For nearly a year already, the retail and eCommerce space has felt a lot like a roller coaster. The industry has transformed so much, and many new shopping behaviors and customer experiences that developed or accelerated as a result of the pandemic are expected to continue even after COVID-19. How are brands adjusting to this new retail environment? What innovative strategies and technologies are they depending on to deliver experiences that address shoppers’ new expectations? In this post, we explore how Italian fashion brand Rinascimento is using visual AI to thrive amid the challenges of this past year.
I recently sat down with Roberta Bellitto, Content and Web Marketing Manager for Gruppo Teddy to learn more about their approach to innovating the customer experience.
Gruppo Teddy is an Italian retail group that includes global fashion brands Rinascimento, Terranova, and Kitana. As part of the eCommerce team at Rinascimento, Roberta is responsible for digitalization and omnichannel activities, including online and offline customer experience and innovation in physical stores.
In the interview below (edited for clarity and brevity), we talk about how Rinascimento’s deep understanding of their customers serves as a catalyst for innovation, how the brand maintained creativity and agility at the height of the pandemic, and how they successfully launched visual-AI-powered product discovery solutions on their website.
Syte: How has Rinascimento approached the shift to online in terms of resource allocation?
Roberta: Rinascimento has 104 mono-brand stores in Italy and we are sold in a thousand multi-brand stores throughout Europe. Each year, our retail chain grows by 10-12 new shops, but this year the number will be lower unfortunately because of COVID-19 and the consequences of it.
The lockdown in Italy was surely a negative moment for our retail chain, but because of that, we started looking at eCommerce with different eyes—some of us for the first time even. So yes, we are giving it more attention and consideration than before.
Syte: Can you share a little more about your brand’s customer experience strategy?
Roberta: We focus on omnichannel retail. We strongly believe that customers’ online shopping experiences must be similar to what they experience in our brick-and-mortar shops.
We have a very loyal segment of target customers and we want to get to know them better and understand their specific needs. We do this through our loyalty program, which not only allows our customers to have access to advantages and privileges but also helps us understand their shopping behavior in-depth. We also use surveys as a way to get direct feedback from customers.
Syte: What are the challenges you face in designing the online customer experience?
Roberta: Our cross-media customers, those who buy both in-store and online, are more loyal and engaged. They buy 3X more compared to customers who buy only on one channel. The challenge is to encourage offline customers to buy online too by giving them more opportunities and advantages for doing so.
We want to take care of our most loyal customers, but we are also trying to reach new potential customers through marketing campaigns and new services. For example, Syte’s visual AI technology is a way to offer experiences that differentiate us from our competitors.
Using Tech to Deliver Engaging Experiences That Shoppers Want
Syte: Why did you look to technology as a driver to enhance customer experience?
Roberta: At Gruppo Teddy, we are always looking for new digital solutions to improve our customer experiences, increase brand loyalty, and enhance our presence and brand awareness. We were driven to find a visual AI solution because we studied our customers’ behavior and noticed that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Loyal customers would send images of items they were looking for to our customer service department. Some were from our current or past catalogs, but of course, some were taken from the customers’ social media feeds as well. Obviously, we had no easy way to find the same or similar items in our inventory.
At the same time, we were hearing a lot of feedback from our flagship stores in Italy. They frequently reported that customers would enter the stores and use their mobile phones to show staff images of items they were looking for.
Syte: Do you think social media is driving these visually-inclined consumer behaviors?
Roberta: People are always looking for inspiration on social media. They’re becoming less loyal to brands and more loyal to influencers. The challenge is to intercept customers’ needs throughout all the available platforms, including our website, Instagram, TikTok, and marketplaces.
It’s incredible how clear the ideas of shoppers are nowadays! They don’t enter the stores anymore just to look around — they know very well what they are looking for. And visual AI has really helped with this.
Syte: Would you say your customers’ feedback was a catalyst for creating a more visual experience?
Roberta: Yes, definitely. There are numerous tech solutions for enhancing eCommerce experiences. But to make the right choice, you have to know your audience and choose what’s most useful and important for them. Customer feedback is a very valuable compass for orientation.
Implementing Syte’s Visual Discovery Suite
Syte: Rinascimento has implemented Syte’s Visual Discovery Suite on its online store, including Camera Search, the Discovery Icon, and Recommendation Engines: Shop the Look and Shop Similar. What feedback have you had from your customers so far?
Roberta: We launched Syte on our website during the months of lockdown in Italy. Traffic was slowing down a bit because our shoppers were using their mobile devices less, so it was mostly from desktop. But this traffic was very high-quality with a high conversion rate.
Syte’s features were well-received very quickly, and now, they serve as a good way to engage our customers. In terms of customer adoption of the solutions, we were initially a bit concerned because a large portion of our customer base is between the ages of 40 and 50. We thought they wouldn’t understand visual search since it’s very innovative and unique. But they proved us wrong. We received immediate positive feedback.
Here are some of the measurable benefits Rinascimento has seen since implementing Syte:
- An improvement of revenue metrics with an uplift in conversion rate of 168%
- An uplift of 17% in average order value
- A 415% uplift in average revenue per user
Uncovering New Opportunities With Continuous Innovation and Visual AI
Syte: Do you think that visual AI and other technologies will be of greater importance as we move forward? If so, how can brands adapt?
Roberta: Even before the pandemic, we were seeing a real shift towards eCommerce. We have had brick and mortar stores for 20 years, but an online presence only in the last five years. So, it’s vital that we stay ahead of the market and focus more heavily on eCommerce.
Unfortunately, some of our stores were closed permanently. But rather than laying off some of our in-store shop assistants, we continued to employ them to give phone assistance to our customers shopping online with visual AI.
Syte: You said earlier that “a picture says a thousand words.” Do you find that visual AI breaks the language barrier for your international shoppers?
Roberta: We have a significant proportion of online sales in other EU countries, particularly in Germany, Austria, France, and Belgium. We’re also trying to increase our presence both online and offline outside of Italy.
So, yes, indeed. As Italians, we have always felt the language gap. I think that visual AI is perfect for solving this, and it works even better considering that we sell clothes and we want to constantly inspire our customers.