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The Secrets to Selling Luxury Goods

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One of the hardest things to do in ecommerce is creating an online experience that truly showcases every aspect of a product. This is especially true in the world of luxury goods, where allowing customers to touch, feel and admire the craftsmanship of a product. And at the same time they are expecting an indulgent in-store experience which is tantamount to the story of the brand. Just the in-store experience can serve as the main selling point and create word of mouth like no other.

Throughout his career at places like Brunello Cucinelli and Boggi Milano, Fedele Sforza has had to meet that challenge head-on and figure out a way to create a luxury ecommerce experience that matches and works in tandem with the luxury in-store experience. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Fedele tells us exactly how he’s been able to do just that, and he explains why ecommerce leaders have to be evangelists within a traditionally retail-based environment. Plus, he details how to use data and technology as a window into the needs of your different customers, which you can then leverage to create personalized shopping experiences across channels. Enjoy this episode!

Main Takeaways:

  • Showcasing Luxury: The in-store experience is a much easier place to showcase luxury items and create a one-of-a-kind, high-end shopping experience. Online, there are fewer ways to showcase craftsmanship or cater to a consumer. But it’s not impossible, and it should be a priority to create a personalized and extravagant experience online that can match or work in tandem with what happens in-store.
  • Friends, Not Enemies: When a company begins to prioritize and invest in ecommerce, often the retail side of the business sees that as a threat. An ecommerce leader’s job is to be an evangelist and show the ways that both retail and ecommerce can work together, share data, and create experiences that cater to customers in a more personalized way. If that collaboration happens, not only will customers have a better experience, but the business will see a boost on the bottom line because sales are being optimized across all channels.
  • Curating Connections: Rather than making a list of channels in which you have to market, start to think about finding ways to form connections and create experiences with customers in the places where they want them. Not everyone is in the headspace to buy something when they are scrolling through Instagram, but they might be interested in purchasing something when they are at an event with friends. You have to find ways to connect with people in all places and in unique ways so that you are top of mind whenever they are actually ready to purchase.

 

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“Especially in companies that are in the luxury space, you need to show to the customers that [luxury] part of the experience. Sometimes you struggle to find the way to adapt the model that, for example, store managers are using into the stores — which is something that [goes back] to storytelling. And that’s something that you have to bring online, not just to put in some content into the online store or the website, but also to understand that maybe you can try to personalize each kind of content for each kind of customer.”

“[The first thing to do] is to create digital assets that are really powerful….  You are not just selling, for example, a shirt, a sweater, or knitwear, whatever: you are selling an outfit, you are selling a part of the experience of touching that kind of item.”

“We see – mainly on the websites – that you can browse and actually people maybe they are going around without purchasing, just browsing, browsing, browsing. The most effective thing that I used was putting in a conversational chat. It understands that you are on the product page, that you would like to buy, and maybe, in that case, there would enter an agent who could be not just a service agent, but a personal shopper, which is someone who knows the product, for example, and could tell you something more. Not just giving you information about shipping or returns: something more that is related to the product, specifically.”

“One of the things in the future that we will see is that probably people in the stores will help the selling online….One person in the store is using an iPad or maybe a smartphone and understanding the [online] customer and giving him all the information that he needs about the product, for example. So, there will be an optimization of the sales agent or people that are standing in the stores, for example, merging all the information about the product and information about the customer in this case.”

“I think that the best thing is not having a stock that is stopped in one store, but a stock that is moving from one to the other store in order to have the largest possible SKU numbers in terms of stock options.”

“One thing that I think the next trend will be …is when the store becomes digital. …Iike Adidas and Nike, for example. They are using a lot of NFTs, virtual reality, and all these kinds of aspects that will be helpful for each person that is going into the store. There are a lot of possibilities now; I think that our role is to help brands to start to approve these kinds of digital assets and putting in the store to give you an extra experience.” 

“[The ecommerce leader] role sometimes is to be an evangelist into the company. Really, sometimes it’s also the more human part of being a mediator in all the roles. One of the difficulties that I found in my previous experience is talking with the production department or talking with the retail departments and sometimes, especially for the ecommerce, we were seeing we were [pitted] against the retail. Now when they understand that we are servicing them, because we are the biggest window [into the customer], they are understanding that we could collaborate somehow. For example, some data that we are collecting could be helpful for the production team. Sometimes they come to us and they ask us, ‘How many views has this product had,’ or to understand, ‘How many returns did we have with this item?’ We had too many. Okay, maybe next season we don’t do this.’ And this will help adapt the model of a production system, which is something very powerful.”

