Artisans, tailors and small business owners? Sure, but that’s not all. Italy’s luxury sector has left the era of thumbtacks, measuring tape and hand-drawn sketches behind and is now showing its pedigree in the world of business 2.0.

That’s according to Contactlab, a leading Italian multi-channel digital marketing company, who have recently collected and published the results of the Digital Competitive Map 2018, a control and classification tool used to rate the digital performance of the biggest global luxury brands.

The study took nearly 200 different qualitative and quantitative variables into account, evaluating factors like the breadth of the online offering, the quality of customer care and the standard of the overall virtual experience offered to web-based clients.

It will come as no surprise that all of the brands analysed showed a growing virtual presence – evidence that the digital world can no longer be considered an unknown quantity, even for the most traditionalist luxury brands. Yet what is rather unexpected – in a positive sense – is that the ranking is topped by an Italian brand.

The study found that none other than Gucci is the most competitive luxury brand on the internet, thanks to growing revenues – €6.2 billion in 2017 – and a truly comprehensive online offering ranging from traditional goods to pieces stemming from recent extensions to Gucci lines, such as home accessories. The Florence-based company also offer an excellent digital experience to users, an innovative style advisory service that can be accessed via chat or over the phone and plenty of delivery options for online buyers.

Gucci is not the only Italian brand on the podium, however: Valentino was ranked third by the study. The luxury brand – synonymous with classic style and elegance – was rewarded for its impressive use of direct marketing and huge range of cross-channel services, which makes it possible to knit together the physical retail and online store experiences into an irresistible combination. For example, Valentino enables its customers to reserve an item online before visiting a store to try it on – evidence that while the luxury industry is unwilling to abandon its historic values, not least the importance of delivering a premium product experience, it is evolving towards a smarter customer experience.

Just outside the medal places, but still worthy of note, are Prada, who have finally come around to the idea of digital and invested heavily in cross-channel services, Bottega Veneta, whose excellent style advisory service caught the eye, and Fendi, who – despite being one of the last luxury brands to move into the world of e-commerce – impressed with their top-quality online shopping experience.

Finally, special mention must go to Dolce&Gabbana, who confirmed their status as the undisputed kings of social media. The brand has a well-structured communications strategy spanning both global and local markets, with content tailored to each market and promoted on a variety of social networks, including VK in Russia and Weibo and WeChat in China.