We met up with the CEO of one of the leading e-commerce sites for work shoes, occupational apparel, and accessories of the very best brands, as well as the brand Bongiorno Utility, to learn what has changed after the pandemic and what strategies have been put into practice.
An example of successful female entrepreneurship, Marina Bongiorno, in the difficult moment we are all experiencing, explains how her company tried to make the most of the opportunities to grow and innovate, starting by listening to the needs of clientele: “The key to success is understanding the needs of our customers”.
What impact did the pandemic have on your business?
The pandemic was positive for our e-commerce channel, convincing even those who were very sceptical about this kind of purchasing method to use it. Bongiornowork e-commerce has been active for 18 years in the sales of PPE and workwear, and over time the digital platform has grown and increasingly confirmed itself in the sector, allowing us to gain a solid reputation among sector operators for the attentive selection of our products and for the quality and reliability of our brand. In this sense, the pandemic found us better prepared to face the situation than traditional retailers
How did you react to the new state of things?
During the lockdown, we decided to purposefully invest in communication through TV ads on the Rai TV channels and privately owned TV channels to gain further notoriety for our e-commerce, but also launch a message of seriousness and reliability: ‘We are here for you and we offer seriousness and expertise in our approach to safety wear”.
What are the biggest difficulties that you find yourselves facing and what opportunities were created?
The biggest difficulties we encountered and which were created by the pandemic are connected to the proliferation of operators and realities that propose safety devices without having any kind of expertise in this segment. Today, masks and personal protective equipment are sold everywhere, without any kind of guarantee about the product you are buying. I believe the government should have entrusted distribution of these devices to specialised companies likes ours, which completely understand these products and current legislation. For this reason, we saw this moment as the ideal time for investing in communication and letting the public at large know that we are specialised in protecting the safety and health of people with seriousness and expertise.
In your opinion, has the period we are currently living in influenced safety footwear and workwear purchasing needs (for example, with greater attention to hygiene and health)?
I do not believe that the pandemic changed the needs of clientele in terms of product features, but rather the fear of a new lockdown and closings in regions could lead to problems in terms of supply.
What features do you believe are the most important today in safety and occupational footwear?
Undoubtedly one of the aspects that is considered the most is lightness and practicality of use, so quick and easy fastening systems, but also design has a growing importance. In the past, for example, we would preferably buy high-top footwear for the winter and low-top footwear for the summer, while now sneaker-like footwear is preferred for all seasons. The brand is likewise especially important, because for the consumer, brands that are well-advertised and well-known are a greater guarantee of the product’s reliability, also in terms of safety.
What markets will you focus on more in the near future (apparel, accessories, shoes)? In which countries?
We work around the world through our e-commerce channel, while also relying on other international portals. We are also moving forward with an investment programme in terms of communication on some foreign markets connected to Italian products. Being Italian creates added value in all products of apparel and footwear, including those destined for work. Since the times of the ancient Romans, Italian taste and expertise have always had great value.
In the future, do you believe the online sales of safety products will be further developed or do you believe the physical store is still of central importance?
I believe it varies from area to area and from country to country. For example, we work very well with our e-commerce in Europe, but sales through our catalogue are still extremely valid. For this reason, we support our e-commerce channel by flanking it with sales through our physical catalogue and through visits to our 2 thousand-metre showroom in Curno, in the province of Bergamo.
One last question: what role must sector fairs play in the near future?
I believe that sector fairs represent an important moment for meeting up with clientele, but this does not mean there cannot also be digital fairs taking place throughout the course of the year, since new technologies now make it possible. It would be ideal to flank biannual events with virtual fairs taking place over the course of the year, which would allow the needs of clientele to be better satisfied. This is because it is fundamental to always listen to customers, try to understand what they require, and satisfy their needs.