In Blog / Retail

Retail 4.0: the era of new S.M.A.R.T. tools

24 October 2019
retail 4.0

The key ingredient for an effective customer engagement is not only providing products and services to people, but also contents that will make them keep in contact with the brand. The engagement level, indeed, stands for the satisfaction and loyalty that customers feel for the brand. According to a Forrester survey, 72% of consumers agree that they might purchase more often by sellers that send them consistent communications. 

Customers want to live an involving experience taking part in the life of the Commercial Centre, and the easier it is to use each all the tools (online and offline) they are given, the much they will be inclined to use them and enhance their experience with the brand. 

Building a high-value relationship with your target is the new challenge of marketing, and to do so it is necessary to always consider the changing approaches of consumers deriving from omnichannel marketing. Both aspects, together, require the use of new instruments: S.M.A.R.T. tools

What is a S.M.A.R.T. tool?

A  S.M.A.R.T. tool is an instrument that is based on 5 fundamental concepts: Simple, Multichannel, Ambassador, Retail, Technological.


In order to offer customers involving and targeted actions, companies need to have as many data and information as possibile about their addressees. 

Offering these companies easy-to-use tools, which do not require specific, technical skills that might limit the use and analysis of data, is definitely a priority. Unlike what happened in the last decade, the habit of “doing everything internally to save money” is now leaving space to a new awareness, which makes companies entrust real “experts” with the technical development of tools, maintaining only the management of these instruments internally. 

As a consequence, offering data organization and monitoring together with information in only one container gives companies the possibility to make strategic considerations, reducing costs.

The fact that the tool is simple does not exclude the possibility that it is also flexible and that it can evolve constantly, thanks to new implementations and features. 

The market itself is asking for instruments that are reactive to changes, following the lean philosophy of “continuous improvement”, also known as “Kaizen”. 


There have been 43,9 million multichannel Italians in 2019, i.e. users that use eCommerce services, while for 83% of people over 14 years old (8 people out of 10) the digital world plays a role in their purchase process. These are the first, interesting data emerging from Osservatorio Multicanalità (Multichannel Observatory) promoted by the Management School of the Polytechnic of Milan and by Nielsen”.

An excerpt of the latest article by Chiara Bertoletti for Mark Up defines the two categories of multichannel consumers: eShoppers and InfoShoppers. While the first ones (63%) use the web in all the phases of the purchasing process, the latter surf the web only to inform themselves or in the phase that follows the purchase (for example to compare prices, choose the store, share positive or negative comments) but not to carry out the purchase. 

How to attract these consumers? Through connections between the real and the online world, activities that interact with each other, starting from the web to end in the mall, selling processes that include a funnel that is not fragmented anymore, but still monitored using several touchpoints. 


Developed at Harvard University in 1998 by the marketing experts Pine e Gilmore, the concept of “experience economy” is still relevant, above all in the world of retail, in a society that makes it possible to reach users from several directions and where users, if they are properly entertained and enhanced, are willing to share their experience, giving their personal vision of the brand and becoming their spokespeople. The brand rewards these actions with vouchers or other benefits, increasing loyalty and - in addition to deepening its knowledge - maintaining a smooth transition between the online world and the physical world.

The more customers do something for the brand, the more they get profiled, allowing actors to create more and more interesting experiences for them: what you get is customer retention, which gives birth to an advocacy operation, with the suggestion of other users. The result is a combination of the traditional use of testimonials and influencer marketing campaign, which by their own nature contrast each other, as explained by Claudia Ballerini, Head of Quantitative Business Unit of Ipsos, leading society in market research: “While testimonials become a part within the brand, in influencer marketing campaigns the opposite happens: the brand enters a world that is not necessarily or exclusively its own, it enters the influencer’s world, where there can be people that know or don’t know the brand, but also rejectors of the brand itself and where, however, the influencer has a very strong endorser role. So the adhesion is not to the brand, but to the brand through the influencer. Similarly customers will play this role in their entourage, “influencing” the perception of the brand from the outside. 


The release is 4.0, the release of the digital transformation, which can be seen as the last stage (for how long?) of the journey that began in store (1.0), continued in the commercial centre (2.0) then in ecommerce (3.0). A useful view is given by Francesco Oldani in his latest article for Mark Up: Retail is an articulate and complex system of multichannel relationships. The concept of relationship contains the core of the development of a project from which derive both technological choices and the choices of stores. One of the most “upsetting” novelties is given by the fact that in this dimension the most relevant thing is not the product itself but the way it is released (…). A modern retail project is developed in the space of a relationship, in the so-called customer journey.”


As anticipated by Oldani, the technological choices of a brand follow a project that pays attention to each stage of the “customer journey” and for this reason they need do develop to improve many aspects of this journey: the store, online and social presence, entertainment. 

To do so, the fundamental feature is the deep knowledge of customers, which can be made easier through technological innovations, like softwares that analyze the “sentiment” of the web or virtual realities that make it possible to test products directly on customers, gaining access to their privacy. The partnership between L’Orèal and Amazon gives users the chance to try the lipstick online before to purchase it, previewing how it adapts to the tone of the face and the shape of the lips. All by simply taking a selfie and selecting your favorite color. Technologies that are developed for the digital world, but which give also to the “offline” world the possibility to evolve.

An example? The store that becomes a showroom where users try a product to continue the purchase online, or where they just rent it, creating what is called “sur-retail”, can improve the purchase experience. 

One of the elements that will certainly influence the conclusion of the purchase in store, indeed, will be making the payment “invisible”, giving up the most negative experience from customers’ emotional point of view. Amazon, again, is the forerunner of this with its Amazon-go, stores where you enter, choose products and go out, being charged on your Amazon account.

In a context where customers are given the possibility to reach our brand from several directions (even if they are searching for information about other brands), it is more and more important to adopt pull marketing strategies, with more informative rather than advertising contents, and relevant contents for the target of each market. The winning combination is Big+Thick data, to make a deep analysis of the target, which takes advantage of technology without loosing its uniqueness. For this reason, in addition to the innovation of the machine, a human interpretation of the brand values is required.

Retail 4.0 originates from Pine and Gilmore’s concept, but it modifies it elevating experiences to what Kotler and Stigliano define as Human-centred-design, for which the new philosophy of retail must develop service, sociality, and sustainability.