Italist Finding Success In The International Luxury Ecommerce Marketplace

Italist works to make shopping for luxury items from international sellers easier with its online … [+] marketplace.

Italist started in 2014 with a vision to offer international shoppers luxury brands at Italian retail prices, with the goal of enabling customers to shop for items from luxury brands like Chrome Hearts and Chanel as if they were shopping on the streets of Italy.

Today, italist offers products from over 1,500 brands and delivers to more than 100 different countries.

Why Italian retail prices?

According to the italist website, “Prices in Italy may be lower in absolute terms (even with currency exchange rates) because there are no importer or distributor costs like there often are in other countries and the price of doing business is lower (rents and labor costs are cheaper). Additionally, the Italian market is more sensitive to price increases than in other markets.”

As such, in offering luxury goods (clothing, accessories, and homewares) at the Italian price point, shoppers often pay up to 40% less than the U.S. retail price.

This strategy appears to be working: By the fourth quarter of 2022, italist experienced 55% year-over-year sales growth, expanded its product line by 13%, and saw a 30% increase in organic website traffic.

This growth aligns with new data from International Post Corporation, a consortium of national postal services, which found​ 58% of shoppers indicated they plan to buy more from retail websites in countries next door.

Italist’s CEO Diego Abba says their success is due to its focus on customer retention and improved customer experiences.

One example of this can be seen from efforts around its native app, built to simplify shopping for the italist customer. With feedback from app users, italist is able to prioritize customer experience improvements such as expanded product photos, descriptions, and measurements, as well as improved ways for shoppers to search for and save items within the app.

The italist app

Perhaps the biggest reason for italist’s growth, however, is its decision to maintain a four-day express international shipping standard. Even as shipping costs rose in 2022 and U.S. Customs began cracking down on international orders worth more than $800, italist maintained its short shipping timeline.

Rather than finding ways to skirt U.S. import laws, italist worked hard to ensure all foreseeable customs and duties are paid upfront, thus saving the shopper the hassle of these additional fees.

Even so, about 1-5% of italist’s shoppers whose daily import value exceeds $800 have reported experiencing additional fees from U.S. customs via shipping provider DHL. These surprise additional fees are unpredictable (since they’re based on when boutiques ship orders.)

When this occurs, the italist support team works with customers to sort things out and ensure their items arrive on time.

The flip side of this coin is that while italist’s international delivery is guaranteed to fall within the four-day window, returns are not free.

That seems counterintuitive, but the luxury marketplace found this encourages shoppers to closely check sizes and fit before ordering. The result is decreased expenses around processing returns from customers, which means less work for both italist boutique partners and customers themselves.

It’s working: italist boasts a return rate of just 10%. This is notable, considering studies show the average return rate for online purchases is in the 20-30% range and can go as high as 50% for high-priced items.

Looking forward, Abba says italist has plans to expand localized shopping experiences in more countries. It currently offers localized customer support and communications in Japan, but there are plans to expand this offering to customers in the Middle East, China, and Korea as well.

As online shopping continues to open the doors of cross-border commerce, italist is positioning itself to compete globally within the luxury market and is looking for its piece of the worldwide $350 billion projected (and growing) spending on these goods in 2023.

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