Mentions:

Bio:

After several experiences working in different brands in the fashion and apparel (Brunello Cucinelli, Aspesi, Dondup, Boggi Milano) launching digital projects: private communities, ecommerce global, CRM and Loyalty programs, digital marketing strategies; now Fedele Sforza collaborates as a consultant with different luxury and premium companies in the ecommerce growth with an omnichannel strategy. He focuses on the optimization of the online presence, commercial activities, brand image management, and data-driven digital marketing strategy for the e-business expansion. He also helps redesign the customer journey considering new trends in the global evolution.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hey there, and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce, your number one stop for all things commerce. I’m your host, Stephanie Postles, CEO at Mission.org. Joining us today is Fedele Sforza, who’s currently working as an ecommerce and omnichannel consultant, working for large and small companies. Fedele, welcome.

Fedele:

Thank you. I appreciate your introduction.

Stephanie:

I’m excited to have you on. I was actually about to namedrop all of the companies you’ve worked on ecommerce back in the day, but then I was like, “I should just let you do it, because I don’t want to botch that.” So, could you walk through the places you’ve been and how you’ve got to where you are now?

Fedele:

Yes. Since we started, I’ve worked for fashion companies in Italy where, as well, we have a lot of them. I started at the company which was in the denim, it’s called Dondup.

Fedele:

Then, I worked for Brunello Cucinelli, which is a big company already known all around the world for its craftsmanship. It’s a luxury brand. There, I worked, in terms of creating digitalization in the company, not just ecommerce, not just the website, but also creating a sort of experience of luxury, which is the most difficult thing usually.

Fedele:

When you have the possibility to create an upper-level experience, you are doing well. It’s always difficult to communicate a product like that, with that price point. With all the technologies that we had, we did quite good, trying also to personalize in an artisanal way, which is something a little bit different from a lot of companies now. I did the rollout, also, of the entire ecommerce worldwide, using Salesforce Commerce in that case. We connected also the part of the service and the Marketing Cloud for the automations. There, we had also the part of omnichannel, which means, in that case, return in store, pick up in store, and all these kinds of activities.

Fedele:

I worked for Aspesi, which is a small company, medium. Core business was the outerwear, female luxury outerwear. So, the company was starting to adapt themselves to the commerce, selling on line, ecommerce. In that case, I had the opportunity to create a sort of alignment with, also, all the marketplaces, like, for example, Farfetch and also some other retailer online, which is the most difficult thing, when you would like to find a balance between your buyer to consumer sell, and the other kind of selling, like from marketplaces and direct to consumer retail as well.

Fedele:

And then I went to Boggi Milano. For me, it was a good opportunity to experience very well the omnichannel part, Boggi to run this store around the world. The great thing was trying to connect a single view of the customer in order to give the same experience everywhere.

Fedele:

I think the possibility to use all the digital platform was very good for me. I think that was a great experience in order to understand how to create a loop in the journey of the customer, and that’s Boggi Milano. Then, I decided again to jump from the place. I take the opportunity to move by myself after a while, because I had a lot of requests from companies to help them to create a sort of next-level image online and giving them the possibility to create their business online; which is something especially for a startup that seems difficult, but actually, after a while, a startup is sometimes better also than working in a complex ecosystem. It’s starting from scratch. And now, here I am.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. I mean, obviously you’ve had a ton of experience. I want to hear a little bit about what the landscape looks like in Italy when it comes to ecommerce. Because a lot of these companies you’ve worked for … I mean, Boggi Milano, I think, has been in business since 1939. You’re tackling companies that have been around for a long time, probably have certain things set a certain way. What does the ecommerce landscape look like in Italy, where maybe it’s different kind of challenges than what we would see in the US?

Fedele:

I think that Italy is now getting faster on the road of innovation. I think pushed from this situation probably. What I saw is that usually you arrive in companies, especially in the clothing companies, where there already some systems that you should try to adapt in a sort of, let’s say, your way to work with that kind of processes.

Fedele:

In this way, I think that people understood the importance of the ecommerce and not just like a window, because that’s something very old, but like something that it’s a sort of place where you see all the results of the work of the entire company. I think it’s not just a part of the brand image, but also of the strategy of a brand, the positioning, etc.

Fedele:

Usually, especially in the companies where you find a lot of craftsmanship, you need to adapt the experience that you have online. Especially in companies that are in the luxury, you need to show to the customers that part of the experience. Especially in the image online, sometimes you are struggling. In this case, you try to find the way to adapt the model that, for example, store managers are using into the stores, for example, which is something that is trying to do storytelling. And that’s something that you bring also online, not just to put in some contents into the online store or the website, but also understanding that maybe if you can try to personalize each kind of content for each kind of customer.

