4 differences between Italian vs British ecommerce

Wed 9 Jan 2019
Posted by: Sam Pileggi

Italy ecommerce

By Francesca Farina, Content Coordinator at Pentagon

Italy is one of the fastest growing ecommerce markets in Europe with 34% of online shoppers in the region looking for British brands online. So as a British seller, Italy is a fantastic market to add to your international expansion roadmap.

However, while selling into Italy may be seen as more simple than selling into Brazil (for example), there are still some key variations that British ecommerce sellers should know. We take a look at some of the differences between Italian vs British ecommerce, to help you plan a successful international strategy.


1. Online Shoppers

  Italy  United Kingdom 
Population  60 million      63 million
Online shoppers    19 million (30%)    43.5 million (79%)   

At present, Italy has a population of around 60 million (with a median age of 46.3 years old). Of this 60 million, there are around 19 million online shoppers equating to about 30% of the entire Italian population. In comparison, the population of the United Kingdom is 63 million, but there are over 43.5 million people are buying online. This accounts for almost 79% of the total population!

One of the main reasons for the difference in online shoppers is simply due to the asymmetry in internet usage penetration between the two countries (65% and 92.6% respectively). Italy still has a long way to go to close the digital gap, since it has some of the slowest internet in Europe – not all houses are connected, especially those in the mountainous regions. However, this situation is rapidly improving; Italy increased the number of households with internet access by almost 20% between 2010 and 2016.


2. Growth & Spending

Italy United Kingdom 
  • In 2016, Italy’s highest Average Online Expenditure of USD$300 was triggered by shopping engines (such as Google shopping) and marketplaces, while traditional retailers gained an average expenditure of just USD$72.05;
  • Total online sales in Italy, during 2016, were valued at USD$11.77 billion;
  • Italy is ranked as the 5th largest ecommerce market in Europe with an astonishing year-on-year growth rate of 15%;
  • The market may be seen as relatively immature, in comparison to the UK, but it is growing rapidly;
  • Italians spend mainly on fashion, books and electrical goods.
  • Alongside the Germans and the French, Britons spend the most online;
  • In the UK, online sales in 2017 reached USD$90.22 billion with a year-on-year growth rate of 11.5%;
  • The UK is a mature market, so it is likely to grow more slowly than some of its European counterparts, such as Italy, Netherlands and Spain;
  • Britain’s online expenditure by card is one of the highest in the world: last year, the equivalent of USD$5,900 was spent using cards;
  • Paying online in the UK is considered safe and easy, thanks to the processes that local banks have put into place;
  • Brits also mainly spend on fashion, books but prefer audio instead.


3. Marketplaces

Italians love marketplaces! 85% of Italian online shoppers have recently placed an order on Amazon, eBay, ePRICE or Zalando – which are the most recognisable marketplaces in the country. Marketplaces are seen to offer a much more organised and polished customer experience, especially when it comes to delivery and customer returns: services that not every brand can provide well at good value-for-money.

In comparison, only 69% of British online shoppers choose to buy from marketplaces. This again could be related back to the maturity of the UK ecommerce market, with buyers have more online shopping options from British brands, who have spent years perfecting their online customer experience.


4. The Delivery Factor

Deliveries in Italy can be complicated, especially if you are using the local postage system (although this is improving). As a result of this, Italians demand a reliable delivery service, which is reasonably priced.

According to Royal Mail’s ‘Deliver Matters’ research, expensive deliveries are seen as the main obstacle to purchase for 43% of surveyed Italians. Hidden charges also strongly discourage Italians ordering from UK shops or brands, so it’s important to be crystal clear on the costs for delivery when selling into Italy.

The good news is that, when it comes to buying from the United Kingdom, Italian shoppers don’t mind waiting a little longer: only 21% of online shoppers won’t make a purchase because of longer delivery times. So, for Italians, a reliable, tracked delivery wins over a super-fast one.

Conversely, Brits are largely happy with the quality of their deliveries and have extremely high expectations about the web services offered. Website and technical problems can be one of the main reasons for shopping cart abandonment, especially if the buyer is female.

Delivery costs have been seen to impact the purchase process in the UK, with 42% of survey respondent stating that such costs can discourage an online purchase. However factors that can increase the likelihood of an online purchase include a free return policy and clear delivery information.


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