Benetton focuses brand marketing on ‘Italian essence’ as it unveils new store concept

Benetton is planning a marketing push that will promote the brand’s “Italian essence” as it unveils a new store concept at its flagship location in Milan, Italy, aimed at revitalising sales, particularly among young women where it has lost ground to rivals such as Zara, Mango and H&M.

Video: United Colors of Benetton Spring 2014 collecion advert

The new store format, dubbed “On Canvas”, uses a series of movable canvas walls to create clothing collections based around themes including season, colour and material. Benetton says stores will be updated with new stock as fresh ranges come in, with the flexible stucture meaning the retailer can rearrange the store to highlight different collections.

Digital LED displays featuring models promoting the collections aim to bring the retailer’s entire online range to its stores. Each member of shop staff will have a tablet, enabling them to show shoppers other colours, sizes and related items on the digital display in real time, as well as further information on the product on the tablet.

“The screens are an evolution of the traditional poster, a live poster. We can schedule content relevant to the store and new ranges coming in,” digital director Giuseppe Cunetta told Marketing Week at the unveiling of the new store concept in Milan.

Dubbed the “Infinite Shelf”, it also lets customers order from the website in store, with delivery offered for free either to the shop or their home. Cunetta said the aim is to “reward” customers for coming in store with free delivery. It also gives customers the option to opt-in to receive direct marketing such as deals and new products tailored to shoppers’ previous purchases and interests.

“We want to be able to communicate one-on-one with our customers and provide them with the best offer personalised to them. Everything is made in order to create for every customer the most personalised experience and marketing. We don’t want to submerge customers with tonnes of information that is inconsistent, we want to provide content that is is line with their needs,” he added.

Benetton is also planning to launch a mobile app “in the next couple of months” that will allow shoppers to tag product labels and find further information. Cunetta says content across the app, in-store displays, website and social media will be the same, offering customers a consistent experience across platforms.

The new concept is currently only live in Milan, but Benetton is planning to expand that to a number of Italian cities this year, as well as Moscow. London is also in the pipeline as one of Benetton’s “key markets”, although Benetton’s communications director Gianluca Pastore said an exact date has not been set. He added that although the Milan store had only been open following the redesign for one week, sales were six times the store’s average, ahead of expectations even factoring in interest around the new format.

The canvas store is the first stage of a new brand strategy aimed at promoting Benetton’s “Italian essence” and making Italian style available to the mass market, said Pastore. He added that where before the retailer has focused its product marketing on “doing the basics well” it will now focus more on its fashion credentials to attract young female shoppers.

“Making it possible for consumers to enjoy Italian style without being rich is something new, important and interesting that the brand can bring to life. We have to give a sense that we are a leader in Italy. Adding Italian essence to our heritage is essential to compete more effectively,” he said.