Selling your consumer products online in Italy

Italy is a market with a relatively low adoption rate to e-commerce, and an number of other specific characteristics. Still selling your products online may be an interesting way to enter the market.

Specifics of the Italian online market

The Italian online market has some unique characteristics that set it apart from other markets. Here are some of the key factors:

  1. The Italian market is unique because it has a strong cultural and linguistic identity. This means that Italian consumers prefer to shop from websites that are tailored to their language and culture, and are more likely to trust local businesses that they know and recognize.
  2. Italy is famous for its luxury fashion and design, and this is reflected in the online market. Italian consumers are willing to pay a premium for high-quality products and services, particularly in the fashion, beauty, and home design sectors.
  3. While e-commerce is growing in Italy, it has been slower to take hold than in other countries. This means that there is still a significant opportunity for businesses to enter the Italian market and capture market share.
  4. Italians are heavy users of smartphones, and the mobile phone is often the primary device for accessing the internet. This means that businesses looking to succeed in the Italian market need to have a strong mobile strategy.
  5. The Italian market is relatively fragmented, with a large number of small and medium-sized businesses operating in different sectors. This means that there are many niche opportunities for businesses to target specific segments of the market.

If you look at the most used third-party sales platforms, these are Italian versions of international websites and there is no incumbent party. But where other ‘foreigners’ have been able to make the step to the Italian market, with the right investments it should also be possible for you.

Two ways of selling your products online

In general, there are two ways if you want to sell your products online in this market:

  1. Through an open platform like Amazon, Eprice or Zalando where you can set up your own shop
  2. Through a (specialized) online distributor, who will buy your products and sell them on its website.

Selling on a platform like Amazon involves listing your products on that marketplace, which allows you to reach a large number of potential customers who are already shopping on the platform. As a seller on Amazon or other platforms, you are responsible for managing your inventory, shipping products to customers, and providing customer service. The platform charges fees for its services, including a referral fee and a fulfillment fee if you choose to use the platform’s fulfillment services.

On the other hand, selling through an online distributor involves partnering with a company that specializes in distributing products to retailers or other sellers. The distributor will take care of the logistics of getting your products to retailers or other customers, such as warehousing, shipping, and handling returns. In exchange for their services, distributors typically charge a fee or take a percentage of the sales.

Benefits and fees of open platforms

Here is a table of some of the main online platforms in Italy that allow third-party sales, along with their URL, sector focus, estimated number of active users in Italy, and last known turnover in Italy:

PlatformURLSector FocusEstimated Number of Active Users in Italy2022 Turnover in Italy (in million US$)
Amazon merchandiseOver 18 million5,280
eBay merchandiseOver 16 million2,000 (approx)
Eprice electronics, appliancesOver 6 million64
Zalando and apparelOver 6 million766
Unieuro electronics, appliancesOver 2 million566
Mediaworld electronics, appliancesOver 2 million717
Yoox fashion and designOver 1.5 million855
Trenitalia tickets and travel servicesOver 1 million5600 (total turnover)

Note that these figures are estimates and may vary based on the source and methodology used to calculate them. Additionally, there are many other online platforms in Italy that allow third-party sales, including smaller niche marketplaces and platforms that focus on specific sectors or regions.

The fees that businesses pay to sell on each of these e-commerce platforms in Italy can vary depending on several factors, such as the product category and pricing.

PlatformMonthly Fee for Professional SellersLowest Commission RateHighest Commission Rate€39 (excluding VAT)7% (for most product categories)45% (for certain products, such as Amazon devices)
Ebay.itNo monthly fee 5.9% (for most product categories)11.9% (for certain product categories, such as vehicles)
Eprice.itNo monthly 8% (for most product categories)18% (for certain product categories, such as smartphones and tablets)
Zalando.itNo monthly 10% (for most fashion product categories)25% (for certain product categories, such as luxury fashion)

If you want to promote a specific items, this comes at additional cost. And you will always need to cover the shipping costs for your products, and most platforms offer discounted rates through their partner carriers.

