Shopping in Italy

Global Ecommerce

Italian consumers are on the lookout for more variety

By Georges Berzgal, VP & Managing Director, Global Ecommerce – EMEA, Pitney Bowes

The Italians are renowned for their sense of style and infamous fashion brands; with the likes of Versace, Gucci, Armani and Prada lining Rome and Milan’s historic streets. It is therefore no surprise that the ecommerce market in Italy is one of the fastest growing in Western Europe. In 2017, ecommerce turnover grew 14% to £20 billion and although a little slower than recent years, it is still headed very much in the right direction.

Its history of corruption, high unemployment and economic disparity between the north and south may not have gone unnoticed, but with the third largest economy in Europe and the largest luxury goods market on the continent, the country has certainly come a long way. For international retailers it offers a diverse, growing market with scope for development.

The population was last recorded at 60.6 million and has an internet penetration of 68%. As it stands, 2017 saw 12.9 million frequent online shoppers in the country spend an average of €1,382. The year also saw 6.1 million infrequent online shoppers spend an average of €290 per year. These are encouraging statistics for the prospective cross-border ecommerce retailer, with almost 40% of the nation still to be won over by online retailers, and a further 6.1 million consumers perfectly positioned to be encouraged to shop online more.

It has also been suggested that more Italians are starting to buy products from overseas sites, but the most popular services and products, such as travel tickets, clothing and consumer electronics, media and groceries are bought locally. This would therefore suggest that to penetrate the Italian ecommerce market international retailers must understand the Italian shoppers’ requirements.

One of the key factors to maximising cross-border opportunities is ensuring that the payment methods are in line with the countries preferred methods. Among Italians, pre-paid cards are the most popular card type, due in part to (their perceived) security and decreased costs. The most popular credit card is CartaSi, which are co-branded with MasterCard and/or Visa. Payment services company, IcePay, has suggested that while pre-paid cards are most popular at present, if an international retailer was to ignore Italian CartaSi, many shoppers would be dissuaded to make a purchase. Also popular are prepaid debit card, Postepay (co-branded with Visa) and PayPal which demands 22% of the market.

There is also research to suggest m-commerce is growing in popularity among Italian consumers. Based on the number of downloads (measured in March 2017) in the Google Play Store, Shpock, Austrian based re-seller, is the leading shopping app in Italy with 184,310 downloads; followed by AliExpress (with 163,890), eBay (with 123,250) and Amazon (123,810). Of those consumers who purchased via both an app and a browser, apps are preferred by 53% of smartphone shoppers and 44% of tablet shoppers. Italian shoppers see apps as more convenient (43%), faster (29%) and innovative way to pay (26%).

For a nation that has had its setbacks, Italy is well on its way to becoming a mature ecommerce market and perhaps even set to surpass most major European markets over the next few years. With this in mind, timing an expansion to the Italian market must be well thought out and mindful of local preferences for payment and the growing movement towards the mcommerce market. Cross-border ecommerce is still in its infancy, but Italian consumers are not averse to it. Cross border trade presents big opportunities due to the lack of availability on the Italian domestic market. About 30% of the Italian population (16.8 million people) bought products and services from non-Italian websites. Incentives such as easy returns will increase retailers’ chances of driving sales conversions. Along with its Mediterranean coast and delicious cuisine, Italy has never looked more appealing!