During the Luxury Summit del Sole 24 Ore, a roundtable focused on “Digital innovation between omnichannel retail and shopping experience” took place. Its panelists were Andrea Canè, creative director, Woolrich International, Aldo Carpinteri, founder & CEO, stefaniamode.com, Pierluigi Cocchini, CEO, La Rinascente, and Christina Fontana, business development director, Alibaba Italia. Read our round-up here.
Digital, e-commerce and omnichannel strategies are essential for supporting luxury products’ growth and for answering always more demanding global consumers. This discussion addressed how and to what extent a retailer’s ability in improving customers’ in-store experience should integrate digital technology.
The roundtable presented the players’ knowledge while pointing out that in recent times many US department stores and other brick-and-mortar stores are suffering heavily.
“Our experience is practically entirely focused on brick-and-mortar stores. In addition to our Milan store, we have recently opened in Rome, are now redesigning our Turin store and will soon refresh also the Florence one. We believe in their importance for the experience they offer as our aim is always to create ‘the place,’” explained Cocchini. “In our 11 Italian stores we register 20 million visitors per year, while our Milan department store alone registers 9 million. They like to spend time there as they can live shopping as entertainment and socializing. We often organize events with VIPs and also invited our customers to see a Dolce & Gabbana catwalk show in our Milan store,” he continued. “Our stores are somehow part of their city life and witness of their inhabitants’ existence. They are there when you are born, when you grow and mark all of your life’s most important moments. Morever, when you visit cities like Chicago or Dubai you want to see what is peculiar of that city. When you see our Milan store you have a great view on the Duomo terrace, while our Rome one makes you admire Palazzo Albini. Each of them is part of a sort of touristic circuit, though not a boring one,” he explained, implying that each Rinascente store is recognizable yet has its own unique, distinctive character and shares the ambition to be a place with cultural appeal and not just a store.
Alongside this important reference to the physical aspect, Rinascente has also launched Tax Refund digital kiosks which simplify registering procedure and introduced a whatsapp on-demand personal shopping service.
Cané of Woolrich also believes in the importance of in-store experience, as reflected in the brand’s recently opened Milan flagship. “We believe that a flagship can convey so much about a brand. When visitors enter our store they can get to know immediately some of our history as we present it at the entrance,” he explained. “Our highly trained shop personnel can also offer them different services like, for instance, personal shopping support. Morever, as we sell outerwear, we want to help customers understand how protective our jackets are. Thus we invite them to enter our Extreme Weather Condition Room where temperatures can be down to -20°. We also want them to perceive the close relationship our brand maintains with nature by, for instance, hosting a Japanese exotic plant shop that also helps our store always change its image.”
While referring to difficult moments now faced by many US department stores, Canè commented: “I think that lately US department stores have cared more for discounts and markdowns rather than involving their customers with aesthetics, beauty and store experience.”
Among digital experiences Woolrich also wants to introduce a project tied to vintage and customization by soon introducing an app through which customers can buy vintage pieces, pick up them in store and have them customized there. “Our aim is to create a community that can help a customer becoming faithful to our brand.”
Other players believe that a digital evolution can bring great advantages. Italian luxury store Stefania Mode founded in Trapani (Sicily) in 1971 experienced a sale boost after its e-commerce debut. Annual sales grew from €20 million in 2013 to €96 million in 2017; 60% of them now come from e-commerce. “The relationship between physical and digital has to develop in both dimensions in order that customers can find what they want anywhere they are,” explained Aldo Carpinteri, founder and CEO Stefaniamode.com. His network has actually grown stronger on both digital and physical retail directions as it operates through an over 4,500-sq.-meter futuristic logistic pole in Trapani shipping to its clients globally, though it also opened new stores also in St. Moritz and Sardinia.
Christina Fontana, business development director, Alibaba Italia, also pointed out how Alibaba is not a retail company, but a tech one: “We support physical retail with our software–be them supermarkets offering consumer goods or chains like Uniqlo and Intersport, but also operate through online stores for luxury brands like Marni. And the best part of our e-shops is provided by brands themselves.” She continued: “The consumer always has to be both online and offline. We offer our technology in order to support companies in selling the right product at the right moment. We are the ‘nerd’ who takes care of brands, not their competitors. Great stories told by brands will save brick-and-mortar stores.”