There is always a bit of friction between design and digital, two worlds that have difficulties understanding each other and opening their minds. The pandemic period, however, made online services and digital support become an indispensable resource to which to cling, in an effort to keep relationships and business practices alive, getting beyond physical barriers. That context was the first step towards a real truce, as well as an honest assessment of the true potential of interaction between the two fields. We are not talking about social networks or digital marketing (already established for some time), but technological tools and software that offer new experiences for the end user, providing amplified contents and purchase opportunities for clients who explore the web from a design perspective, which can still have appeal and value in spite of its “dematerialization.” A hands-on approach is no longer the only strategy, then: the correct combination of services and technologies means that buying a suite of upholstered furnishings with a value of 15,000 euros online is no longer unthinkable. And the new program of digital initiatives created by B&B Italia is an excellent demonstration.
B&B Italia provided a first taste of this multichannel perspective in 2020, when the company launched the Camaleonda on the web. “It was a success. We relied on a webinar platform and tools of digital illustration that were more advanced than those of the past; from the HQ we sent a clear vertical message to all our dealers in the world, and though nobody was sitting on a Camaleonda, the orders began to pour in, and today this system is one of our bestsellers,” says Tommaso Vincenzetti, Chief Marketing Officer of B&B Italia.
The present evolution of that vision takes the form of the new Design Service, an online tool for interior design consulting, which puts clients into direct contact with the professional team of the brands B&B Italia and Maxalto. The Design Service allows you to make appointments in the stores all over the world, gaining information on products and talking with a specialized architect, for an experience of the store in a totally virtual way. Used offline, it permits in-depth exploration of the design of a house, and in linkage with the e-commerce services it facilitates conversion. “In hundreds of appointments made all over the world through the Design Service, when it is linked to shop.com we have seen that perhaps not immediately, but in the days following the contact with our professionals, there is a ratio of 1:1 with product purchase,” Vincenzetti continues.
The e-commerce system of B&B Italia is definitely another area of constant development for the group. Launched in the USA in February 2022, it has been tested this year in Europe, starting with Austria and Germany. Next month it will expand into other territories, namely France and Italy. Along with the traditional opportunities for sales, once again it is the associated service that encourages use: “The purchase is matched with a delivery system for the end user, which we call ‘white-gloves,’ within a span of two weeks. For those who want to touch the fabrics prior to purchase, we also supply a ‘luxury box’ with samples.”
Other tools like the Collection Experience – a QR code applied to products in the store that links the client to added information, the photos of the ad campaign and the related storytelling, video interviews and facts about the designers – and the product Configurator, which will be combined with virtual reality, represent various paths of exploration in the digital world, all aimed at boosting services for the consumer. And all in relation with the physical world. The common denominator in this range of multiple proposals is the complementary character of the retail universe with respect to constant digital support.
“Digital and physical should not be mutually exclusive. Inside the flagship stores, especially in the USA, the multichannel experience works really well: often the client looks at the product online and then buys it in the store, and in other cases the client sees the item in the store but buys it online, because the store does not have the desired finish in stock.” The barriers are fluid at this point, and the solution is to work on the omnichannel level.
“Design is experiencing a digital acceleration by using and selecting best practices from other sectors, the fashion industry first and foremost,” Tommaso Vincenzetti concludes, “And certainly being part of a Holding Company that pushes and urges these paths helps.”
So what is the product that sells the most on B&B Italia’s e-commerce site? Not complements or tables, because “the biggest share is that of sectional sofas. And well beyond purchases of 15,000 dollars.”