestingly, a survey conducted this year of online users only by Nielsen and Capital shows that almost everyone in the country who has access to the the Internet has experience with online shopping.
As banking, here, too, the explanation can be divided into two – supply and demand. On the supply side, very few Bulgarian companies sell on the Internet. For example, Deputy Prime Minister for EU funds Atanas Pekanov recently cited data that only 5% of small businesses are concerned. On the demand side in Bulgaria, especially the elderly are afraid of fraud and cannot do well online, and physical traffic continues to dominate. In the INS questionnaire, the most common response is “I prefer to shop in person”.
According to Trend, the share of non-buyers among people over 70 is 96%, while among younger people (under 25) it is less than 20%.
According to INS data, only 24% of people over 65 use the the Internet at least once a week. Thus, the combination of an aging population and poor access to the Internet condemns Bulgaria to a slower entry of online services. Europe is currently divided as follows: the further north you travel, the more likely you are to pay your bills over the phone rather than at the counter. And the question of why the aging population here is not so active on the the Internet because their decorations in the North are the subject of another study.