By Emily Williams
Amazon announced today the launch of Amazon.it, the first time the company enters the Italian market with a dedicated portal. According to the press release, the store launches with more categories than any Amazon site has ever launched with, focusing for now on video games, music, DVDs, toys, computers, electronics, small appliances . . . and “over 2 million Italian- and foreign-language books”, all of which are discounted 30% for the launch.
The site does not yet offer the Kindle for sale, and e-books are few and far between (a few e-books show up in search but these appear to be independently uploaded and at the moment there is not even an ebook option for the format search).
Italy has a small e-commerce market compared to other European countries — only 0.8% of Italian retail sales were online in 2009, and the country has one of the lowest rates of credit card usage in the developed world. Amazon doesn’t have much in the way of strong local competition — Mondadori-owned Bol.it is the largest in the media space — it will be interesting to watch whether the company’s signature customer focus, online reviews and rankings, and Amazon Prime membership are enough to overcome Italians’ natural reluctance to hand over their credit card information and personal details.