Italian retail stores are experimenting with new systems of engagement and service through the integration of new technological solutions that mix all kind of sensors and advanced application platforms.
For Italian retailers digital innovation is an inevitable step. The challenge is to remain in tune with consumers, that are ever more omnichannel, more informed, but also fickler. The new data of the Digital Innovation Monitoring Units of Milan Polytechnic confirm that 60% of the Italian population over 14 use smartphone (70%), tablet (18%), and pc (55%) to find information on products, brands, and retail stores.
The analogic and digital choices of shoppers do not, however, bring into question the predominant role of the physical shop, that remains the main point of reference for shopping for the majority of consumers (Despite its growth, e-commerce in Italy represents only 4% of business). That is why brands are changing their approach and strategies, choosing digital innovation to make the difference, and to support the consumer journey towards the shop, the product, and the brand.
This has been one of the topics discussed at the presentation of the latest research of the Monitoring Unit of Retail Digital Innovation, in collaboration with numerous technological partners, including M-Cube.
Customer centricity: listening to sell
At the convention it became apparent that putting the customer at the centre of the sales strategies was just the beginning of a project aimed at modifying the value of the entire supply chain. This can be achieved through an overall strategic vision of the processes. Managing the shopping experience means guaranteeing a seamless connection between the various relationship and business touch points, both analogue and digital. From the company website to the in-store endless aisle, from opinions on social media to easily available information on monitors and interactive screens, from smart tags to apps, the number of in-store technologies that help brands establish a form of communication that can listen as well as present their products, is growing.
Thanks to digital technology, suppliers, producers, carriers, and retail stores can start a 4.0 collaboration, making it possible to share information with the customers, to listen to their demands and answer them with increasingly targeted offers, promotions, and services adapted to an omnichannel logic.
91% of retailers choose digital innovation
In 2017, among the top retailers, over 9 brands out of 10 (91%) have implemented the digital transformation to make processes more efficient and to improve services. At back -end level 16% of top retailers have invested in solutions of CRM support, 12% in systems for Demand, Inventory and Distribution Planning, as well as ERP solutions. 10% have introduced RFID for tracking of goods, while 9% have invested in logistics and have opted for warehouse automation systems.
Regarding the front end, retailers have increased the strategies to improve the customer experience in-store. Thus 30% of distributors have invested in kiosks, totems, and interactive touchpoints; 23% have introduced innovative methods of payment; 19% have opted for digital signage and intelligent display windows, while 14% have boosted couponing, and loyalty solutions.
The virtuous circle of digital innovation
Digital innovation, in fact, involves the company in its totality. If the consumer is omnichannel the company will have to become omnichannel too. Nowadays back end and front end, online and offline, are no longer separate dimensions: they are interconnected, integrated, but also more fluid. Thus, the customer still need to go to the physical shop in order to see, touch, try, and to get information.
What is changing is the physical store which, thanks to the advanced digital technologies, now has access to new means to communicate, inform, serve but also to make the shopping experience unique and special. The digital innovation makes the online and offline dimensions complementary, giving brands a new bi-modal key for all business strategies.
The researchers at Milan Polytechnic have underlined how the near totality of the first 300 Italian retailers ranked by highest turnover, use digital channels to support the pre-sale or post-sale stages, or to enable the sale. 95% of retailers (88% in 2016) is present both online and on mobile, while 4% is present only online (10% in 2016).
The physical store becomes the stage of innovation
The shop rediscovers its strategic importance as direct point of contact with the consumers, that come with different expectations. Retailers have realised that getting a product in the shopping bag of the consumer is no longer sufficient to generate business. Nowadays it is important to engage and make customers loyal by developing a form of communication that can respond and amaze, creating a sense of satisfaction and well being. That is why shops become like an efficient, ever evolving lab, where every brand experiments new systems of engagement and offer through the integration of new technological solutions that mix all kind of sensors and advanced application platforms.
Maria Elena Romanelli, M-Cube digital engagment