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Ecommerce Perseveres in Italy, Despite Crisis

Online retail forecast to hit $16.16 billion in 2012

Amid Europe’s economic turmoil, it seems that one area is maintaining enviable growth: ecommerce. Online sales to consumers showed significant increases in 2011, and 2012 looks to be no different for several countries. However, most online retailers and service providers are diversifying their offerings and implementing social media in order to keep up the pace.

The largest B2C ecommerce market in Europe remains the UK, as highlighted in a new report by eMarketer senior analyst Karin von Abrams. Another significant market for online sales is Italy, despite the country’s recent gloomy economic news. eMarketer estimates B2C ecommerce sales rose 32.1% in 2011, and forecasts a 25.5% increase to $16.16 billion in 2012.

Casaleggio Associati, an Italian retail consultant, also estimated that B2C ecommerce in the country jumped 32% in 2011, but for a total of €18.97 billion ($26.35 billion). In their April 2012 report, “E-commerce in Italia 2012,” based on a countrywide survey of B2C ecommerce companies, Casaleggio found the highest jump in entertainment and leisure sales, mostly attributed to online gambling.

Gambling is just one of several factors fueling double-digit growth in Italy’s ecommerce market, however. “Ecommerce was relatively slow to take off in Italy,” noted von Abrams, “and the economic climate has also inhibited online sales growth until recently. Because this is still a young market, we can expect much higher annual growth than in more mature ecommerce environments, such as Germany and the UK.”

eMarketer’s numbers exclude online gambling, which explains the gap between the two figures.

Despite the B2C ecommerce sector’s good news, firms aren’t being complacent. They are getting the word out in order to grow the online consumer base in the relatively young ecommerce market. To that end, they are turning to social media integration to maintain and increase sales: In 2011, 72.1% of B2C ecommerce companies incorporated word-of-mouth and sharing capabilities, and 59.0% offered exclusive offers and contests to social fans and followers, according to the Casaleggio report. Only 13.9% of B2C ecommerce firms reported no social media integration at all.

It’s not surprising that internet users are looking for distractions online, considering the daily doom and gloom that parades across the headlines, and online retailers and service providers are more than happy to provide an outlet.

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Check out today’s other articles, “iPad Use to Nearly Double This Year” and “Finance Leads Verticals in Mobile Ad Spending.”

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