Viva Italia: A Hopeful Conversation with Astound’s Massimo Marconi

Following its first detected case of COVID-19 on January 29 and the shockingly fast spread of the disease in the weeks since, Italy has become a cautionary tale for the rest of the world, and its plight has guided other nations in their efforts toward containment. 

Astound Insights spoke with Massimo Marconi, Astound Commerce Italy vice president of sales and client services, just a day after the Italian government declared its intention to ban outdoor exercise—an add-on to shelter-in-place restrictions that have been in effect since early March. He remained remarkably upbeat, and offered sage of advice to those of us just entering an extended period of social distancing. 

“It’s a different way to work and to live, but we can manage. It’s just a matter of self-organizing,” said Massimo. 

And—because Italy—he also brought pizza into the conversation. 

“I like to say that Italians invented the pizza, but Americans invented pizza delivery. That’s a good analogy for how we’ll have to adapt to new business models going forward.” Read on for more of the conversation.

Astound Insights: Italy has been in a nationwide “lockdown” since March 9. What does that mean, in practical terms? 

Massimo: The current Italian situation is very challenging. We are all quarantined. It means that we cannot exit from our homes, except for extremely urgent and serious reasons. We could be jailed for three months if we do. Basically, we can only: go to work if our company has adopted very specific safety procedures, stay home, or go to the hospital. No jogging, no walks, no visiting relatives.

AI: While these measures are necessary, they’re also taking a grave economic toll. What is your outlook?

Massimo: This is heavily affecting all the economic systems, and I expect a deep impact on all sectors. But, in this scenario, business models are unexpectedly quickly adapting. For example, some fashion producers have already converted their production to make surgical or protective masks. And all major and minor companies have started offering home delivery of . . . basically everything. 

Not very surprisingly, ecommerce is now the only way to purchase goods, and I foresee that this new forced approach to business will change all our habits. Currently the companies that have invested in digital commerce before the crisis are now seeing a major advantage from that.

Of course, only a few sectors are seeing that advantage, because the market demand has changed as needs have changed. But I think that companies that are not quickly adapting their business model are going to close soon. Darwin taught us.

AI: In your role for Astound, how have you been able to move forward? 

Massimo: I am of course working from home, and just last week I was able to deliver four days of very effective discovery workshops remotely. This is not a time for us to stop; just the opposite. Our services provide more value than ever in this difficult moment, as we help companies adapt and sustain their online business model.

AI: Any other thoughts on what’s to come? 

Massimo: We will be different, business will be different, and life will be different after this. We need to be prepared. We have to prepare ourselves for the future right now, because we now have time to think, and rethink, and to plan. 

Now is the time to implement what will be needed in the coming months and for the full resumption of activities. It’s a unique opportunity that can and must be addressed by leveraging the tools we have available. Businesses need to rethink and redesign the brand experience, starting with ecommerce, but also for products and services. They need to imagine new buying experiences in a data-driven way; maximize omnichannel strategies to optimize the effectiveness of the physical channel, production, and communication in the future; and improve and maximize data quality in general, and analytics data in particular, to foster new business and dynamic consumer targeting.

All this can be done, even now, remotely. Let’s not stop.

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Blair Campbell

Blair Campbell is editor in chief at Astound Commerce.

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