And they will do so in tandem with physical events

Michela Saponaro has worked in the digital off-price sector for seven years. She launched a business unit in an international company, focusing solely on the marketplace off-price sector for one year.
For a year and a half, she has been working in B2X srl — a digital company whose core business is the creation and management of official e-shops for brands — as their Digital Multichannel Sales Manager.
Within the company, she accompanies the brands in the first design phase and then realises the entire business plan, trying to expose the customer to a greater choice of channels and, above all, to recommend and manage the best channels for their needs.
We asked her some questions on the occasion of the opening of Micam Milano and Micam Digital Show.

What do you think of the digital fair format? Do you consider it an indispensable option for trade fairs?

I think it is premature to pass judgement on the digital fair, because it doesn’t have a long enough history.
Certainly, there is a need to create an experience that is truly usable for professionals in the sector by addressing the needs that have arisen due to the pandemic. I think, there is still a lot left to do. Platforms are not yet 100% of what they could be.
It is by looking at the digital fair format not as a temporary necessity, but as a complementary opportunity to the physical fair that I believe results will be achieved.
As in all projects, in my opinion we must ask ourselves some questions: who is it for? What is it for? What is the benchmark?
The answers we can give ourselves now — in such a particular moment, of initial recovery — will certainly be different to those we will give ourselves in the future.
The physical fair will inevitably have to change and evolve in light of the complementary digital fair.
I hope that in the future the physical event will be more dedicated to meetings between people and professionals, “being there” is not only a physical, but also a mental state.
The evolution will have to affect both buyers and companies.

In your opinion, at what stage are Italian companies along this digital path?

I think companies are really thinking about digital in a different way. They have understood that it is a completely different market, where the same logic of the physical cannot be applied.
However, I still perceive confusion, for example in the construction of business units: whether to give value to the front line or whether to focus on operations, and with what perspective to look at these new channels, how to use them in the most appropriate way, whether to do branding activities, development, opening up to new countries…
This obviously does not concern all companies; some are very advanced.

Have you ever attended Micam Digital Show?

I was already able to visit the platform in March. On a graphic and textual level, it seemed to be very engaging. I saw a clear signal of the desire to communicate the restart, a wish to say: “We are here!”.
However, the structure of the site seemed very complex to me. It was not easy to find your way around and manage navigation.
Digital is a tool which by its nature is democratic and must remain as such. So, we can evolve and develop new tools, but we mustn’t forget that on the other side there could be people without sufficient know-how to be able to fully understand their use.

From a buyers’ point of view, what will you focus on for spring/summer 2022?

On comfort and sports footwear, and then on the world of “kids” with all its facets and product categories: it is a sector that has grown a lot during the pandemic and I believe it will continue to grow further.
The “choice” of the brand/product, however, can never be separated from the presence of a “story to tell”. This is an aspect that is becoming increasingly important because we are in contact with increasingly capable customers.
I think that buyers will increasingly focus on how much a product is able to differentiate itself from others: this may be thanks to the story behind it, to the materials it is made of, to the technologies applied to it, to how it is used. This is what helps make one product more special than others.
Furthermore, given that the pandemic has completely changed people’s lifestyle, the product will have to be perfectly integrated into the new reality we are living in.

Do you think you will go to Micam Milano?

In the past, I have been many times, but this year I don’t think I will go, simply because I believe that the physical fair is not, at the moment, the ideal place to have a discussion about the development of digital projects.
I hope that — based on what was said before — this approach will change too.