Italy flag Italy: Buying and Selling

Advertising and marketing in Italy

Marketing opportunities

Consumer Profile
Italy has a population of 60.25 million, of which 48.7% are men and 51.3% are women (Istat, 2020). In terms of age structure, 13.2% of the population is between 0 and 14 years old, 64.1% between 15 and 64 and 22.8% are 65 or older; with the median age being 46.7 years (the highest European level). The Italian population is ageing and the birth rate has been worsening in recent years (7 out of 1,000 inhabitants in 2019, from 7.8 in 2016 and 9.6 ten years ago). The number of households is increasing but their size is decreasing: in 2019 almost one-third of households are made up of one person (33.3%), 27% are made of 2 persons, 19.3% of three, 15% of four and only 4% of five or more people. 30% of the population lives in rural areas, while 70% are urban dwellers; with the regions of Lombardia, Lazio and Campania being the most numerous.
The number of people attending university has been decreasing in recent years (-10.6% in 2017 compared to 2009, latest data available by Istat). Furthermore, according to data by Eurostat, in 2019 only 22% of the Italian population between 25 and 54 years old has attained tertiary education (the second-lower level in Europe, after Romania). In Italy, 61% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education.
The latest data by Istat concerning the fourth quarter of 2019 show that out of a total of 23.4 million working people, nearly 5.3 million are independent workers, while 18.1 million are employees (of which 15 million have permanent contracts and 3 million have limited-term contracts). Italy is also the country in Europe with one of the highest number of freelance workers (22,9% of total employment in 2018, Eurostat).
Purchasing Power
In Italy, GDP per capita stood at EUR 29,610 in 2019 (approximately USD 33,189 World Bank figures). According to data by Istat, GDP per capita was 35,400 euros in the North-west area, 34,300 euros in the North-east and 30,700 euros in the Centre, while in the South and Islands area per capita GDP - at 18,500 euros - was 45% lower than in the Centre-North area, showing the territorial inequalities of the country. In 2018, the average income stood at EUR 21,600, an increase of 4.8% compared to the previous year (according to data by the Ministry of Economy and Finance). In Italy there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest, with the top 20% of the population earning close to six times as much as the bottom 20%. According to data by the World Bank, the GINI index for Italy stands at 35.9 (100 representing the highest level of inequality, 0 the lowest). According to the latest data available by Eurostat, in 2018, 27.3% of people residing in the country were at risk of poverty or social exclusion (slightly below the 28.9 % level of the previous year), though the incidence of absolute poverty in 2018 stood at 8.4% of individuals (unchanged compared to 2017). In 2019, household consumption increased by only 0.4% year-on-year; however, it is expected to fall by -8.7% in 2020 (due to the Covid-19 pandemic), followed by a 5% recovery in 2021.
According to the latest data available by Banca d'Italia, the growth in household income increased, in real terms, by 1.4% in the North East, 1.2% in the North West, 0.8% in the Centre and 0.7% in the South. The dynamism in terms of employment and wages in the northern regions contributed to the territorial gap. The OECD estimate Italy’s purchasing power parity at 0.67% in 2019 (unchanged compared to 2018), however when computing the period between 2000-2016, Italians lost on average 0.32% of their purchasing power per year (Eurostat).
Seniors have the highest median standard of living, while young people have the lowest median standard of living. Freelance workers have the highest average income (EUR 41,740), followed by entrepreneurs in individual enterprises (EUR 21,080), employees (EUR 20,680) and pensioners (EUR 17,170) (data by Ministry of Finance). Figures from Eurostat show that on average in Italy women earn 5% less than men (better than the EU average, where the gender pay gap is of 14.8% according to the latest data by Eurostat).
Consumer Behaviour
Italy’s population has a high and diversified level of mass consumption (defined as the very high average level of consumption whereby most of the people consume a large amount of goods and services other than satisfaction of basic needs). However, since the financial crisis the majority of Italian consumers have re-organized their shopping habits in order to meet economic constraints. According to the latest data by Istat, consumer confidence has been increasing since the second half of 2020, mainly due to the end of the lockdown imposed from March to June because of the Covid-19 epidemic. Italian consumers are demanding of quality products, they will therefore be more concerned about the quality of goods and of customer service than about promotions. When given the choice, Italians prefer products ‘made in Italy’, however foreign products are also in vogue (especially for footwear and streetwear). Novelty is welcomed, especially in the fashion sector. Most consumers purchase from mass retailers and large companies, especially in bigger cities. The ageing population (Italy is projected to have a median age of almost 50 years by 2030) drives an increasing demand for specialist products and services.
Italians are increasingly attracted by online sales, e-commerce and m-commerce (this practice also applies to the purchase of food products, through the development of drive and home delivery services in major cities). According to Netcomm, the Italian Electronic Commerce Consortium, the Italian consumers who prefer online purchases were 29 million in the first half of 2020 and it is estimated that the sector will grow by 55% by the end of the year. Most of the consumers are multichannel, meaning they buy both from normal shops and online, while around 12.4 million people use the internet only to gather information about products that they then buy in standard channels. 56% of e-shoppers makes at least one online purchase every month.
Italians have historically been considered brand loyal, however this trend has been changing in recent years, with consumers being more interested in trying new products/brands (43% according to a survey by Nielsen, while 45% declare to be open to change their favourite outlet in case of interesting promotions from new outlets).
Italian consumers often rely on the information provided on the internet and on social networks, especially those coming from other consumers (comments, reviews, etc.). 5% of young people between 15-24 purchased goods advertised by an Instagram or Facebook influencer, and 37% consider the advertising on these platforms as interesting (Blogmeter). Concerning big data, Italian consumers do not have a clear perception of which data are collected, stored and transferred and for which use.
A growing preference for sustainable, locally-produced products and organic foods has been recorded in recent years. In fact, 85% of consumers thinks that sustainable products have a better quality and are more innovative. Nevertheless, seven consumers out of ten would not buy a sustainable/organic product that costs 10% more than a normal product, and only 1% of consumers would buy them in case of a 20% increase on the price.
Use of collaborative platforms such as Airbnb, Uber, Blablacar, car sharing services is increasing, especially among young people.
Consumers Associations
List on the website of the Ministry for Economic Development
The Italian Association of Consumers and Users (ACU)
The Italian Association for the Defence and Rights of the Consumer (ADOC)
The National Union of Consumers (UNC)
Main Advertising Agencies
Saatchi Advertising Agency
Grey Advertising Italy

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Latest Update: June 2022

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