Fedele:

For example, I had the opportunity to, especially in the last year, use content specific for [cross-saling]. When you know already that the customer is more into, let’s say, trousers, it’s better if you stop communicate them shirts, for example. Maybe they already have a shirt, no? In that case, you can use the marketing automation to figure some email directly to them. Maybe you understand, for example, that they don’t like to receive emails. Maybe you use another channel, like it could be … Another channel in advertising, or it could be …

Stephanie:

Texting.

Fedele:

… For example, texting. Or, maybe, I think the next level will be something that is more direct. Because especially in the luxury stores, usually each store manager [inaudible] of a customer. And the same way, if you imagined ecommerce like someone that is an ecommerce manager, like someone that is managing customers in terms of information, and maybe helping them directly find something they really want. Not pushing them with email. We receive already tons of email, no? It’s better to find a personalized way.

Fedele:

For example, in this case an idea could be live shopping, personal shopping, which is something very interesting that probably everybody will adopt in the future.

Stephanie:

Yep. The one thing I want to circle back to is around selling luxury goods, because we haven’t talked too much about that on the show and I want to hear how you approach that from an ecommerce perspective and how you actually showcase luxury. What are you doing when it comes to the ecommerce presence and maybe what things are you pulling from retail to support that, or lessons that you’re pulling into ecommerce to show that this is a high-value item, it’s worth the money, here’s why?

Fedele:

The first thing that … I know that could be obvious, but it’s the first thing to do usually, is to create digital assets that are really powerful. For example, in one case in Brunello Cucinelli, if you go to the website, you can see that images on the product are very well-done. They are not just normal images like, for example, could be in a normal platform that you find online everywhere. They are trying to give the projection of the product, the quality of the product, for example. Especially for a product that is maybe more than 1000 euro, it’s important to understand the feeling.

Fedele:

Another thing that is related the image of the brand, in this case, is also the lifestyle. You are not just selling, for example, a shirt, a sweater, or knitwear, whatever: you are selling an outfit, you are selling a part of the experience of touching that kind of item. Usually, with this part of the image, you help the customer following them through the services that you have the possibility to contact them. For example, understanding what kind of item they like more and maybe during the session of purchasing, following them, through a chat, for example, that could be interesting. Understanding the pages that they are maybe not browsing and maybe skipping and understanding better when they talk.

Fedele:

I think one part of this could be the conversational part, also, if we want to resume it. This would be something that will be stronger and stronger, probably, in the future. This is something that usually helps a lot, like storytelling directly, which is live. And not just that, because I think that also the possibility to give the emotional [inaudible], someone that is talking to you, it’s something also important. We see mainly, in the websites that you can browse actually, people that maybe they are going around without maybe purchasing, just browsing, browsing, browsing.

Fedele:

The most effective thing that I used usually was putting conversational chat, could be, for example, that maybe as [inaudible]. It means that, for example, understand that you are in the product page that you would like to buy and maybe in that case there would enter an agent that could be not just a service agent, but a personal shopper, which is something that knows the product, for example, and could tell you something more. Not just giving you information about shipping or returns: something more that is related the product, specifically.

Stephanie:

I was just going to ask about that. I could see, for a luxury brand, you can’t just put bots and conversational bots on the website: people going there are probably looking for that in-person, curated experience that they would experience when going into a retail location of maybe a Boggi Milano. How do you think about having customer service on the website that kind of replicates it, to something that they would experience when they go into the store as well?

Fedele:

Probably will be a sort of mix of the two things. One of the things in the future that we will see is that probably people in the stores will help the selling online. Let’s imagine how it in a technic way could be a chat that is popping up and when this figuration knows that probably there is a person that is a hot lead, in that case maybe there will be someone in the store that knows that this is the customer, maybe logged in. And in that case, there will be … Or one person that in the store is using, I don’t know, an iPad or maybe a smartphone or whatever, understanding the customer and giving him all the information that he needs about the product, for example. So, there will be a sort of, also, optimization of the sale agent or people that are standing into the stores, for example, merging all the information about the product and information about the customer in this case.

Fedele:

But regarding this typing of selling was called before show- rooming, was something like that. I think that more and more it will be applied to all the kind of customer. The most difficult thing is also approaching, for example, to a kind of customer that is not digitalized. In that case, no … In this case, maybe the best thing is trying to contact the customer, helping them maybe to book an appointment and giving the possibility to going to the store and maybe after that trying to give them the possibility to try the selling online.

