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Internationalization through ecommerce

Exports are becoming more and more important for the Italian economy: over a quarter of the final demand comes from foreign markets.

Italian exports continue to grow (in 2017 the good worth of € 448.1 billion were exported (+ 7.4 compared to 2016, Source: Reuters.com), but should keep pace with the times by focusing on trade online that in the world is worth over two trillion dollars for Business to Consumer (B2C) and over 22 trillion for business exchanges (B2C) (Source: Sole24Ore).

Considering a total Italian value of 23,6 billion euros (value of Italian ecommerce in 2017), Italian export through digital channels in 2017 reached a market value of 9.2 billion euros (+ 23% compared to 2016, Fonte Sole24Ore). The main markets for Italian online sales are Europe and the United States; the presence of Russia, Southeast Asia, China and Japan is also strengthening over time.

Global B2B and B2C ecommerce: China, Russia, USA

The global ecommerce (448 billion euros in 2017) currently affects around 2 billion consumers and it has been estimated that it could double quickly and the next 2 billion will come mainly from developing countries.

The growth potential is huge and the B2C segment is expanding and should not to be overlooked. Born from the primary interest of consumers, ecommerce is indeed becoming an interesting sector for B2B: the Chinese B2C ecommerce, with a value of 752 billion euros and a 35% incidence in the global market, is currently a world leader; almost 38% of the Chinese population are cross-border consumers, buying online goods or services offered by foreign or Chinese  websites. In 2017 the online sales to China continued to grow in recent years, exceeding the value of around 90 billion euros (Source: osservatori.net).

U.S. and European e-commerce markets continue growing, thus offering Italian businesses excellent opportunities. As for Russia, its B2C ecommerce market has doubled over the last three years, becoming a promising area for the development of the online export strategy.

Ecommerce as export strategy

For a company to become successful it is crucial to identify the model of digital export most suited to its characteristics.

Traditional tools to support the internationalization of companies such as subsidized export financing, credit insurance, Simest shareholdings in the capital stock of non-European companies, are no longer sufficient in the global market, that requires new commercial proposals to meet the immediate customers’ needs. And the traditional process of internationalization of a SME, not well structured enough, could be long and complex.

Ecommerce is an excellent export tool for Italian businesses, as it offers a solution to the possible structural limits of SMEs.

The ecommerce is undoubtedly one of the channels that allows approaching international markets. One of the main reasons is that buying online is a habitual activity for international customers, more than for the Italian ones, who are considered to be a still developing market in ecommerce.

This is especially true when operating within certain specific product categories, such as fashion, transport, technological products, books, etc.

The reluctance of some companies to ecommerce is linked to the assumption that it is too complicated to be managed internally. In particular, many companies see the obstacles in:

  • market regulation,
  • fiscal aspects,
  • logistics

Nowadays, however, there is a wide range of solutions dedicated to the various business realities, which makes it possible to outsource, in whole or in part, the most critical areas of the e-commerce processes, for which the small Italian companies are not internally structured: store management, logistics management, warehouse, customer care and other performance aspects such as digital marketing and CX / UX analysis.

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