01 September 2023

E-commerce is a strategic development lever for business and fights inflation

In Italy, e-commerce is a significant, ever-increasing phenomenon: the value of B2C transactions amounts to 48.1 billion Euros, while the supply chain generates a turnover of 70 billion Euros and supports 380,000 employees. E-commerce also and above all represents a strategic lever of development for companies, as shown by the new Study conducted by The European House - Ambrosetti in collaboration with Amazon and presented today at the 49th Cernobbio Forum “Intelligence on the World, Europe, and Italy”.

As explained by Lorenzo Tavazzi, Partner and Head of the Scenarios and Intelligence Area at The European House - Ambrosetti, "The Study realised in collaboration with Amazon and presented today represents an unicum at the national level as it investigates, with an integrated view, the social, economic and industrial effects and characteristics of e-commerce. In particular, the industrial dimension was analysed through a structured survey of 650 Italian companies, from which it emerged that Italian companies selling online reported an average increase in turnover of 8.8%, margins of 8.1% and exports of 8.1% thanks to the adoption of the digital channel. The greatest benefits are found for SMEs, with a higher proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises reporting an increase in turnover (+9.3%), marginality (+64%) and exports (+3%) than large enterprises. Companies who sell online also recognise benefits in the physical sales channel, noting in particular an increase in brand awareness (7 out of 10), an innovation of the offer based on multi-channel experience and an improvement in after-sales service (6 out of 10), and an expansion of the domestic and foreign customer base (6 out of 10)".

If these development effects were applied to all Italian companies whose business is likely to be integrated with the digital channel, we could have a flywheel effect for the country-system of over 110 billion Euros (+6% of GDP in 2022). Also extremely relevant are the pro-competitive effects of e-commerce: for 7 out of 10 companies, online and offline sales channels are complementary, with higher values among SMEs (+10.3 percentage points compared to the average for other companies), determining benefits in terms of brand awareness and improved after-sales service. A further element of development is digital export: companies report an increase in exports thanks to the adoption of the online channel of more than 8%, with 6 out of 10 companies also reporting an increase in their domestic and foreign customer base.

E-commerce also generates work and skills, as demonstrated by the multiplier in terms of employment: for every 100 work units generated directly by e-commerce and digital retail activities, an additional 141 work units are activated. In fact, thanks to the opening of the online sales channel, the study shows that 20% of companies have hired new highly specialised professional figures.

E-commerce contributes to mitigate inflation and to the improvement of the retail offer, as shown by the two studies presented in recent months and carried out by The European House - Ambrosetti in collaboration with Amazon: the first was conducted on Italian consumers, whereas the second was based on the econometric model that, using data on prices recorded between 2020 and March 2023, examined the relationship between inflation and e-commerce.

The first survey, presented in March 2023, focused on citizens' perceptions, which were then confirmed by the econometric and statistical model developed in the second study, published in July. In a context where price increases are the problem most felt by citizens, in the last year e-commerce has enabled 6 out of 10 Italians to increase or maintain their purchasing power.

The econometric and statistical model elaborated by The European House - Ambrosetti and confirmed by the comparison with ISTAT data showed that, in Italy:

  • the prices of goods purchased online proved to be more stable than the general price level, with a knock-on effect on general price growth
  • had it not been for the effect of the spread of e-commerce, over the last 6 years, inflation would have been 5% higher on average
  • as online commerce grows, consumption also grows significantly: for every additional percentage point of e-commerce penetration, consumption in Italy increases by 845 million Euros.

The three studies carried out by The European House - Ambrosetti therefore show the benefits of e-commerce for the Italian economy: strategic and growth lever for companies, innovation engine for traditional retail, and ally of Italian families in the fight against inflation. 

Download the study “E-commerce_perceptions and evidence on benefits for citizens, businesses, and the Italian economy” 

Download the Executive Summary

Download the press release