Demographics alone do not explain why Southern Europe lags behind the rest of Europe in terms of technology usage. A recent Brief from Forrester Research B.V. (Nasdaq: FORR) explains the reasons why Spaniards and Italians are less than half as likely to shop online as the rest of Europe — culture and climate. To attract these potential consumers, firms must focus on primary motivations, centers of cultural influence, and making consumer technologies easier to use.

“Using Technographics., which explores the attitudes and motivations underlying consumer technology adoption, Forrester has been able to map out Western Europe in terms of technology adoption. France, Italy, and Spain fall into the slow lane when compared with key Northern European markets. The differences found in these areas are greater than demographic variables, such as income and education, would normally predict,” explained William Reeve, group director, European data products.

Forrester believes that Southern Europe lags behind for two primary reasons — deeply rooted cultural traditions and the favorable climate — while traditional demographic indicators play a lesser role. “The main North-South cultural divide between the ‘Catholic South’ and ‘Protestant North’ applies most strongly to middle-aged consumers. Older consumers in the Southern European markets find it more difficult to become familiar with new technologies,” explained Reeve.

“In addition, climatic factors favor technologies that can be used outdoors in Southern Europe. On a sunny day, Southern Europeans may not be tempted to stay inside and shop online, while Northern Europeans often don’t have that choice,” added Reeve.

Forrester found that this trend is reflected in the divergence between mobile phone and Internet adoption in the Southern European countries. At 55%, mobile phone penetration in Italy trails only Finland (72%), Sweden (70%), and Switzerland (56%). Yet only 13% of Italians are online, compared with the European average of 27%. Similarly, Spain’s 44% mobile phone penetration is comparable to the US (50%). Yet only 31% of Spanish consumers have a PC, compared with 51% of US consumers, and online penetration is similar to Italy’s at 14%.

“Demographic variables are still very important, particularly for predicting behavior within countries. But there are key differences between Europe and the US. Forrester finds education to be a more important predictor of technology adoption, while income is slightly less useful,” added Reeve.

To efficiently market their goods in Southern Europe, Forrester believes that companies should carefully consider the culture and attitudes of each country as well as traditional demographic variables. Companies must align their offerings with consumers’ primary motivations — career, family, or entertainment. Investments need to be made in user-friendly wireless technologies and in targeting influential social institutions (e.g., churches, senior clubs, etc.) to attract the reluctant middle-aged.

Forrester’s Technographics Europe research program provides continuous quantitative information about consumers’ attitudes toward and adoption of technology. By applying a unique segmentation model to survey data from both Internet users and offline consumers, Technographics offers an innovative way of developing marketing plans for any technology-based product or service.