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Despite—or perhaps because of—Italy’s economic problems, ecommerce in the country continues to gain momentum. Business-to-consumer sales via digital channels will rise an estimated 18% in 2013, bringing online spending to €11.3 billion ($14.5 billion), according to the “Osservatorio eCommerce B2C” issued by Osservatorio ICT & School of Management del Politecnico di Milano and Netcomm.
The average online spend per person will also register double-digit gains (15%) this year, according to researchers—thanks partly to more people shopping on the internet. In fact, the number of digital buyers will have risen by 2 million in 2013 alone, the report predicted, to around 14 million. This estimate is slightly more optimistic than eMarketer’s own assessment, but both sources put the annual gain at more than 11%, and expect the population of digital buyers in Italy to pass 14 million next year.
Travel and transport remained the largest single category of Italian ecommerce purchases, at 43% of the total. That share is shrinking, though, as more shoppers buy items such as clothing and electronics online. Predictably, in a country where frequent visits to a fresh-food market are an unshakeable habit for many, digital grocery sales are still tiny, and will claim just 1% of B2C ecommerce spending in 2013, equivalent to a few million euros.
The biggest story is the growing role of mobile devices. According to the report, Italian mcommerce sales will see a remarkable 255% leap in 2013, to an estimated €510 million ($654 million). Smartphones will be responsible for more than one-fifth of all ecommerce sales growth this year, though transactions on tablets are also on the rise.
The report’s authors do emphasize that Italian ecommerce remains a very small portion of total retail sales, at around 3% in 2013—very low compared to most other Western European nations, and “closer to the situation in emerging countries.” But many changes are afoot that will help propel the market. Among them: greater geographical coverage and the round-the-clock operations of online sellers. These extensions of retailers’ offerings, combined with the flexibility of mobile shopping and ordering, are the key factors promoting higher online spending per person, according to Alessandro Perego, a senior consultant involved in the study.
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