In this particular historical moment, eCommerce is confirmed the only growth engine for commerce and it plays an increasingly important role in the strategies of merchants and retailers.
According to the B2C eCommerce Observatory of Politecnico di Milano School of Management in collaboration with Netcomm, in Italy online purchases grew by +3.4% in 2020, reaching € 32.4 billion.
But there was a difference between the sale of products and the sale of services. Online product sales grew by 45% to € 25.9 billion, driven by IT and consumer electronics (+ € 1.9 billion), food & grocery (+ € 1.3 billion) and furniture & home living (+ € 1.1 billion). On the other hand, online service sales fell by 52% to € 6.5 billion, due mainly to a contraction in tourism and transportation services (- € 6.7 billion compared to 2019).
The pandemic has profoundly changed the purchasing habits of all consumers, who have renewed their choice of products, the way they access information, the choice of platforms on which to buy and the way they pay.
According to the research carried out by Netcomm in collaboration with MagNews on the transformation of the consumer purchase paths in the fashion, food and personal care industries between 2020 and 2021, consumers can now be categorised into five new types:
- Contemporary Consumer: young person, resident in the centre/south of Italy, he/she buys both online and offline without preference, for average amounts. He/she prefers direct relationships with the brands, but during the pandemic had to offset physical touchpoints with digital channels (social, influencers, reviews);
- Fast Shopper: female, over 45 years old, with low technological equipment and low educational qualifications, she buys online for medium-low amounts.
- Offline Buyer: very young person and over 65 years old, living in small to medium-sized towns in Northern Italy, he/she prefers to buy from trusted shops for small amounts;
- Omnichannel Shopper: a middle-aged man or woman living in large cities, well-educated and technologically savvy. He/she alternates between online and offline;
- Digital First: a man in his thirties and/or over 55 years old who lives in large cities, well-educated and well equipped with technology. He shops mainly online, several times and for high amounts.
The research was carried out by interviewing a representative sample of Italian internet users, which represents approximately 40.4 million individuals.
The main trend identified by the research is a significant shift in shopping behaviour from a predominantly physical or omnichannel approach (buying both online and offline) to a predominantly digital one (buying only online).
Specifically, the “Digital First” consumers grew significantly in 2020 in all the three industries analysed by Netcomm and MagNews:
- from 2% to 12.9% for fashion purchases;
- from 2% to 9.9% for food purchases;
- from 2% to 12.8% for personal care purchases.
Furthermore, the research shows that digital wallets and online reviews are the most relevant touchpoints in enabling web shopping.
The moment of payment, by concluding the shopping experience, represents a strategic marketing element for companies in the supply chain.
Online reviews are now a fundamental tool for consumers and a key element that needs to be considered by brands. Reviews allow intercepting the needs and requirements of the customers, who are more aware and look for increasingly personalised shopping experiences.
Online purchases are expected to experience further growth, mainly due to the consolidation of product segments and the recovery of online purchases of services.
Likewise, the role of digital touchpoints within the various purchasing paths undertaken by Italians will remain high. This will have a clear impact on the need for companies to offer increasingly interconnected shopping experiences with their customers.
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