The future of the retail sector, the added value of loyalty and its digital prospects according to CEO Diego Toscani

In the last few months, with lockdown and the adoption of measures to counter the spread of Covid-19, the consumption and spending habits of Italians have changed, as has payment, with an increase in the use of digital solutions and scanners to read product barcodes.

Grocery shopping has lost its aura of a moment of escapism, becoming a necessity, with a consequent gap in the collective imagination that will probably drag on for a long time. In line with this transformation, we have witnessed an increase and/or the discovery of digital: “The exponential growth of e-commerce – which, according to Nielsen research, in the weeks of loosening restrictions was +178.1% compared to the same period last year – and has led to a preference for virtual payments and the use of apps to avoid queuing at the supermarket by booking. New ways, designed to limit the risk of contagion, can now be the elements on which to set a definitive turning point in the retail sector. In a nutshell, the retail of the future is already present,” says Diego Toscani, who, thanks to his in-depth knowledge and analysis of consumer habits, has made Promotica, the company he is CEO of, a model in the loyalty sector.

“We are witnessing an evolution in purchasing methods, characterised by different practices linked by a common thread: technology, which in this context becomes a privileged tool for health protection. Points of sale of all kinds have begun to understand the power of the internet and have transferred part of their online activity, through e-commerce sites and dedicated apps, advertising themselves on social networks. They have adapted to new needs, demonstrating farsightedness, and have been rewarded for this. In a competitive environment, the one who knows how to innovate wins“.

“However, one element has necessarily remained constant: the effort to build consumer loyalty. The success of a shop, whether online or offline, small or large, is strongly linked to its ability to establish a relationship of trust with the customer. The various marketing and communication activities are geared towards this objective, in order to create intangible value, which then becomes tangible in the form of concrete earnings for the shop.

Loyalty activities continued during the emergency period, changing shape, like everything else. Let me give you an example: the clubcard collection catalogues are now also online, the items can be ordered on the website and delivered directly to the customer’s home. The types of rewards most in demand have changed and we expect them to change again: now that people are starting to go out again and want escape and fun – but the chances of a long holiday have been reduced – rewards linked to travel and entertainment could be very successful. During the lockdown, objects related to domestic life were the main protagonists. In a period of uncertainty, shops must present themselves as points of reference, fixed presences in consumers’ lives: it is therefore time for Retail to focus on loyalty“.

In conclusion, the new retail model appears to be oriented towards total integration between digital and physical (e.g. Amazon Go, Walmart in the USA), in order to respond to new purchasing needs and new habits. The situation in recent months has caused the boundaries between on and offline channels to disappear, creating a new hybrid typology. Innovation and customer focus remain the key drivers of the sector’s growth strategies, whether it be online shops, neighbourhood shops, or major retail players, and loyalty can and must be an integral part of this change.

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