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The Ecommerce Revolution: how United Colors of Benetton reimagined its omnichannel experience during lockdown

Benetton Group is one of the best-known fashion companies in the world, with a network of about 5,000 stores. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, the impact on United Colours of Benetton’s retail outlets was immediate.

Antonio Patrissi, Chief Digital Officer United Colors of Benetton, says: “For most of our markets it meant our physical stores were closed, so our digital channels took centre stage. We knew that our online customer experience was becoming increasingly more important pre-pandemic, but the pandemic saw a huge acceleration in digital behaviours and thus we knew we had to evolve our experiences to meet customer needs.” 

Benetton appointed R/GA London to help further position the brand as a leader in the casual Italian lifestyle category and to better communicate the premium quality and positive environmental and cultural impact of Benetton’s products.

Ilia Uvarov, Executive Creative Director at R/GA London, says: “Benetton is an iconic brand with rich cultural history. It was really important for us to translate the brand’s signature philosophy into a modern omnichannel experience while giving it a clear and distinctive role in contemporary culture.

With only 20 weeks from the kick-off to launch, a global experience revamp of this size felt highly ambitious. Not only that, we had to work fully remotely and go live in multiple markets just in time for Christmas. There was no room for error and the stakes were high.”

Digital makeover

R/GA worked with United Colors of Benetton to create a modular, dynamically adaptable architecture that could scale and flex for all user contexts, business requirements and market specifics. Irrespective of a device and browsing setup, the new platform is designed to deliver a consistently cohesive and stand-out experience for all United Colors of Benetton customers globally. Contextual storytelling is used to intelligently bring editorial content and commerce together. 

Signature brand experiences are brought to life through the lens of colour as interface. This foundational concept was applied to product discovery and exploration and allowed R/GA to create actionable moments of wonder that took users deeper into the world of Benetton’s brand. Additionally, the agency bridged the digital and physical domains by getting products closer to customers and making them more tangible online. Through the use of motion and scale, R/GA translated the organic nature of fabrics digitally and highlighted the tactile qualities of the products.

Patrissi comments: “Our new ‘Blend Different’ ecommerce platform translates the brand’s signature philosophy into a modern omnichannel experience. The platform combines best-in-class user experience and editorial content to create an ecommerce platform that deepens our engagement with Gen-Z and encourages omnichannel sales, ultimately helping us to further futureproof the brand. 

Our ambition behind this new experience was to empower Benetton customers through unexpected yet highly relevant combinations of products, stories and cultural moments. This new platform enables our brand to play a role in culture, not just fashion, and having an active position on a range of topics such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion.”

The secrets of high-speed success

Concepted, created and launched by R/GA in just 14 weeks, the new platform is now live in the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain, Japan, Greece, Portugal with further roll outs planned throughout 2021.

R/GA’s Uvarov believes the lockdown restrictions led to innovation and acceleration in the development process. He says: “The key to our success was how closely we worked with the client team – through daily stand-ups, Zoom meetings and use of Slack. It was a very streamlined, open and, as a result, highly collaborative process.

“Before Covid, projects like these would typically involve multi-sprint discovery and definition stages accompanied by travel and in-person workshops. None of that was happening anymore. Key decisions were made during the pitch process. Travel was paused and workshops were minimised. We started our design sprints shortly after the kick-off and managed to shave off weeks through our joined iterative process.

“The future of Benetton (and the fashion industry) hinges on the ability to deliver nuanced personalisation at scale. From engaging customers with relevant stories to taking them to tailored experiences and maintaining ongoing relationships, it is critical to recognise, understand and address the changing mindset of the modern fashion shopper.”

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