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How Italians' purchasing has changed during the lockdown

How Italians' purchasing has changed during the lockdown

Publish: 3 june 2020 • Reading time: 5 minutes

After "phase one" and now fully in "phase two", there are still many unknowns about how the Italian economy will change, also and above all considering consumers who have never before changed their habits so quickly.

To understand what has changed in recent months, let's take a look at some useful data as food for thought for a retail context which realises it must transform in order to keep up. The transition to a cashless society began long before the COVID-19 emergency. Already in 2019, 57% of global consumers had used contactless cards and 40% had used smartphone payments¹. The pandemic is only accelerating the transition to a "cashless society".

Boom of online shopping and Ecommerce sites

Practically every sector related to the online offer has grown in this period, often even in two or three digits. From online trading which recorded +211% in March/April - Assosim² data - to the use of digital content dedicated to fitness which, in the case of Virgin Active Europe, has seen a 150% increase since the beginning of the year.

Digital consumption grew exponentially in February, March and April. Let's take a look at some data from MyBank, a payment solution offered by banks that lets you collect payments online through an irrevocable bank transfer. The data offers a snapshot of Italians' consumption habits during the lockdown period (February, March and April 2020), analysing the database with a classification by product area of the over 10,000 merchants who have integrated their collection system. The transacted value compared to the same period of 2019 showed a real boom in online purchases:

  • Consumer electronics: 118%
  • Publishing: 41%
  • Pharma:  116%
  • Tech/IT:  56%
  • Gardening: 120%

And the trend is not only in physical goods, as payments to public administrations have also grown significantly. Still according to MyBank data, payments to public administrations show a striking figure, mostly carried out with PagoPA, whose value doubled compared to the period from February to April 2019, recording an increase of 94%.

 “There are still too many unknowns to be able to definitively establish how the post-Covid-19 scenario will unfold. The situation experienced and the fruitful discussions we had with companies during the last weeks of the lockdown revealed that the post-Covid-19 scenario will require:

Conscious evolution towards a digitalised world that generates value for all stakeholders;

  • Redesign of processes for the benefit of simplification that also expresses greater proximity;
  • Construction of more shared models;
  • Solutions capable of generating personal protection and greater trust between parties;
  • More efficiency in both system and management costs, and not to the detriment of service quality.

We at MyBank have built a solution by combining the needs expressed by individuals, companies and public administrations and by creating a minimum common denominator, a service line inspired from its origins by the "New Normal", which also proves itself key to post-pandemic design on a daily basis", said Giorgio Ferrero, CEO of PRETA/MyBank.

Consumer goods: comparison between offline and online

According to Nielsen data³, the sales of consumer goods increased offline after the arrival of the epidemic, reaching peaks of +12%, to then suffer a sharp drop during the lockdown phase, while maintaining some advantageous percentage points compared to the same period of 2019.

The purchases of the same goods online accelerated growth, already underway compared to last year, from about +50% to +90%, from the second half of February to the first half of March, to then also see triple-digit growth, reaching +178% towards the end of April.

Leading the ranking of brands with the highest sales trends are disinfectants, with increases of up to 290%, followed by food products. If we instead look at sales volumes, the positions are reversed, while maintaining the composition of best-selling goods unchanged.

With an even more detailed snapshot, the Nielsen data highlighted an increase in retail sales of more than 2% (always year-on-year) in the first week of April, highlighting a greater propensity for the physical channel for south and northeast Italy, which recorded +5.8% and +5.9% respectively, compared to the northwest (+0.3%) and the centre (-0.5%), which instead saw a slightly different situation compared to the trends of 2019.

These analyses are accompanied by the surveys of GFK⁴, from which it emerges that 37% of families who shopped online had never done so in the previous 12 months. Not only that, they also show excess demand: 19% of families who tried to shop online did not succeed, due to the structural limitations of the distribution platforms forced to deal with exponential growth in demand in very little time.

The most affected sectors were travel, events, automotive and real estate

Of course, not all sectors benefitted from this quarantine period. For example, travel has been one of the most affected sectors. The snapshot of MyBank, which also includes shipping companies, transport companies and travel agencies among its customers, shows a decrease of 68%. Events and the automotive industry have also suffered a sharp drop, respectively by 55% and 27%.

Counterbalancing these data is the propensity to buy, which can be measured for example by tracking visits to brand sites. According to an analysis by Comscore⁵, the resumption of browsing websites of brands that deal with ticketing, real estate, car production and travel has already been noted from the second half of April across Europe, including Italy. This data bodes well and confirms the willingness of consumers to return to normality, albeit transformed, also in the consumer sector.


Foresight Factory - Life under coronavirus – 30 aprile 2020.


Data by Assosim for il Sole 24 Ore.


Nielsen MarketTrack (Total Italy online & Total Italy offline).


Consumer Panel e indagine Why2Buy (Aprile 2020).


Comscore MMX Custom reporting.

TagEcommerceDigital payments

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