MILAN — Netcomm, the union of Italian electronic commerce, hosted a seminar here Tuesday called “Digital Fashion: Multichannels, E-commerce and Customer Engagement for Fashion Companies.”

Netcomm president Roberto Liscia said that while Italy had lagged behind other countries in developing online retail, the past year has seen tremendous growth in the number of customers shopping online nationally: From 2011 to 2012, Italians who said they had made some purchases on the Internet increased 55 percent, reaching 14 million by February.

Books were the top product category for online shoppers in Italy, but apparel ranked second, with an average purchase of 71 euros, or about $93 at current exchange. Key factors driving people to shop online were convenience and the credibility and perceived trustworthiness of the Web site in question.

Francesco Bottigliero, chief executive of Fiera Digitale, which manages Pitti Immagine’s e-Pitti Web site, said, “It’s fundamental to start with a brand’s own positioning,” noting that companies must develop their online presence based on a specific understanding of their strengths and their customers — and not simply what their competitors are doing. “Those who are buying think they are interacting with the brand, not with the intermediary,” he said.

Stefano Vendramini, client manager at Triboo Digitale, a group specializing in e-commerce that counts Ferrari, Tod’s, ToyWatch and Salvatore Ferragamo among its clients, stressed the need for Web sites tailored specifically to different countries. For instance, a Japanese Web site should take Japanese customers and their needs into account, rather than simply translating the Italian version. He highlighted the ways companies can grow their fan bases and then convert fans into customers and brand promoters using social media.

Other speakers included Massimo Fubini, ceo of ContactLab, a consulting company for digital direct marketing; Andrea Orsenigo, deputy director of the industry and services business unit at Sopra Group, an information technology company that helps businesses develop online platforms, and Andreas Schmeidler, Italian country manager for Vente-Privée, the French flash site.

Giorgio Bertolini, partner at the Innext consulting firm, also introduced Netcomm’s new “Go to China!” initiative, which aims to assist Italian companies in developing business in China, especially through a better understanding of Chinese shopping habits on computers and smartphones.