If your company is keen to expand into new online European markets, Italy provides a promising place to plant your virtual flag.
Italy is Europe’s fourth-largest consumer market, sporting a per-capita purchasing power of $17,774 a year—22% higher than the European average. Its rate of e-commerce growth is also one of the fastest-growing in Europe.
“Italy is a market to watch when it comes to e-commerce,” the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration wrote in July. The market will continue its growth for at least another three years, the organization said, with B2C and B2B transactions showing solid growth.
There’s a lot to love about the market. Nearly 40 million Italians—more than 65% of the population—have Internet access, and that number is rising. E-commerce adoption is skyrocketing. In 2020, more than 20 million Italians will be buying online, a nearly 10% increase from today.
In 2015, e-commerce was worth €28.8 billion (or about $32 billion USD), representing an astonishing year-over-year growth of almost 20%. Many retail sectors saw double-digit surges in YoY e-commerce growth, including Home & Furnishings and Books (both up 25%), Fashion (up 20%) and Health & Beauty (up 40%).
Two-thirds of Italians say that making the online purchasing process an effortless one is very important to them. Based on our experience, there’s no more effective and easier way for companies to eliminate e-commerce obstacles than by providing Italians with sites in their native language.
Those that do can stand to win a hearty chunk of the €810 (or about $1,060 USD) Italians currently annually spend, online. That spend is growing year over year, too.
Some Market Insights
Italy ranks No. 2 in Europe for manufacturing, which greatly contributes to its exports. Exports represent more than 30% of the country’s GDP. Most of this GDP generation is concentrated in Italy’s northern regions, especially in the areas surrounding Milan (services), Turin (large industry) and Veneto (small industries).
Young Italians live with their parents much longer than the European average. Men eventually fly the coop at an average age of 30. This could be because, like Spain, Italy has a high unemployment rate. Nearly 40% of Italians under 25 years old are jobless.
According to Francesco Rocchi, a Global Online Strategist with our Global Growth team, speaking about politics is almost as common as speaking about sports, “which happens constantly,” he says. “You can walk into a café and a complete stranger could involve you in a discussion about the last boutade [outburst] from the prime minister. Religion is more highly considered in Italy than in other countries, but profanities are very common, especially in certain regions.”
General Shopping and Language Insights
Italians are generally more curious and adventurous as shoppers than other Europeans. Nearly half of Italians are willing to experiment with new brands; only 40% of Europeans are so inclined. Further, Italians are more willing to shop during sales promotions than other European consumers. (59% vs. the European average of 47%.) They also look out for online promotions more than the European average: 39% vs. 31%. Typically, Italians save more than other Europeans and have less debt. They’re less inclined to trust new technologies than other Europeans, preferring to use pre-paid cards such as PostePay when shopping online.
Without question, websites serving the Italian market should be available in the local language. According to a Eurobarometer survey, over 60% of Italians don’t want to consume website content in English. Worse still, less than 20% “strongly agreed” that they’d accept to use an English site if an Italian version wasn’t available. That’s a brutal attrition rate.
E-retailers operating in the Italian market should understand the particular differences when describing “sales,” Francesco advises. In Italian, the verb vendite means “selling,” the word sconti means “promotions” and saldi means seasonal sales. It’s common for translators to confuse these words, which can lead to consumer confusion and legal risk.
For instance, saldi refers exclusively to two very specific and government-mandated timeframes during the year. (France’s soldes sales events are very similar.) Companies that mistakenly use the word saldi outside of these times of year will certainly face customer blowback. The brand’s credibility will also likely take a hit. It’s also against the law.
E-Commerce Preferences and Seasonality
Translating e-commerce for the Italian market gets results—particularly when leveraging complementary technologies and best practices. This includes integrating credibility-boosting locally preferred payment options, placing regionally relevant trust badges on-site, and using performance-boosting technologies.
For instance: One MotionPoint client, a large apparel e-retailer, has seen visits to its translated Italian site double year after year, and its conversion rate increase by 50% (compared to when no Italian-language site was available). Revenue has been growing annually, too.
In Italy, the most popular e-commerce sectors are entertainment and travel. Interestingly, foreign retailers dominate e-commerce in the market. Amazon and eBay are dominant players, though other marketplaces and branded e-commerce experiences—both foreign and domestic—exist and can thrive.
Based on experience and analytics we’ve gleaned from operating translated sites in this market, Italian shoppers tend to visit e-commerce websites more often than the European average. Despite higher than average smartphone penetration, Italians shop less through mobile phone than most Europeans.
Italians also seem to most prefer shopping online early in the week. Transactions taper off toward the weekend, and then bounce back on Sunday. Purchases are 6% higher on Mondays than any other day of the week. Interestingly, purchases are 10% lower on Fridays in Italy than the European average.
“Consumers hailing from Italy’s biggest cities—such as Rome, Milan, Florence, Turin and Naples—naturally account for a larger percentage of the market’s website visits and revenues,” Francesco explains. “However, these consumers don’t have a higher conversion rate from shoppers in other areas.”
Generally, conversion rates are higher in the northern part of the country. It’s likely no coincidence this is also where the country’s highest amounts of GPD are generated.
Generally, Italians tend to buy a single premium product when visiting e-commerce sites (much like consumers in Spain, France, Sweden and Denmark), rather than buying multiple basic products (which is more common in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Finland).
Retail transactions dip precipitously in August, mostly because Italians consistently take vacations during the month. In fact, some local businesses close shop during the middle two weeks of August because there’s little need to stay open.
To recap: Companies that leverage localization, online best practices and these insights stand to woo Italian consumers, and generate more website traffic and conversions:
- Translate your website into Italian to serve this market. Italians don’t like shopping on English-only websites
- New brands to the market, take heart: Italians are more adventurous shoppers, and are open to taking chances on new brands—especially if that brand is affordable, and its consumer-facing communications are authentic and resonant
- Unlike some markets, there’s little need to support special payment platforms, but companies should accommodate credit cards and locally-preferred prepaid cards
- Italians love sales. Use promotions, because they’re especially effective in this market
- Publish new content and products at the beginning of the week, when on-site engagement is at its highest
“By catering to Italians in their preferred language, and understanding their shopping preferences, companies can really improve brands awareness, engagement and revenue in Italy,” Francesco concludes. “In several key respects—such as customer loyalty—they may prove to be more ‘ideal’ as consumers than in other nearby markets.”
Would you like learn how MotionPoint can help you enter Italy’s online market easily, quickly and affordably? Contact us for more information.