From B2C e-commerce to Internet Advertising: Italy chooses Mobile

About 34 million Italians access the Internet using smartphones or tablets, spending on their devices an average of 2 hours a day. 56% of mobile surfers use smartphones for online shopping and the Mobile commerce represents the 40% of the total B2C Italian eCommerce.

Mobile advertising accounts for 52% of the entire value of the internet advertising sector and, in the Italian Market, it reached 1.7 billion euros in 2019, + 20% compared to 2018.

The text messages sent by companies with promotional and transactional information or news reached 5.1 billion (+ 18%); 42% of Mobile Surfers is interested in using Whatsapp Business to interact with companies they are already customers of.

On one hand, Mobile Surfers are very up-to-date when it comes to technological innovations such as using voice commands to write messages or ask for information (67%) and fingerprints or facial recognition technology to unlock the smartphone or to complete purchases (49%). However, on the other hand, companies should pay more attention to the mobile user experience, especially when it comes to the functionality of websites and apps.

This is what the latest BVA Doxa research for the Mobile B2C Strategy Observatory of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano highlights: the research aims at helping Italian companies understand how to generate value from the usage of Mobile, especially to improve and support the customer relationship process. 

Increasingly more, Italians use mobiles to surf on the internet. In 2019, 34 million Italians connect to the Internet using smartphones or tablets, being online an average of 2 hours every day. 71% of mobile surfers use their devices to look up for information, to purchase products or services, to stay in touch with other people and to connect with brands.

In particular, 56% use smartphones for online shopping and, among these, about 40% admit that smartphones are the only device they use for online purchases. According to these results, smartphones became a real sales channel, so much that in 2019 Mobile commerce represented 40% of the total B2C eCommerce. This is what the latest BVA Doxa research for the Mobile B2c Strategy Observatory of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano highlights: the research aims at helping Italian companies understand how to generate value from the usage of Mobile, especially to improve and support the customer relationship process.


In 2019, advertising investments on Mobile grew by 20% compared to 2018 and reached 1.7 billion euros. Smartphones, therefore, became the main channel for Internet advertising, and it reaches a share of 52% compared to 48% of desktops and tablets. The Over the Top (OTT), which accounts for 84% of the total Mobile advertising, drives the growth: 89% of the growth in 2019 is attributed to OTT.

When considering the different formats, the video shows the highest growth (+ 35%), with a weight of 39% in the market. Display advertising (excluding videos) also grew up to 7%, maintaining a 35% share of the market. There are many elements that contributed to the growth in investments, such as the availability of more effective formats on Mobile, as for example vertical videos.

On the other hand, Search advertising and Classified advertising are hindered by the Mobile transition due to their typical performance-oriented purchasing logic: in sectors where a longer payment process is needed, users usually switch to computers or desktops and a lower monetization also takes place. For this reason, there is still a gap between the weight of mobile on the digital (52%) and the browsing time of users, approximately 78% of the time spent online.

MOBILE AND RETAIL, A PROFITABLE COMBINATION – The smartphone is proving to be an excellent device to move the customer closer to the store: indeed, 55% of mobile surfers are interested in receiving promotions and offers from their smartphones, and in collecting loyalty points on their devices as well. In addition, 38% claim to have already dematerialized one or more loyalty cards and 20% of the discount vouchers. The frequency of usage is also high: for example, 62% of those who have digitized loyalty cards admit using them once a week from their smartphones. Besides collaborations with third-party applications, approximately 60% of retailers among the top players by turnover have developed their own app. Although it is still a limited phenomenon in Italy, it is interesting to highlight how some companies have introduced initiatives related to the use of the smartphone inside the store, such as the possibility of scanning products and then paying in a specific cash desk or even from the same app.

HOW COMPANIES MAKE USE OF MESSAGES –Despite text messages are giving way to online instant messaging systems, the amount of messages sent by companies with promotional, transactional or service information grew by 18% in 2019 and reached 5.1 billion. 84% of Mobile Surfers receive text messages from brands of which they are already customers and on average from 3.8 companies that belong to the Telco, Clothing Accessories, Banks, and e-commerce sectors. Consumers do not seem annoyed by these types of SMS (only 13% consider them annoying) but, on the contrary, messages seem to be the second preferred channel to receive important communications from brands.

However, the usage of instant messaging in the business sector is also growing. Alongside SMS, another tool spread in 2019: Whatsapp Business can be used as a platform to send customer care or alert messages, but no advertising or promotional communications. Mobile surfers are increasingly more interested in interacting with brands through this channel: 42% say they are interested (+ 10% compared to 2018), but under very specific conditions, such as the possibility of choosing which brand to interact with and to be the ones to start the communication process first.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: BROWSING AND USABILITY – 82% of Mobile surfers consider the usability of an app as one of the main features which their judgment depends on; Italian companies need to improve on this aspect. The overall assessment given to the browsing features and to the usability of websites and apps is not bad (6.8/10 for websites and 7.1/10 for apps), but is decreasing compared to the previous year; almost half of Mobile surfers said they sometimes or often leave the website or apps they are visiting for usability issues. When it comes to apps, the most annoying issues are slow loading (48%), app crashing (42%), and the difficulty in finding the option needed (34%). The average rating of top brands app per turnover is 3.53/5: one third the apps considered have a rating below 3 points out of 5, and two thirds below 4 points. This highlights one more time how many brands are not paying attention to this measurement, which reflects customers’ satisfaction. However, users are increasingly more paying attention to new technologies: 67% of Mobile surfers use voice commands to write text messages, call someone or ask for information about routes and directions, while 49% use digital prints or facial recognition technologies to unlock their smartphones, to access their bank applications or for online purchases and online payment confirmations.

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