In our minds, we tend to believe that digital technology depersonalises human interaction, but reality proves this belief to be wrong. In fact, the complete opposite is true: an effective and creative use of the digital tools currently available has shown itself to be an important ally to companies and brands, allowing for interaction with customers on a human scale. This is confirmed by Emanuela Prandelli, associate professor of Digital Marketing at SDA Bocconi, in her speech, “Towards an increasingly human digital experience”, held on the digital platform of Netcomm Forum this past 13 May.

Emanuela Prandelli

“Digital puts the human experience at the centre of its relationship with the consumer. – declares Emanuela Prandelli, – What is required of companies is customer simplicity, a new organisation of skills and processes divvied up between real and virtual, using Big Data, as the essence of the new human experience. The value chain combines physical and virtual values: today, there’s a need to find a new blending that recovers the human component, even if there is a greater use of algorithms for Artificial Intelligence”.

Accordingly, the strategic focus is no longer on offering competitive products and services, but rather on the central importance of customers and the ability to engage with them more effectively. For marketing, the quantitative and algorithmic dimension is increasingly important, becoming critical to the customer experience. How can all this be put into action? Emanuela Prandelli identifies three fundamental moments of interaction for e-commerce: “To attract new visitors the key is to make the most of the brand’s notoriety with investments in advertising; – explains Emanuela Prandelli – for registered users, you must secure their attention and engage them, developing relationships and personalising the offer; for active users, it’s possible to increase sales by personalising the contents, reinforcing the relationship, and making the most of user generated content (the content posted by users on various platforms”.

It is not an easy job: today’s customer is used to moving around on different channels and devices, is increasingly nomadic, and visits several different platforms. So, companies, to successfully manage the relationship, must have an exemplary approach, providing a seamless experience that smoothly passes through all the channels, so the image of the brand is perceived as consistent and uniform.

Creativity is the main resource on which to focus when it comes to engaging with customers in an innovative way. One successful example mentioned by Emanuela Prandelli is that of Threadless-USA, the American platform of apparel-fashion accessories and furnishing elements: “By basing itself on crowd sourcing, it launched a T-shirt project with all the activity regarding the product’s development, design, processing, etc. paid for by the customer. A case of collaborative innovation which, thanks to its ability to involve customers in an exciting way, resulted in great economic success”.

Digital technology makes it easier to access more detailed information on customers, their habits, and their values, and an integrated CRM (Customer Relationship Management) allows for a singular vision of the customer. Since every interaction generates data – for example, through searches on browsers, exchanging posts on different platforms, etc… – without considering the whole privacy issue, all this allows us to promptly identify the customer. “Basically, we can already recognise customers from the store window, thanks to their mobile devices. – explains Emanuela Prandelli – Or we can make the most of this information like the American eyewear retailer Warby Parker did by developing its own network of physical retail based on the geolocation of customers that interacted with the company online”.

In a world where the boundaries between physical and virtual are increasingly blurred, digital technology allows for increasingly strong human-oriented interaction in a variety of ways. One example is gaming: environment where brands can help define the vertual identityy of gamers, especially appreciated above all by Millenials and Generation Z. Or with virtual try on, the physical experience of the dressing room is brought into the virtual world with the use of avatars. However, also in stores, it is possible to engage shoppers in a creative way through the use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality…

“The challenge is being creative by using digital technology to engage the human component”, concludes Emanuela Prandelli, while reminding us that the customer experience is often transformed into a purchasing opportunity.