Product purchases continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace (+18%) than last year (+45%), and reach € 30.5 billion. On the other hand, after the strong crisis of 2020 (-52%), purchases of services showed a recovery (+36%) and reach € 8.9 billion. However, despite the positive trend, the increase of purchases of services in 2021 does not compensate for the losses generated by the health emergency: the gap with pre-pandemic values is still significant (in 2019, online purchases of services were worth € 13.5 billion).
The incidence of B2C e-commerce on total retail sales can be considered as a proxy of online maturity. In 2021, this indicator reaches 10% (it was 9% in 2020). For product purchases, penetration increased from 9% in 2020 to 10% in 2021 (increased +3% between 2019 and 2020). In 2021, the penetration of service purchases increased from 10% to 11%.
Compared to the past, Italian SMEs have also approached e-commerce and understood its potential. In many cases, however, the approach to multichannel selling was rather elementary, mainly based on social and instant messaging platforms and not with an eCommerce platform.
The B2C E-commerce Observatory also tried to estimate the online market value for 2021 in a context without the Covid-19 pandemic. Without the health emergency, the online market would probably have closed in 2021 with an additional € 3.5 billion. This value reflects mainly the drastic drop in the tourism and transport sector, which was heavily penalised by severe mobility restrictions (such as border closures). The Covid-19, therefore, contrary to what one might think, slowed down the general growth of the e-commerce market, with several exceptions in product sectors, which on the contrary, achieved a strong acceleration.
For example, online shopping for FMCG products grew by +37.5% in Italy in 2021, after an increase of € 2.9 billion in 2020 (+84% compared to 2019). Online purchases of pharmaceuticals and health products were worth € 1.5 billion in 2021, up 43.3% compared to 2020, driven by an increase in purchase frequency.
The next evolutions in commerce are already visible by analysing consumer desires. First of all, companies will take a more responsible attitude towards the environment and society, with 47% of Italian online buyers of fashion & lifestyle products, for example, expecting brands to commit to sustainability innovation in all aspects of the production and online purchasing process of a product.
Logistics will also be another important area of companies’ strategies: 34% of online shoppers now choose where to buy based on the available delivery and collection options. Logistics is also core to developing an omnichannel customer management strategy, where the physical shop will continue to be a central element in the consumer experience and logistics services could become the link that effectively connects online and physical services.
Finally, the “humanisation” of digital will be another crucial aspect: creating greater intimacy is one of the areas that digital leaders are questioning. One of the most promising solutions seems to be live streaming commerce, thanks to the logic of direct and personalised interaction that distinguishes it.
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For more details (in Italian): https://www.osservatori.net/it/eventi/on-demand/convegni/convegno-risultati-ricerca-osservatorio-ecommerce-b2c