Online retail country focus: Italy

Exploiting eCommerce opportunities in Italy requires understanding how to delight the shopper. Using the findings of Planet Retail's shopper research for Italy, the roles that mobile, social media, in-store technology, payment and fulfilment play in the path-to-purchase and the influence they have on purchasing decisions are revealed.

Italy is one the fastest growing eCommerce markets in Europe

Over the next five years, Planet Retail is forecasting that Italy’s retail market will grow by 9.1%. Currently accounting for 4.4% of retail sales, by 2019 Planet Retail predict eCommerce sales will account for 11.5%, when €46.3 billion will be transacted online, a growth rate of 192% from today. This far outstrips the 3% growth in store-based sales over the period.

Reinventing the in-store experience

Stores remain an essential element of shopping in Italy, but need to be rejuvenated to better serve modern shoppers. To achieve this, focus should be on getting the balance between facilitating the needs of self-service shoppers and delivering high levels of customer hospitality to those wanting assistance. Looking at the results for Italy, Planet Retail found that 21% of those questioned said they'd interacted with an employee equipped with a tablet when in-store to get help and view the retailer's website. This is fractionally more than the 20% who said they'd used a retailer's in-store kiosk to do the same thing. Interactive displays and screens are an effective way of digitising stores while creating an element of retail theatre. With 25% saying they'd used them, introducing such devices will be a great way for retailers in the country to link their customers' physical and digital experience of shopping with them. Understanding what works for the customer to enhance their experience, and at what stage of their purchasing journey it is needed, is essential. Planet Retail found that 40% of those surveyed had logged into a retailer's free in-store Wi-Fi to browse their company website, research, check prices and read reviews. This suggests building solutions around the technology consumers own, and how they use it for shopping, might be the best starting point in reinventing not just the store experience, but the entire purchasing journey.

Building solutions around the technology consumers already own 

Planet Retail found that 63% of the Italian shoppers questioned connect to the internet via their mobiles, compared to 35% doing so via tablets. Despite far fewer using tablets, they're the preferred device when it comes to shopping activities – such as checking prices, reading reviews and transacting. Of those using the internet on their tablets, 50% use it for shopping activities, compared to just 36% using it on their mobiles for such reasons. When looking at the role of mobile in the path-to-purchase, Planet Retail's research revealed the main function is to guide and assist purchasing decisions. Our findings revealed 48% of Italian shoppers want to use their mobiles to quickly and easily compare prices when out shopping, while 26% want to read their peers' reviews and recommendations. It is not just about showrooming though, 35% said they'd like to be able to use their mobile to order out-of-stock items in-store for home delivery. It seems retailers in Italy need to grant product and price transparency through inventory optimisation, supply chain agility and visibility across all channels.

Personalised and contextualised experiences

With our research revealing 45% of shoppers wanting to receive real-time offers while in-store, the mobile is not just about delivering the best deals, but a perfect way for Italian retailers to nurture and reward loyalty. When you add to this the fact that for 51% the choice of retailer is influenced by receiving personalised promotions and deals it is evident that retailers in Italy need to start providing their customers with more tailored shopping experiences.

Getting closer to the customer

With 41% of those questioned taking information on social media into account when making a purchasing decision, the need for retailers in Italy to leverage social networks to get closer to their customers is apparent. However, as 25% say they're more influenced by peer reviews and recommendations than social media, retailers will need to engage in open and honest conversations with their customers, while encouraging and rewarding social sharing.

Be alternative

Planet Retail's research revealed that 74% of online shoppers in Italy would be encouraged to shop more online if it were safer to do so using card payments. The fact that the most popular online payment method in Italy is PayPal, with 56% saying they'd used it to purchase online compared to 42% using card is testament to this. With so many uncertain about personal security when shopping online, providing alternative payment options is essential. This is affirmed by the fact 68% of those questioned said that their choice of retailer would be influenced by being able to use alternative payments for online purchases, such as cash on delivery.

Get purchases to shoppers quickly and cheaply

With 78% using it, home delivery is the most popular fulfilment option in Italy. Self-collection is still relatively underused, with just 10% using click & collect, and only 6% using lockers. However, with 49% saying their choice of retailer would be influenced by the provision of convenient collection points and 46% saying being offered more flexible delivery times and options would encourage them to choose a retailer, it is clear that shortening the distance and time between the customer and their product, while providing flexibility and choice, is an imperative.   

In conclusion

Consumers in Italy, much like their peers in the rest of Europe, see only the retailer or brand, from which they're demanding more. They're expecting seamless experiences as they flit between device and channel depending on convenience, comfort, time, location and urgency. Delighting this channel and device agnostic shopper requires focus on ensuring a unified blending of the digital-physical; facilitating the needs of the always-on consumer, innovative in-store technology; providing flexibility, choice, speed and value for money on fulfilment, and delivering a more relevant experience with the help of social media.

Malcolm Pinkerton is research director for eCommerce at Planet Retail. He will focusing on the online retail situation in different countries, in his regular Essential Retail column over the coming months.

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