Italy is the country of Gucci and Prada, Milan’s Fashion Week and dolce vita. Italian fashion is synonymous for quality, eccentricity, uniqueness and sartorial excellence – but does the innate style and panache of Italian haute couture translate well into the world of fashion e-commerce? Traditionally, proud Italian clothes and shoe makers shunned the online world in favor of brick-and-mortar stores. The personal touch, in-person fittings, and the joy of creating fashion for individuals just so – that was the Italian way.

Times of change

The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world, and in particular the Italian fashion world. Italian fashion e-commerce received a huge boost, as people were confined to their homes. Despite the reality of increasing inflation, unemployment, and scarcity of money in the country, Italians still wanted to look good and be well-dressed. The old ways had to give way to progress, and those, who didn’t follow the trend, quickly went under.

In fact, the pandemic created a whole new branch of fashion in Italy, as big name designers were called upon to create exclusive lines of leisurewear. One example of this new trend is the highly successful online shop, offering high-end sports and leisurewear Made in Italy.

Turning point

Now, a year after the end of the pandemic, fashion e-commerce in Italy is at a turning point despite the constant delay in the evolution of the Italian market due to a lack in infrastructure. E-commerce penetration in Italy has reached a mere 68% to date, compared to 83% in the UK or 79% in neighboring France. And yet: The Italian fashion e-commerce market is predicted to reach USD 6,577.2 million for the year 2023 and currently accounts for 17.5% of the total e-commerce market in Italy. Further increase is expected over the coming years. 75% of purchases are made via mobile devices, reaching peaks of 90% for some companies (Zalando, Shein, Nike). But that doesn’t mean that Italian consumers part with their hard-earned cash easily.

Online shopping behavior

Italian online shoppers can be quite indecisive. Before placing an order, they may want to visit a website at least five times. They also like wishlists and often use the “add to basket” function to add items to their wishlists to review at a later date. Price comparison websites are on the rise, as are second-hand platforms (Vinted). It is increasingly evident that users are looking for feedback, reviews, ratings, and more information on products online before a purchase (90%). In a survey conducted by Statista in 2023, when asked about “Attitudes towards online shopping”, most respondents (55%) picked “When I plan a purchase, I always do some research on the internet first” as an answer.

Specifically in the area of fashion e-commerce, Italians like to compare prices, look at online shop ratings, and heavily rely on CRM. In terms of return rates for e-commerce sales in Italy, it’s 5% for general goods, 15% for electronics and over 40% for fashion. It is therefore crucial to offer easy returns solutions. Italian online shoppers are relatively patient. In general, they don’t mind waiting 3-5 days for their orders to arrive, but expect free shipping or low shipping rates.

How do Italians pay for their online purchases?

PayPal remains very popular among Italian online shoppers, even if this pioneering payment provider was largely replaced by online wallets and other buy now – pay later financial offerings across Europe. 63% of those surveyed have used PayPal for online purchases in the past month. 39% prefer to use PayPal over all other online payment methods. According to a recent survey, PayPal is the number one in Italy. When asked for their top choices for online purchase payment methods, Italians also chose PostePay (12%), credit cards (11%) and other prepaid cards (11%).

The future of Italian fashion e-commerce

Italy has been put under a lot of scrutiny by financial markets due to high unemployment and high public debt. Nevertheless, the e-commerce market in Italy is booming, and may even surpass the European leaders in the coming years.

Italians show much interest in purchasing fashion items online from international retailers (top earner in 2022 was Zalando, a German fashion retailer). This is mainly due to the relatively limited availability of some products on the local market and relatively low competitiveness among domestic fashion e-commerce merchants. This situation presents great opportunities for international sellers.

Due to the challenging economic climate and an “anti-recession” reflex, Italians love bargains when shopping online. Important to bear in mind: 90% of Italians do not speak a second language. Online shop localization and high-quality translations of online content, as well as catchy slogans and marketing tailor-made for the Italian audience are essential. The same applies for live chat or AI chatbot implementations – Italian is a must.

Bottom line

The Italian e-commerce market, and specifically fashion e-commerce still offers immense opportunity for international retailers. While the growth of lockdown saw a three to four-year growth in a single year, it also generated a lock-in effect for consumers, who were forced to buy online but preferred to buy in-store. In 2022, about one million people returned to offline life. Online penetration among the Italian population (aged 2 and over) reached 75.1% in January 2023 (-1.2% compared to the previous year) with 44 million single monthly users. Geographically, the most well-connected area is the northwest with 64.7% of Italian adults, while the south and islands are close with 58.6%.

Looking ahead, the growth of e-commerce in Italy is expected to continue in the coming years. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of online shopping, and many consumers have discovered the convenience of buying products and services from the comfort of their own homes. Customer-centric online shop approaches are the key to success.

Italian e-commerce operators predict that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will significantly impact online sales within the next three years. AI would enable a new dimension of online shopping where customers can talk to AI-integrated assistants to find tailored solutions for their needs. This would replace the traditional approach of individually searching for products, resulting in a change in online shopping behavior.

Online marketing is changing. Different generations use different social media platforms, which all need addressing in a marketing strategy. There is a growing trend towards the digitization of processes, and let’s not forget about new regulations like the cookieless era. In effect, new fashion e-commerce retailers in Italy will need a sound overall marketing and loyalty strategy.



autor_eurotext_100Author: Eurotext Editorial Team

We explain how internationalization works, provide tips for your translation projects and outline some of the technology and processes used. We also report on current e-commerce developments and cover a range of language-related topics.