Fedele:

One of the things that probably we will see in the future is also the part that stores should not be anymore warehouses, just warehouses, but will a sort of experience point. In this case, you will merge probably what you have online with the offline.

Stephanie:

How are you advising brands to do that now, especially when maybe things are starting to open back up? I know you’re talking about having these pop-up shops and maybe a guide shop you can go in and try stuff on, but what are you advising around how to think about it over the next year or two, of what’s going to work?

Fedele:

Talking about this part and what I was saying, for example, one of the struggling points is the warehouses should be all around. You cannot have just one store with this item. Probably, in the future warehouses will be hybrid, let’s say fluid, where all the customers could see online what they had; probably, also, into the store. For example, one thing that could be, and I experience that is very helpful into the store, is having an iPad with the entire catalog, let’s say a replication of the ecommerce, somehow. In this way, selling what you have not in the store, but selling what you have into the online warehouse. Online means everywhere, probably.

Fedele:

I think that the best thing is not having a stock that is stopped in one store, but a stock that is moving from one to the other store, in order to have the largest possible SKU numbers in terms of stock options. I think that another thing is the training of people into the stores, for example. Giving them the possibility to understand that behind the digitalization there is not the cannibalization of the store. There is something that could be another way to sell something that you probably don’t have in the store. It’s another way to, let’s say, something that would become a sale agent 3.0 or 4.0; I don’t know how many numbers we are having now. Helping them to become more tech-advanced.

Fedele:

Especially in Italy, when you go in the store, maybe you see people too much connected with the store, with what they have into the store. But they are not thinking that maybe they could understand if a customer is a loyal customer, what kind of item he bought, what kind of size preferences he has. It’s something that is happening already probably into some online stores, but not yet in everywhere.

Fedele:

One thing that I will see, next trend will be … Sorry, if I say the name is [digitalization]. When the store becomes digital. Especially in Italy, I saw a couple of stores that are starting to become more and more like that. It’s like Adidas and Nike, for example. They are using a lot of part of NFT, virtual reality, and all these kinds of aspects that will be helpful for each person that is going into the store. There are a lot of possibilities now; I think that our role is to help brands to start to approve these kinds of digital assets and putting in the store to give you an extra experience.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I was just going to say that it seems like especially for luxury brands, figuring out what kind of experience your customer wants and what’s going to draw them in … I’m even thinking, back in my California days, there was this one little strip that was like a street and all the shops opened up, and they all had wine, so of course I’m going to be there, and appetizers. And I remember the different kind of events: some of them have bands, and it was all very unique depending on what the items were and what they were selling, but it left a really good impression. And every year I’m like, “Oh, I need to go back there.” I forget what it’s called, whatever the name is. But I would go back there because of that experience and then have really good brand awareness. “Oh, that was the one that had the really good cheese board and wine, and had the band playing.” Or whatever it was.

Stephanie:

How do you think about luxury brands creating events like that and experiences that match what their customers want? Or maybe creating partnerships that they weren’t doing before this?

Fedele:

I think that one part of this kind of asset that we’re still exploring is the content personalization. Actually, I didn’t see yet, for example, a website that is adapting to what you really would like to see. When you have your experience, for example, it’s like, for me, I like wine, too. When I go into wine stores, they know that I like strong wine, something [inaudible] with a full body. And the sales assistant knows already that probably I don’t like some other kind of wines.

Fedele:

This is something that probably in the retail is working, and the retail will having extra information with the data, through the iPad or whatever. Already there are in place these kind of things. The good opportunity for the stores online is the fact that they have data probably and they maybe just need to convince a little bit more to have the navigation logged, for example. But they are not yet adapting the experience of browsing into the store with the content personalized for each one.

Fedele:

I think that the next big thing is this one. Not just the content that are, let’s say, set with some rules, already preset, but something that works with artificial intelligence. There are already in place some tools and platforms that are working in this way. I talk about Salesforce, because it was one of my experience. Salesforce …

Stephanie:

Tell me more about that.

Fedele:

… As Einstein and the next best option, for example. Well, already has data, already has data about the navigation, already has data about the content that the customer would like to see and the content that they skipped. Already has data regarding the purchasing. Already has all the information. What you need to adapt is the system [inaudible] and front-end and back-end as well that create this kind of experience that is unique for you, removing all the other information and images, whatever that probably that customer doesn’t want in general.

