The Italian e-commerce market in 2020 beats growth estimates by registering +14% which rise to 32.4 billion euro, driven by +45% in the growth of products, while services, due to the very negative trend in tourism for the the restrictions caused by the pandemic, fall by -52% to -6.5 billion euro. Sales of online products increased by +8 billion euro, mainly thanks to IT and Electronics (+1.9 billion euro), Food & Grocery (+1.3 billion), Furniture/Home Living (+1.1%) and Fashion (+0.9 billion). The online penetration of total retail purchases, thanks to the collapse of offline consumption due to the restrictions on physical trade caused by the pandemic, jumps from 7% in 2019 to 9% in 2020.cardo

These data emerged from the XVI Netcomm Forum “Faster than now” of last 12-13 May, which photographed the change taking place in the scenario with the contribution of 200 international speakers who discussed themes such as the new consumer emerged from the pandemic, the acceleration of changes between physical and digital channels, and how these have been transferred to companies.

“In eight months we have taken a 10 years leap forward – said Roberto Liscia, president of Netcomm, at the opening of the proceedings – According to the research we conducted together with The European House – Ambrosetti, in 2020 the companies of the digital retail value network in Italy generated a total turnover of 58.6 billion euro ranking in 3rd place among Italian economic activities. As many as 680 thousand companies and businesses participate in this value network in Italy, that is 34% of capital firms. We are also among the top ten sectors for turnover increase per employee between 2015 and 2019. It is therefore a very important sector not just for the GDP growth but also for employment”. And it is expected that e-commerce will continue to be the growth engine also in 2021, with a further +19% to reach 39 billion euro, with products that have a more contained growth compared to 2020 (+18%), while there will be again a +22% growth in services, thanks to the expected recovery in tourism.

Roberto Liscia
Riiccardo mangiaracina dell’Osservatorio e-commerce del POlitecnico di MIlano illustra i dati del settore

Not just lights, but however also shadows: despite the 2020 boom, Italy still has a very low average value of just $ 619 a year in per capita purchases, compared to other markets. And it is third last in the DESI’s digital skills index (Digital Economy and Society Index of the European Commission). Furthermore, the competitiveness index of the Italian country system is still at 61%, just sufficient compared to 100% in the USA. “A change of paradigm is therefore needed to support the digital evolution of businesses and contribute with the digital retail value network to the growth of the Italian economic system, to think with a vision of Connected Economy that aggregates and knows how to create synergies for citizens, consumers, businesses and public administration. – warns Roberto Liscia – It is necessary to develop a concrete digital transition programme that supports companies in a definitive and irreversible process, systematically connecting districts, industrial chains, public bodies and businesses, so that they can offer citizens and consumers benefits and services in line with new lifestyles and support companies to be increasingly sustainable and competitive”.

But how have buying behaviours changed in 2020? “There has been an expansion of the mix: 40% of consumers have bought new types of products and services. – explains Roberto Liscia – There was a loyalty shock and 60% of Europeans bought new e-shops. The use of digital touchpoints within the purchase paths has been strengthened (digital wallets and online reviews are the most relevant), digital first passes from 2% in 2020 to 12.9% in 2021. Furthermore, digital consumption behaviours have taken root: over 75% of e-shoppers will in fact maintain the attitudes they have experienced”.

In the scenario that emerged from the Forum, the logic of marketing, logistics, payment systems and the impact of big data are key factors for the competitiveness of system companies.

In terms of marketing, digital companies that previously leveraged on cookies, one of the pillars of sales strategies, are now entering a phase in which they will have to do without them and therefore redesign strategies along the digital advertising chain. Other factors to consider are: the massive entry of brands into direct consumer control, the increase in the number and sophistication of communication channels and mar-tech technologies; the constant growth of marketing costs; the advent of live-streaming commerce; the evolution of services and points of sale experiences; health and sustainability become values to be safeguarded for the future of market relations.

A key investment axis for companies, logistics must balance costs and convenience, manage increasingly high volumes and their peaks. There is a development of proprietary logistics systems and the opening of own logistics systems to third parties. We see an increase in deliveries offered within 30 minutes and an increase in sensitivity towards environmental and ethical aspects. There is still a lot to do in Italy in this respect, in fact: 9 out of 10 companies that sell both online and on traditional channels have a single order management process and only 24% of Italian companies with e-commerce use an operator warehouse/external intralogistics for e-commerce sales.

As for payment processes, we are witnessing the overwhelming entry of the double authentication factor: “This element created a very difficult situation in Italy: in March 2021 we registered 42% unsuccessful payments. The previous month the percentage was 30%: Italy therefore suffered a much higher loss of transactions than the European average”.

Digital transformation significantly increases the amount of data available: Big Data is valuable information to be exploited and enhanced in an intelligent way, to personalise the experience and customer satisfaction; forecasting demand to help reduce inventory and waste; carrying out tests on products, prices and promotions; improving efficiency.

“Digital and artificial intelligence revolutionise the way of doing business on three fronts: customer needs, to which we must offer a user experience and customer value; customer lifetime value through data and analytics; the optimisation of processes and operations. – concludes Roberto Liscia – All this, however, implies bringing in new skills, re-engineering processes, reorganising control and in general having a new governance”.

In short, the sector faces many challenges in the future, including the rapid conversion to Platform Econonomy: “it is estimated that in the future 30% of the world will use the platform model to convey the supply of goods and services in each sector”.

“In a fastmoving world, businesses must stop and think – concludes Roberto Liscia – Changes come from everywhere: consumers, the environment, technologies, institutions. The strategies to be undertaken are complex and knowing how to do business requires constant learning. In balancing customer satisfaction, investment availability and business capabilities, the key elements for the evolution and competitiveness of companies are two: human intelligence and adaptability”.