Digital marketing consultant for 10 years, professor of marketing and multichannel strategy at the IULM University of Milan, and co-founder of Digital Update, the first digital training school in Italy, Gianluca Diegoli is one of the experts in strategy best-known digital brands in Italian marketing. . He deals with strategic marketing consulting, digital transformation, e-commerce and omnichannel strategy. He is the author of numerous books, e-books and articles on retail and the digital world. He is the publisher of a [mini] marketing newsletter, which attracts more than 8,000 Italian traders every Friday. The first impacts of the pandemic on retail, the digital divide and the urgency of omnichannel solutions The digital tide has forever changed, first by necessity, then by choice, consumer buying behavior.
This has perhaps affected distribution and commerce more than any other sector. Omnichannel means the seamless online and offline presence of a brand. Suddenly, it went from a vaguely near future conference topic to being the key to safeguarding turnover. This is so true, now that multichannel is considered fundamental for the survival of more than 80% of Italian companies . As a result, companies had to recognize that digital was no longer a futuristic option . On the contrary, it was already the dominant method of discovery, selection and purchase for 55% of Italian consumers and, with great probability, also the decisive factor of survival and development. However, neither consumers nor businesses had the same starting point. Indeed, alongside non-digitized companies, a minority of companies had already started a process of digitizing their points of contact, despite internal difficulties and sometimes insufficient budgets. Only 34% of companies could count on strong digitalization at the start of 2020 , both in terms of technology and human capital. On the other hand, 55% still displayed a closed attitude towards digital, considered as having little influence on the development of their activity (Source: Professionals and B2B Digital Innovation Monitoring Center of the Polytechnic University of Milan).
Very often, however, companies that were already digitally oriented mismanaged their data . They kept data in separate, disconnected silos and did not merge the online and physical store contact databases . Data strategy was one of the biggest weaknesses of Italian companies. At the start of 2020, only 1 in 3 merchants were collecting, harmonizing and integrating data from different channels into a single system. There was an urgent need to integrate and focus on customers, individualize their online and in-store behavior and speak to them with one voice. Companies that had omnichannel-oriented forms of integration before the pandemic had the best results . In fact, the tools, processes, communities and digital connections with their customers were already active. They had a direct conversation with people and knew how to process data, use tools and measure feedback. Two keys to recovery: e-commerce and digital investments