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18:36, 29 nov 2021

Electronic commerce growth continues in Italy in 2021, also driven by SMEs

The health emergency pushed even small and medium-sized enterprises to approach eCommerce and understand its potential

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Il Sole 24 Ore - Radiocor

The eCommerce in Italy has resumed its strong growth in 2021 after slowing down for the pandemic. The data of the eCommerce B2c Observatory of the School of Management of the Milan Polytechnic and Netcomm show that the pandemic, except for the food sector, has slowed down the growth of electronic commerce. The above is mainly due to the impossibility of using the services for the lockdowns that occurred in 2020. (An example of growth below the potential are, in particular, the tourist services and transportation).

The numbers of B2c online purchases point to a value of 39.4 billion, an increase by 21% compared to 2020. Product purchases are up at a quieter annual pace of 18% to 30.5 billion (45% in 2020), while purchases of services increased by 36% to 8.9 billion. The observatory estimates that without the negative effect of the pandemic, the online market would have closed this year with an additional 3.5 billion euros. In any case, the pandemic has promoted an extraordinary evolutionary leap towards digital that also involved the world of commerce.

Results of the research show that before the health emergency 70% of retailers and wholesalers were not organized for online sales. Today, however, the situation has changed a lot. In addition to large companies, as a matter of fact, even the medium-small Italian companies have approached eCommerce and understood its potential. In general, sellers' approach to multi-channeling was elementary but many merchants have explored the sales methods by opening a showcase on marketplaces, i.e. real online supermarkets.

The multichannel approach, as per another research by the School of Management of the Milan Polytechnic, in partnership with NielsenIQ, is more and more included in the purchasing methods of experienced Italian consumers, increasingly at ease with internet purchases. Findings of the research are that this year 88% of the Italian population over 14 (52.6 million inhabitants in all) used the internet at least in one phase of the purchase process.

The growth is at a double-digit percentage for both the most advanced consumers (so-called 'rooted'), i.e. those who use the network everywhere and are more familiar with digital payment services. The percentages of multi-channel use by the 'engaged' group are also growing sharply. Consumers in this group, occasionally use the online channel, especially by smartphone but are still more tied to the physical store. The other segments of the population more stubborn to digital innovation remain stable or decline. Over the next ten years, the two most advanced categories will increase and represent 62% of the over 14 population.

Among the sectors analyzed by the research, travel stands first for the number of consumers who complete the online purchase process. The insurance sector comes in second place for the number of consumers who buy products exclusively online (23% of buyers in the category). High percentages also affect electronics and information technology, although only for the product information phase. The research also shows that Italian consumers recognize the social role of brands and are increasingly attracted by those most attentive to ethical and social issues. 76% of the sample believes that rightfully brands take a stand on these issues, 73% positively evaluate companies that undertake this path, and 57% rewards them when it comes to choosing products.