Online distributors

There are numerous online distributors in Italy that sell multiple brands and could possibly also include your products. This is a selection of the bigger websites:

WebsiteURLProduct CategoriesEstimated Reach2022 Turnover in Italy (million US$)
Decathlon goods and equipmentOver 6 million monthly visitors89
Unieuro electronics, appliancesOver 2 million monthly visitors557
Euronics electronics, appliancesOver 1.5 million monthly visitors129
Brico io improvement and DIYOver 1 million monthly visitors12
Leroy Merlin improvement and DIYOver 1 million monthly visitors169
Mondadori Store, music, and moviesOver 1 million monthly visitors20
La Feltrinelli, music, and moviesOver 1 million monthly visitors40
Zara and apparelOver 1 million monthly visitors238

Being online does not guarantee sales

While having an online presence can provide businesses with many benefits, such as increased visibility, the ability to reach new audiences, and cost savings, it does not guarantee sales. There are several reasons why being online does not guarantee sales:

  1. Competition: The online marketplace is highly competitive, and businesses need to differentiate themselves from their competitors to stand out. This can be challenging, particularly in crowded marketplaces.
  2. Marketing: Just having a website or online store is not enough to drive sales. Businesses need to invest in marketing and advertising to reach potential customers and drive traffic to their website.
  3. Trust: Building trust with customers is critical for online sales. Customers need to feel confident that they are purchasing from a reputable and trustworthy business. This can be particularly challenging for new or lesser-known businesses.
  4. Logistics: Fulfillment, shipping, and returns are critical components of the online shopping experience. If a business does not have a reliable and efficient process for these tasks, it can negatively impact the customer experience and sales.

Especially when introducing a product to a market marketing is needed. On open platforms like Amazon or Ebay you can advertise or push your products, and invest in it directly. In our experience, in the beginning these marketing expenses may easily outweigh the revenue. Only when customers are returning the margins are moving to positive.

When working with an online distributor, that company may either ask for a low sales price, or for your involvement in the marketing. Having your social media accounts up and running, co-financing advertisement or doing (sampling) events can be important requirements to displaying your products.

The best strategy for selecting an open platform

From our experience, if you want to select an open platform in Italy for selling your products, we recommend to keep the following in mind:

  1. Consider the product category: Different platforms may specialize in different product categories, so it’s important to choose a platform that aligns with your product offerings. For example, if you sell fashion products, Zalando or Yoox may be a better fit than Amazon or eBay.
  2. Consider the ease of working with the platform. We see big differences in the user interface of the back end, where you need to upload your product descriptions and in connecting it with your bookkeeping and stock management system.
  3. Analyze the target audience: Different platforms may have different customer demographics and purchasing behaviors, so it’s important to choose a platform that aligns with your target audience. For example, if you sell high-end luxury products, Amazon or eBay may not be the best fit as they are more known for low-priced products.
  4. Evaluate the fees: Each platform has its own fee structure, so it’s important to evaluate the fees and determine which platform offers the most cost-effective solution for your business.
  5. Review the competition: It’s important to review the competition on each platform and determine whether your products can stand out and compete effectively against similar offerings.
  6. Assess the platform’s support and resources: Different platforms offer different levels of support and resources for businesses. It’s important to choose a platform that offers the necessary tools and resources to help your business succeed.
  7. Consider the platform’s reputation: The reputation of the platform can impact customer trust and willingness to purchase. It’s important to choose a platform that has a good reputation and is trusted by customers.

If you have the time and money for it, it may also be beneficial to test multiple platforms to determine which one offers the most effective solution for your business.

The best strategy work with an online distributor

Getting your products listed with an online distributor requires a well-planned strategy to increase your chances of success. We advise to do the following:

  1. Conduct research to find the best fitting online distributor for your products. Consider factors such as the distributor’s target audience, product category, and pricing.
  2. Ensure your products meet the distributor’s requirements: Each distributor has specific requirements for the products they list on their platform. Ensure that your products meet the distributor’s requirements in terms of quality, safety, and packaging.
  3. Decide what product you want to replace. Even an online distributor can only show and keep in stock a limited number of items. If you want to be one of the top items to be displayed, what other brand or product should go down? And how would the website make more money from your product?
  4. Price your products competitively: Set competitive prices for your products to attract customers and increase your chances of making sales. Consider the prices of similar products on the distributor’s platform and adjust your prices accordingly.
  5. Promote your products: To increase the visibility of your products, consider promoting them through online advertising, social media, and other marketing channels. This can help attract more customers and increase sales. If you are willing to refer to the online distributor’s website, this may be an argument for him to list your products.

The process is not so different from getting your products listed with an offline distributor. The main advantage for online is that you can occupy places in the ‘long tail’, products that in one city are not enough in demand to have them in a shop, but overall in a country have enough demand to offer them online. If you then help with the promotion and in the beginning offer to put part of your stock in consignment with the distributor, chances are higher to get listed.

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