The Italian exports that rely entirely on e­Commerce are worth about €6bn and yet they represent a marginal share, slightly above four per cent, of total exports of consumer goods.


Most of the exports sold through digital channels are linked to large online retailers.


Fashion is the largest sector in terms of exports through e­Commerce, it represents 65 per cent of total cross­border online sales, it is followed by the food and design sectors, accounting for 15 per cent each.


Politecnico University of Milan (credits:

Politecnico University of Milan (credits:

The main export markets for Italian goods and services sold online are Europe and the USA, followed by Japan and Russia.


This is what has emerged from the latest study “Osservatorio Export” conducted by the Politecnico University of Milan’s School of Management.


The study showed that €1.5bn worth of export through e­Commerce goes through Italian operated manufacturers’ web­sites such as Diesel, Giordano Wines and Ermenegildo Zegna or multichannel retailers websites such as LuisaViaRoma, YOOX NET.


On the other hand, exports of Italian consumer goods that go through foreign managed online sales sites are worth €4.5bn. Italian goods are bought by large international online retailers (i.e. Zelando), large marketplaces (i.e. Amazon) or companies such as Vente­ or and these goods are subsequently sold outside Italy.


Digital innovation is still little used by Italian companies to export goods/services and this is a barrier to international competitiveness says Riccardo Mangiaracina, director of “Osservatorio Export”.


Over a quarter of total demand for Italian goods and services comes from foreign markets and given the decline in domestic demand, foreign markets are increasingly becoming more important to the Italian economy.


The “Made in Italy” brand is a key factor for exports of consumer goods. In recent years the importance of foreign markets has grown as foreign demand has increased whilst internal demand has decreased.


Over the last five years the average turnover of Italian companies operating in international markets has increased by 18 per cent.


In 2014 and for the third consecutive year, the net foreign demand has helped to contain the fall in GDP.


Exports for goods and services grew by 2.7 per cent reaching almost €475bn (€387bn from goods and €98bn from services), a figure that makes Italy the eighth largest exporter of goods worldwide and fourteenth for services.


European Union countries are the main markets for Italian exports, accounting for 50 per cent of total exports. This is mainly due to geographical proximity, the absence of customs barriers, the similarity of regulations and business practices.


Exports are well­established for Italian companies operating in the Food and Fashion sectors (representing 12 per cent and seven per cent respectively of total Italian exports) and yet it still relys heavily on traditional channels, as opposed to online sales, to sell goods outside Italy.


The study points out that Italian companies’ limited use of e­Commerce is mainly due to a lack of understanding of legal constraints and inadequate communication strategies.


Almost half of Italian companies (48 per cent) that export use exclusively offline channels, only one per cent exports through a pure online strategy, 28 per cent changes its strategy depending on the country where the goods are sold while 23 per cent pursues a multi­channel strategy.


The study highlights the three main barriers for Italian companies to successfully embrace cross-border e­Commerce, these are: the inability to adequately use online sales channels (45 per cent), the inability to successfully implement business communication via digital channels (16 per cent) and the lack of comprehension of legal implications (16 per cent).

alessandro fumagalli

alessandro fumagalli

Before moving back to Italy, Alessandro worked for six years as senior research analyst for The Financial Times newspaper. He currently works as a research consultant and freelance translator. Alessandro graduated in Business Studies with a First Class Honours Degree at the “London South Bank University” in England.
alessandro fumagalli