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Isabelle Crossley
Sep 3, 2020
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Virtual trade shows won't replace physical events, says Pitti Immagine GM

Translated by
Isabelle Crossley
Sep 3, 2020

Italian trade show organiser Pitti Immagine launched its new platform ‘Pitti Connect’, on July 16. The platform hosts digital versions of the summer editions of the business’ three main Florentine trade shows: Pitti Uomo, Bimbo, and Filati, and will run until the end of October.

Pitti Immagine’s general manager, Agostino Poletto, has given FashionNetwork.com an insight into its first figures on site traffic, while Poletto also explains the particulars of the platform, which offers buyers and exhibitors an unprecedented profiling service. This, according to Poletto, lays the foundations for future trade shows which will take place between physical and virtual reality.

Agostino Poletto - Pitti Immagine

FashionNetwork.com: What is Pitti Connect’s mid-term view?
Agostino Poletto: We are very satisfied. With the site, we have been able to put together our three events of Pitti Uomo, Bimbo, and Filati, with 501 exhibitors. This would never have been possible offline and it allows us to showcase the spirit of our trade shows and our lifestyle. With over a month still ahead of us, we have totalled close to 70,000 site visitors who have viewed nearly 700,000 pages in over 150,000 visits. Most interestingly, the time that buyers have spent viewing the Pitti Connect website has doubled compared to our previous virtual trade show e-Pitti. The average duration of site visits has increased from one minute to two and a half minutes and the number of page views has increased by 30%.

FNW: What conclusions can you draw from this initial data?
AP: In general, Pitti Connect users are staying on the site longer and viewing more pages than before. This shows that they are interested to view our site and that we have been successful in reaching the right users. Compared to e-Pitti, there is a much stronger presence of VIP buyers.
FNW: What are your strengths?
AP: Pitti Connect has a dimension of continuity that cannot be found elsewhere. Our platform remains active for over three months, with new content constantly enriching our site. We are more than just a catalog! We offer a range of editorial content which has served to generate traffic. Special projects, such as with Brunello Cucinelli, have attracted countless site visits, as have our interviews with buyers. Our interview with Hirofumi Kurino, Japanese co-founder of United Arrows, has totalled over 6,000 views! 
FNW: Your other strengths?
AP: First of all, our editorial value. Our continuous exchanges with the community of buyers and exhibitors, our knowledge, and our expertise give us a certain authority concerning the fashion market, in particular the men’s segment. People come to our site to view products but also to get an opinion. We provide them with a vision of the future and upcoming trends. 
Another [strength] is our profiling. We are able to identify with greater and greater precision the profile of buyers, with very detailed descriptions of their brand, and thus point them in the direction of the brands that are the most likely to be of interest to them. Thanks to algorithms and artificial intelligence, as well as data that we have been storing for years, we are able to offer personalised experiences to each buyer. The database has become the real crown jewel of Pitti Immagine. Hence our choice to manage all digital operations internally. 

The minimalist trend detected by Pitti Connect for summer 2021 - Pitti Immagine

FNW: What are the concrete advantages for exhibitors and buyers?
AP: Exhibitors continuously ask us for more qualified buyers as opposed to a greater amount. For their part, buyers need as much information as possible to prepare for their visit to the physical trade show. They are terrified of missing something important. We can help them by organising specific routes for them. This is what sets us apart from other marketplaces. Digital operations will continue to be more important, but they will remain united with the physical trade show concept.
FNW: You don’t believe in ‘all digital’?
AP: Virtual trade shows have their strengths but they will not replace physical events. Digital can, as I said, provide a lot of important information. However, it is certainly not a definitive solution. In the digital realm, there is a tendency for people to look at what they already know, whereas with a physical event people are more likely to discover new products. Research is encouraged there. Everything that takes place in reality, such as unexpected encounters, sensations, exchanges, what happens in passing etc, does not exist on the web.
FNW: What are the main nationalities which have visited Pitti Connect so far?
AP: The majority of our buyers are Italian, at 60%, followed by 40% international buyers, notably from the US, UK, Germany, and Japan. 
FNW: have your exhibitors secured concrete orders from your site?
AP: I don’t know in detail, but I think that the trend has been mostly to make contact with companies more than to place orders. It is inevitable, even Amazon did not sell much in its early days. 
FNW: Does your virtual trade show model appear to appeal to other operators?
AP: Indeed, we have already collaborated with textile trade show Milano Unica, which will take place from September 8 to 9, and will immediately launch its digital version, e-Milano Unica Connect, which will remain active until February. Other organisations have also expressed interest, and not only in the world of fashion but also in the design, ceramics, and even automobile industries. We have already held several meetings. This digital expertise allows us to diversify from our usual services. 
FNW: How do you foresee the upcoming autumn season? 
AP: Uncertainty remains. The month of September will still be largely dedicated to sales campaigns. We are facing a bit of a unique season as not all businesses were able to get their collections ready in June. In addition, the situation varies a lot between market players. 

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