MILAN: Multi-channel buying behaviours, with social networks and other online platforms influencing purchase decisions, are becoming more widespread in Italy.

According to Nielsen's latest Multichannel Survey, there is "rising goodwill" towards advertising across most media in Italy, with 24% of consumers saying they approve of ads on social networks in 2010.

This is an increase of eight percentage points when compared with the previous year.

More generally, online engagement is becoming increasingly influential in purchase decisions, with 84% of Italy's web population getting information online before buying certain products - up from 82% in 2009.

Meanwhile, the proportion ordering products online before collecting them from a bricks-and-mortar retailer rose two percentage points to 37%.

"What emerges is an interesting consumer landscape that marketers can no longer ignore or view as marginal by responding with purely tactical, short-term strategies to ensure a presence in the most popular new channels," Nielsen said.

"Instead, the new multi-media consumer requires a revolution of business models where the customer is at the centre and the new channels are seen as a strategic asset – not simply an afterthought."

The Multichannel Survey also segmented consumers according to how they shop, and found that 17% of the population were in the "Reloaded" cluster in 2010, a rise of 4.4 million people from 2007.

Reloaded consumers are defined as those "powerfully attracted to the new", critical of TV, able to trigger viral phenomena through recommending goods and services online, and able to get information via a variety of channels.

Meanwhile, the similarly tech-savvy "Open Minded" segment rose by 2.7 million to cover 23% of the population.

The other three segments - "Excluded", "Indifferent", and "Traditional but Engaged" - are less engaged with online marketing messages.

While they collectively account for a majority (58%) of the population, all three groups have shrunk in size between 2007 and 2010.

In December 2010, a Nielsen report revealed that Italy had the highest rate of smartphone ownership among 15 to 24-year-olds of the nations covered by the survey.

Just under half (47%) of Italian youth owned a smartphone, compared to 33% of their US counterparts.

Data sourced from Nielsen/Warc; additional content by Warc staff