Italian ecommerce guide - tips for a successful expansion

The consensus about the Italian ecommerce market has long been that it’s a challenging one to enter for foreign businesses. When going through the numbers, it seems like the Italian ecommerce market is smaller and less active than its neighbours.
However, is this still the case now, and will it remain so in the future? In recent years, there’s been significant development, making the Italian ecommerce market more and more attractive for both international, and domestic businesses. In this article we’ll delve deeper into the success factors for your expansion to Italy!

The Italian market

To operate successfully in a market, one has to understand the dynamics of said market. Italy has always been interesting due to the relatively low adoption rate of ecommerce when compared to the overall economy. For many foreign businesses this was a reason to not enter the Italian market. With recent developments however, the adoption rate, and thus the ecommerce market, is growing steadily. Keeping these developments in regard, we arrive at the conclusion; the time to enter the Italian market is right now, as it’s a great moment to hop aboard a train that’s only going up.

The 2020 effect

As was the case with most countries in 2020, Italy also had a significant boost to ecommerce during 2020. With COVID-19 restrictions blocking most traditional shopping opportunities, people resorted to the internet for their daily purchases. In a country that was lagging behind in its ecommerce adoption rates, the result of this ecommerce boost has been very impressive.
Before COVID-19, the penetration rate of online shopping was already increasing slowly, but steadily, however in 2020 it increased drastically. Just to give an example: Italy’s main supermarket chain Carrefour saw it’s online shoppers double to 110,000 orders over the space of three weeks at the beginning of March 2020. Looking at the general population and online shopping, when comparing the second week of March to the last week of February, online purchases increased by 250%!

Payment methods

Offering the right payment methods is essential to your success, and will do wonders for your checkout. Italy is a market that has been heavily dominated by cash purchases over the years, which of course doesn’t translate well to ecommerce.

Looking at the main payment methods of late, we see that Italian consumers still rely heavily on the use of cards. Paying with debit cards through an app such as Postepay, as well as credit cards such as MasterCard or Visa are still the most popular methods of paying online. Another major player on the Italian market are digital wallets such as PayPal, and on the rise we find payment methods such as Klarna's pay in 3 payment method and SOFORT.

Key factors

Regions matter

Depending on the region of Italy, we still see major differences in internet usage. The northern provinces show a significantly higher ecommerce adoption rate, which correlates with the access to the internet in the region. In regions such as Veneto and Trento in the north about 90% of households have access to the internet, whereas for Puglia and Basilicata in the south this ranges between 75 and 80%. In these regions, respectively, 41, 49, 29 and 32% of individuals ordered goods or services through the internet in 2020. Showing a significant difference per region, especially when looking at north versus south.

Trust is priority number one

As the ecommerce market is still relatively young in Italy, many consumers still worry about the safety of purchasing products online. With that comes the responsibility to ensure that consumers feel safe in your webshop. How does one achieve this? Offer the right payment method. By offering payment methods familiar to Italian consumers, the purchase threshold is more easily crossed. When asked what they value mostly, many Italians go for outstanding customer service; offering an easy way of returning a product and customer service in Italian are essential in this matter.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Continuing on Italian consumer preferences, it’s advised to offer Italian consumers a localized shopping experience. For example, making sure your webshop is available in the Italian language as opposed to English.

Patience is a virtue, which Italians possess

Compared to other European countries, Italians are generally more patient when it comes to waiting for their online purchases. They’re prepared to wait for up to 5 days for an order to arrive, before it affects their decision to purchase or not.
As for patience, as a merchant you’ll need to have some as well. Many Italian consumers say they visit a website up to 5 times before finally confirming their purchase, putting items in their wishlists and reviewing multiple times. Having a wishlist option is therefore recommended when expanding to Italy.

In conclusion

As a young market on the rise, the time is now to enter the Italian ecommerce market - which is very doable as a foreign merchant as well. By knowing which region you’d like to target and ensuring that your webshop is well suited to deal with Italian consumer preferences you can ride the wave of the Italian ecommerce revolution.

Here at MultiSafepay, we’ve been operating in Italy for many years now, having built up excellent relations with various Italian partners. This knowledge has become key in developing products perfectly suited to the Italian market. We can help your business succeed in Italy. Curious to know how?

Contact our local experts.

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