Fedele:

This is also very powerful, because think about conversion rate optimization. What is the higher way to create better conversions? Removing all the friction, removing all the aspects that the customer doesn’t want. All this information already exists. I think we are still missing the real personalization of the contents. There are still people, probably, that they don’t like, they want just to browse. There are stores that are full of these non-personalization possibilities. There is place for everyone, probably.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I don’t know much … I know Salesforce. Commerce Cloud has Einstein, but tell me about when you were thinking about implementing AI, especially for a company with maybe quite a few products. What did that look like? What were you trying to solve and then what did the process look like to actually get that going? And then what kind of results did you see? Kind of like a mini case study.

Fedele:

I think that the … For example, in case of Salesforce, let’s think about one possibility, which is [inaudible] of the product, of prediction of the, “You may like this.” Usually when you go on the website and you see, “You may like this,” usually is not something that you like.

Stephanie:

Yeah, like, “No, I’m good, actually. I don’t need a toothbrush along with my t-shirt.”

Fedele:

Yeah! I think that two parts of the possibility of content personalization are these, in specific way in the products: you have all the data that helps you, for example, to understanding what kind of item would like this person. In that case, you can really give personalized content that you could like. But not just that, because it’s not just into the website. Also, connecting, for example, the marketing information, let’s say Marketing Cloud in this case, could give you the possibility to send email, which is the channel that we all use, sometimes we abuse, but more personalized. Not just putting any item. No, you find the new collection. Oh, okay.

Fedele:

Could be better to say, “In the new collection are the items that you always looked for. It’s this.” And maybe, “Wow, you understand it is this.” Okay. Not enough. You can connect those to the automation to, for example, advertising with the personalized content. I had the opportunity to see some tools like, for example, I don’t want to say the name. But there are some tools that are working very well already with the banner personalized into the content. They personalize the image and also the tone of voice and also the copywriting in the banner.

Stephanie:

Wow, that’s cool.

Fedele:

Yeah, it means that you can see really … For example, I saw some luxury brand that they used an impersonal form to talk with people. Maybe sometimes they could understand that a personal form in [A/B] testing could be better. In this way, maybe they could perform this kind of A/B testing using personalized content, like, for example, in the banner and whatever.

Fedele:

There are already these kinds of aspects and it could be very good. Another point that we saw before, for example, could be that maybe this person is browsing every day, because at the moment stores are closed. He’s browsing every day and probably is really interested in one item. Could be maybe if you try to push one of the sale agents to talk with him, if he knows him, and understand in some way if he needs help buying online, for example. Or maybe convincing that you could buy; maybe you can also return. Or maybe, “You take it and when we reopen the store and you try the other size, whatever.”

Fedele:

There are already these touchpoints. They’re important for each company to put all together these touchpoints. Sometimes, in my experience, I found a universe when you arrive. Data everywhere.

Stephanie:

I was just going to say. A lot of companies we’ve talked to, it does feel like things aren’t very connected. I mean, how you’re saying you take Salesforce Commerce Cloud, then you plug in their Einstein, then you plug in Marketing Cloud, and you’ve got this whole suite where the data’s all talking to each other, informing ad campaigns and marketing campaigns, and it all comes together. A lot of companies we’ve talked to, like you said, it’s a universe and marketing team’s not talking to the tech team, who’s doing the ecommerce implementation, who’s not talking to the ads team. It definitely seems like there’s a lot of room over the next year or two to bring everything together and maybe reduce the tech stack so it’s more uniform and connected than trying out all these one-off tools here and there that create individual databases that are hard to tap into.

Fedele:

Yes, I think that, as I told you before, our role sometimes is to be an evangelist into the company. Really, sometimes is also the more human part of being mediator in all the roles. One of the difficulties that I found in my previous experience is also, for example, talking with the production department or talking with the retail departments. Sometimes, especially for the ecommerce, we were seeing we are against the retail. Now that they understood that we are servicing them, because we are the biggest window, if we think about a website. They are understanding that we could also collaborate somehow.

Fedele:

For example, some data that we are collecting, they could be helpful also for the production team. Sometimes they come to us and they tell us how many views has this product, to understand, how many returns we had with this item. “We had too many.” Okay, maybe next season we don’t do this. And this will adapt, also, the model of a production system, which is something very powerful, actually. So, we are a sort of mediator sometimes, because we are in this …

Fedele:

And when I talked about a digital mindset is something that would be really helpful. Also, for the human resources, starting to find people that are really mediators, but also they are innovators somehow. Also, in a little part, a little digital specialist or whatever. But at least they know what they are doing. This is something that is happening now: we are forced to stay at home and we use a lot of technologies devices. Maybe my father now is more evolved than me, probably, somehow, when he was condemning me about staying a lot on the computer, but now is working more than me. He’s using digital more than me sometimes.

