Powering Italy’s exporters with the web

Before the Internet, almost all exporters were big, powerful companies. Exporting was expensive and time-consuming, requiring large sales, marketing and distribution networks. Today, thanks to the Net, almost any company, anywhere, and of any size, is able to reach a global market with a few clicks of a computer mouse. Italy represents a powerful case study and that’s why we are working with Unioncamere, Symbola Foundation and the Ca ‘Foscari University to expand our pathbreaking “Made in Italy Digital” program.

Italy needs to rediscover growth and increasing exports can help. The country’s powerful network of small and medium sized, family-owned companies are homes to craftsmen who produce niche products. Our program gives them tools to bring them online, aiming to help them export and reach global markets. Numerous studies have shown that companies that use the web to promote their business grow twice as fast as those who are not online.

On the program’s website,  a new section demonstrates how Google Trends, Global Market Finder, Consumer Barometer and Translate, allows companies to launch foreign subsidiaries. The Giovine family which has produced wines since 1850, recently started a blog and increased its social network activity - boosting sales by 5%. Galassia Ceramics gained 13,000 new visitors to its website, half from France and Spain. Ghirigoro T-Shirts & Accessories created a website - and boosted sales by 40 percent in 2014.

Along with the association of the Chambers of Commerce, Unioncamere, we have trained and supported with a scholarship 104 youthful “digitizers” and sent them in 51 chambers of commerce across Italy, where they provide face-to-face advice on how to approach and leverage the Internet. Our online portal offers another guide for companies wishing to meet the challenge of foreign markets. It is self-service. The eLearning path shows quick, easy solutions to selling online, launching social media marketing campaigns and much, much more, while the export toolkit to help SMBs understand their potential on several global markets and draft their export plan.

Despite these successes, much work remains to be done. According to Unioncamere, only 16 percent of its members have websites and engage in e-commerce. This means that the growth potential for Italy’s small and medium enterprises remains enormous. The task ahead is to embrace the opportunities offered by the Internet and spread global wings.