April 11, 2021

Why the retail future lays in O2O – Offline-to-Online business

3 min read

Three Italian fashion-focused associations have signed an agreement for creating Niamhub, a new e-commerce platform involving Niam, an association that gathers 800 fashion agents, Atelier, a software system used by 16,000 retailers, and Velvet Media, a marketing and online sale specialized agency. The new portal aims to help brands, agents and retailers get in touch with 128 business-to-consumers and 60 business-to-business marketplaces estimated to connect retailers, brands and virtual showrooms according to a new dimension, that its founders call O2O, a form of online-to-offline e-commerce.

About 200 retailers have already joined the portal which starts operating at the beginning of April 2021.

Giorgio Magello, president, Niam, and owner, ESC Group, an Italian fashion agency of high-end and accessible luxury fashion, spoke about the new project.

Giorgio Magello, president, Niam

Giorgio Magello, president, Niam

How was this initiative born?
We thought about it in April 2020 during the lockdown as we all felt the need to avoid the damages brought by the huge stop within the pandemic and diminish its impact on brands, agents and retailers. Our aim was to start a project the whole fashion system could profit and recover from. The answer came from agents who work as intermediaries and experts of the problems companies and retailers have been facing. We therefore founded NIAM–National Italian Association of Fashion Agents–and started a series of tangible initiatives. Among them, we founded Niamhub, a digital system that involves all the players of the fashion industry by virtualizing all b2b processes (among companies, agents and retailers) with the aim to create a marketplace connected with 120 foreign marketplaces for an innovative b2c system connecting retailers and final consumers. It can facilitate purchases physically–also including stores of the neighborhood–and also with those based in the most remote parts of the world.

What is the aim of the project?
NIAM involves hundreds of different of Italian agents who are in contact with all the Italian retailers and whose portfolio of brands includes fast fashion, luxury, sportswear and accessory brands.

Final consumers will be able to land to a unique multichannel experience. By selecting products on the Niamhub portal they can decide if they want to pick their purchase in store or receive them directly at home from the boutique they selected. As an alternative, they can buy directly on the Niamhub marketplace, on other ones connected to it, or via social media that will promote Niamhub. In a few words they will be able to live an omnichannel 360° customer experience.

Niamhub website (screenshots)

Niamhub website (screenshots)

Is this project aimed at supporting online shopping only?
No. It will not only involve online stores as physical stores will also benefit from digital tools and their connection via web. In fact, brick-and-mortar stores will be able to use tablets to facilitate in-store purchase. In some cases they will also host holograms presented within innovative frames meant to tell–and help sell–products. Moreover, all data collected through this portal will also help retailers understand, for instance, more elements including where purchases come from, profiling consumers, their taste and desires.

We think that the future lays in O2O, which is the evolution of business-to-business (b2b) and business-to-consumer (b2c) relations. O2O stands for offline-to-online, but at the same time online-to-offline as our ecosystem Niamhub wants to emphasize both physical and digital relationships according to an integration among the operational systems of all the players involved in the fashion system.

Through this platform we want to help brands communicating their presence in the market on a large scale, though we will only select the best offer from each store but also meet each consumer’s profile and request thanks to the use of artificial intelligence. This is how Niamhub aims to become an expression of post-2020 commerce fusing digital and physical shopping experiences together.

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