Stephanie:

A fast-changing world. A lot of people are jumping on that maybe wouldn’t have otherwise. The one thing that I have started to think about is, because things are moving so quick and we’re all at home and behind screens, I think there’s an area where we can lose touch with the human experience and what people are seeking when they go to a retail store. I’m even thinking about when you were saying about how someone’s browsing every day on the website and maybe a customer service person should reach out.

Stephanie:

But imagine if you take it a step further and you come back the next day and it’s the same one. Like, “Oh, Stephanie’s here again.” “Hey, welcome back. Any new questions today? I know we talked about this yesterday.” But thinking about why do you go into retail? Sometimes it’s fun to see the same person, where they have context with you, where they know what you maybe already bought in a more personal way. Same coffee shop person, where it’s like, “That’s my girl! She always knows how to make my coffee.” But thinking about how to bring those kind of experiences online, I think, is something that’s maybe been missed because we’ve all behind screens and not as much in-person interactions, where we’re kind of forgetting, “What do we seek when we go in person and want to go into a store and meet someone, and talk to them?”

Fedele:

I think that I did the thesis of my master’s degree that was regarding social media in this case, social media relationships that matter. I think that the point is really knowing the customer. Think about back in the years, we started to talk about not anymore the brand at the center, but the customer at the center. I think we like to put the customer at the center, but at the same time we like to put, especially in the fashion sometimes, the brand image of the brand at the center and then the customer. I think this way we need to put again the customer at the center, understanding whatever he likes and creating this better relationship with them.

Fedele:

What you told is something that is really important, especially considering what is happening in the stores. I think probably the other point is not creating a service theme, but a personalized system theme, so people that they … Like is happening in the stores, a portfolio of customers where they really study the customers. Also, in my experience, especially in the startup, I start really looking at each order that is coming from each person that is coming to understand what they do, what they like. This is good for me because it helps me to understand where I should improve something and how, maybe, I could talk with them. What is the tone of voice? What kind of aspects I should touch when I talk with them?

Fedele:

This is something that is not just a segmentation, but this is something that is more related fluidify the relationship that you have. In the past, I think we had too many [inaudible] behind one cluster, another cluster, etc. Now, I think that with the artificial intelligence, we have more possibility to predict some kind of aspects regarding the customer and doing some actions that are really being connected with him. I see one thing that could be strange in one of my previous companies, for example, we used to try to do some kind of upselling writing after looking at the order, understanding that we, for example, sending an email with the followup. “We are preparing your order. We see that you bought this and this. We would like to thank you, blah blah blah, and we would like to suggest this kind of matching.” And there’s also written, handwritten sometimes, whatever it is. And giving him, also, the possibility to, for example, see the outfit preview through the email, whatever it is.

Fedele:

Usually it happened that the customer starts to understand that you really are focused on him. He didn’t not just buy online an item; he bought something that is an experience personalized.

Stephanie:

Oh, I like that. I don’t think I’ve ever had an email … At least from where I buy. Maybe I don’t buy enough luxury things; I definitely don’t. But maybe that’s why I haven’t seen that, where it’s like, “Oh, you bought this shirt, here’s a pair of pants that go well with it, and shoes.” I’ve never seen that level of personalization, which I actually think would be helpful, instead of just, “Oh, hey, Stephanie. I’m going to personalize your name and what you bought.” Going that extra level to be like, “Here’s how to complete the outfit,” or, “Here’s how to actually wear it,” or what to do with it. I don’t know. That’s way different.

Fedele:

It’s a sort of personal shopping. It means that you have people that really knows the product, knows the collection, knows everything of that. You need also a sort of human touch, and also for who you can do that or not.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And not making it just be the stock image that was on the website. Like, there was already an outfit; I don’t want to see that one. I want to see something that feels like it’s custom to me and not just what the model was wearing. Because if I wanted that, I would’ve bought it at the time.

Fedele:

Yes. Also, this was personalized in one case. For example, taking a picture from the showroom, we had the possibility to stay in the showroom where we had all the items of the collection that we are putting online, and matching directly and taking a picture and sending through the email. Then, in the followup, you can also write, manually sometimes is also nice, especially when we complete the order, we were putting something had written. And this is more personalized, I think.

Fedele:

Well, I think that this part of personalization that is transmitting something that is not just technology is very important for the luxury and especially for the fashion, etc.

