Food: online or offline? How you buy is not important. Experience is what really matters

Who said that Italians don’t buy off the Internet? According to the research of the B2C e-Commerce Observatory of the School of Management Politecnico di Milano, conducted in partnership with Netcomm, this year Italy will see its e-commerce industry exceed a value of € 23.6 billion (+17% compared to 2016). And who said that if they do buy off the Internet, they only buy services? This year, for the first time, products have represented more than half of sales (52% against 48% of the services), and they are growing four times quicker (+28% compared to +7% of the services).

These data were presented at the Netcomm Focus Food, a one-day event focused on the opportunities provided by e-commerce for the agrofood sector, organised by Netcomm in collaboration with TUTTOFOOD on 17 November in Milan. So what are the perspectives for the food industry? The food sector, in particular, is recording the highest growth rate among all the product categories: +43%, bringing the sales value up to € 849 million.  

The Food e digitale: il ridisegno dei nuovi equilibri (Food and the digital world: redesigning new balances) workshop will give an insight into consumers’ key needs, the relationship between groceries, digital, and proximity, and food innovation in technologies, business, and processes. Thanks to TUTTOFOOD’s expertise on Italy’s and international markets, major brands of the agrofood industry – F.lli Carli, Illy, T18; retail and MMD, such as Domino’s Pizza, Eataly, Selex, Unes – the digital world – Amazon, Cortilia, Ernst & Young, Fact Finder, GS1, Quomi, Tannico, Viveat – and the media industry with La Cucina Italiana, gathered to share their experiences and expertise.

In addition to comfort (time and price) and research for specific products (e.g., health or territorial ones), underlined Netcomm’s President, Roberto Liscia, the driving force of the new relationship between consumers and food lies in the new food culture, where experience, information, and content meet. In particular, the next question for the new generation of consumers is not where you buy but how you do it.

We are moving towards an “omnichannel” scenario – explained Liscia – where e-commerce will not replace the shop, but it will integrate it (e.g., with augmented reality apps, which provide information about the products while you’re in the shop), and customers will purchase according to the method that best suits their requirements. Today, those who buy online tend to use different media (web, mobile phones, tablets). NetRetail’s research shows that shoppers who use different purchase methods are also those who spend more. For more than one third of these everywhere shoppers (33.7%), smartphones play an important role for purchasing directly at the shop. 10.5% of this type of shoppers tend to purchase different product categories on and offline.

To allow industry operators to face the challenges of this scenario, which is rich in opportunities yet very complex, TUTTOFOOD and Fiera Milano Spa have extended their strategic alliance with Netcomm – the Italian Ecommerce Consortium – to 2021. After this year’s success, the 2019 edition, which will take place at Fieramilano from 6 to 9 May, will be full of new ideas, such as the eCommerce Food Lab, a 1000 sq.m hub dedicated to workshops, conferences and networking on the opportunities e-commerce can provide to the food industry, organised in collaboration with Digital Events.