Stephanie:

Yep. We had on a company called called Handwrytten, spelled with a Y instead of an I. It was interesting hearing about the level of increased conversions with handwritten notes coming from the brand. It’s, I think, especially important for luxury. But then I also wonder, is everyone going to start getting handwritten notes because now it’s easier to get those digitized and look handwritten, and maybe it’s not going to be something that people want anymore? I don’t know. It feels like if you abuse something too much, people get used to, “Okay, now everyone can get handwritten letters.” And it looks like writing, now maybe it’s saturated the market in a way that customers don’t want that anymore.

Stephanie:

It feels like a really quickly evolving area, but maybe still an opportunity there.

Fedele:

Yeah, sure. And think about also the reduction, for example, spamming, which is something that is a part in this case. You increase the conversion rate, but you decrease also the losing time in doing things that probably are not working. We have a KPI, so we know already that there are some people that really don’t care about emails anymore. So, it’s something that maybe we should understand if there is another channel. Maybe this channel could be also sometimes a postcard.

Stephanie:

Yep. Are you experimenting with any new channels right now at some of the startups and larger companies that you’re advising?

Fedele:

Not yet. I would like to, for example, in one kind of brands I’m working with, which is wine, it’s a winery.

Stephanie:

Perfect.

Fedele:

I would like to give the possibility to have an extra assistant, which is, for example, a sommelier [aporte], which is someone that is giving you really a possibility to choose the right wine for you, for the right moment. Maybe connecting the loop, because they offer also the part of wine-tasting in the winery. But maybe at this point, you cannot do. I think that giving the possibility to, for example, give an experience that could be live, the first step, it’s important, but also with this kind of … The video, of talking directly with the person could be helpful.

Fedele:

And then, in the next touchpoint, maybe also creating a sort of relationship between the two. And that’s a part that I’m working with. Well, I think that especially in the items that I’m working now, I work with another company which is a small startup, but is innovating a lot. We are doing spirits, uncommon, totally uncommon, which is made by Selvatiq plants, for example, botanicals. It’s very difficult to communicate to the customer the differences between a gin that is industrial and a gin that is more artisanal, for example. Or a soda that is more artisanal.

Fedele:

Especially when you … I felt, when I talk with people and I explain sometimes, when I had the opportunity to give the possibility to try them live, I saw that they really experienced more and more, and they buy directly. Also, some friends, that they say, “Okay, they would never buy.” No, when they experience, they understand that there is something good behind and the storytelling helps a lot in this case, so it’s something that helps.

Stephanie:

I like that. I had a really good wine experience last night, now that we’re on the wine topic. Have you ever heard of this wine called 19 Crimes?

Fedele:

19 Crimes? No. I will check it.

Stephanie:

Everyone on the show always talks about, you can’t just put technology on something. You don’t want to just apply the newest and greatest things. “Why do you need VR and AR right now?” And everyone always says that. But last night, I got these two wine bottles, 19 Crimes. I bought it because it had Snoop Dogg on the label. I didn’t know why, I was just like, one had Snoop Dogg on it and one had some very old timey figure on it. I was like, great, apparently these were criminals, that’s why they’re on this wine called 19 Crimes.

Stephanie:

And this wine company has an AR app, an augmented reality app, and you hold your phone over top of the wine label and then the figure jumps onto your table and starts making this whole scene about why this guy is a criminal, what he did, and it’s just this whole world on your table and he gets pushed into the wine bottle. It was amazing, it was such a cool experience. Such a conversation starter, even people in my house who don’t drink wine, like my mother-in-law wanted to come, look at it, see what was happening; she wanted to see Snoop Dogg talking, which I’m like, “Do you even know who he is? I don’t know what he’s about to say; you might want to cover your ears. But it was a really, really cool experience.

Stephanie:

It kind of made me think a little bit differently about where technology can be applied to create an experience like that that you’re going to talk about. Now I want to go back and buy all the wine bottles that this brand, 19 Crimes, has because I’m like, “I want to see all the stories,” what kind of AR experience they’ve built around this. It was awesome. Everyone should go check it out.

Fedele:

Well, I think that this is important for the future, especially in the everywhere world, not in terms of … You were experiencing something that was online at your home. But could be in the store, could be everywhere. Most important part now that we need to understand that people are really everywhere and they don’t want to talk about anymore channels, for example. But you need to understand where they would like to have that kind of experience, could be virtual reality or whatever. But it’s something that is connecting in the same moment where they really would like to buy something, for example, or maybe know something, which is super important for me.

Stephanie:

Oh, I like that. Not all about the channels; you have to think about where your customer’s enjoying it. Like you said, I don’t want to be on social media, I don’t want to be posting pictures on social media. It’s like if you’re having wine with your family or friends or whatever, you kind of want to be present there and only take out your phone if it’s for maybe something that you can share together and not just be staring down at your phone and being a hermit. Sometimes I do that too, but …

Fedele:

Yeah, also this point of the digital detox, let’s say something like that. That could be something that is not just one person that is looking at his phone, because probably we did in this last year, will be important in the future. What you told is nice, because you shared something that you saw. It’s not someone that is by himself watching something, but sharing. And this is also a way to network the product, for example, in this case watching on the side of the bottle, sorry if I go back, also on that.

Fedele:

I think that we are starting to find these kind of new elements, but it will be something that we will approach in the immediate future.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I completely agree. All right, we have a couple minutes left and I want to make sure we don’t miss the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by our friends at Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I ask a question and you have a minute or less, one minute or less, to answer. Are you ready?

Fedele:

I’m not ready.

Stephanie:

You’re not ready? Okay, take a few deep breaths, shake it out of it. All right, we’ll do the hardest one first and then it’ll be fun ones after. Okay. What one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

Fedele:

I think that in the future there will be more and more personalization. We need to understand where are we and where we could go with our product, and stopping pushing people with just emails or whatever and understanding really what is behind each customer and adapting each content to each customer on the channel that is wherever it is. Everywhere channel, I would like to talk about. I think that data and blockchain also will be also the next big thing, especially in a loyalty process will be something that could be really interesting to be early adopter, probably.

Stephanie:

Oh, that’s good one. I need to bring on a blockchain expert for retail and ecommerce.

Fedele:

Sure.

Stephanie:

That’d be a good one. Let me know if you have-

Fedele:

I’m working with one of the companies on something regarding the blockchain and I’m experiencing something that could be really interesting, especially … For example, we talked about the wine [online] loyal system that is with a blockchain model adapted to it. It’s super interesting. I think that somehow there’s still someone that is not pushing, probably that is the economic model that we are touching. We need gloves to touch it, but I think that will be the next big thing as well.

Stephanie:

Yep. I agree. I’m a big blockchain advocate. So, you advise all these companies, you’ve worked with a ton of companies over the past decade or more: how do you stay on top of ecommerce? What are you reading? What you newsletters are you subscribed to? How do you stay on top of the industry?

Fedele:

I like to browse in general. I like a lot when I see content written by people that are experts in the topic. For example, I have many possibilities to look around online. [inaudible], for example, is one of the platforms that I like, because usually I find some genuine content. Also, well-written, for me. In fashion, there are many others. I always liked, for example, Business of Fashion, which is a website, super powerful. They do an annual report with all the information and I like also to understand what is the next trend, for example in this case, on fashion, technology, whatever.

Fedele:

Well, now I’m focusing more on the sustainability, to be honest. Not just for greenwashing, because it’s not at all. I think these are mainly the ways that I find out. I experience also somehow with, in my case, I use a lot Spotify. I like podcasts through Spotify to listening maybe when I’m doing something else. I like to understand. And one way that I use also is students in my courses at university, because they are really somehow asking you something that is the next thing what is, you know? Sometimes I use the dialogue with them. So, also, networking directly with people will be also one good thing.

Stephanie:

Oh, I like all this. That brings me to my next question, then. You’re a professor, like you just mentioned: what is your favorite lesson that you’re teaching your students?

Fedele:

Usually, in my case, they like to understand more about the online experience in general, understanding more, like you asked before, how you sell luxury online, for example. And how you can transmit the artisanal projection of an item online. For me, these are the parts. Now, usually they are really focused on the digital, because I usually teach in a university that is in poly design, which is a design university, and they are really focused on understanding what will be the store of the future, for example. So, giving all the dots to connect, it’s a good thing.

Stephanie:

Awesome. Well, Fedele, it’s been awesome having you on. I’ve loved learning about the world of luxury and omnichannel and everything else. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Fedele:

Thank you very much. For me, it was really nice to talk with you, especially crossing the idea between US and Italy, and giving the next big trend the possibility to go up.

Stephanie:

Yep, yeah. I’ve loved having you on. It’s been a blast.

Fedele:

Thank you very much.

Stephanie:

Thanks. And then, Fedele, I would just say, “You can find me here.” Wherever you want people to find you and we’ll splice it back in to the audio. But if you want to say, “You can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter,” just say that real quick and Hillary will put it back into the audio.

Fedele:

Sure. You can find me in LinkedIn and Instagram, if you like pictures, because I like to take photos. And, well, you can find the brands I’m working with, which is, for example, Selvatiq and there are many others. Well, I’m online, so you find me with my name and surname, usually, Fedele Sforza.

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Episode 103