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At Bulgari, Unifying the Client Experience Through Digital Connectivity

As its product and experiential offering continues to grow, BoF meets directors across Bulgari’s jewellery, watch and CSR units to hear how digital tools and cross-team collaboration is enabling more impactful connections with consumers.
Inside Bulgari's flagship store on Via Condotti in Rome | Source: Courtesy
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ROME, Italy — One of six houses within LVMH Group's jewellery and watch segment, acquired by the French conglomerate in 2011, while Bulgari's Roman heritage remains at the heart of the 136-year-old business, it has expanded its product offering to include bags, accessories and fragrances, as well as six luxury hotels and resorts. Last year, LVMH's jewellery and watch houses brought in €4.4 billion of sales.

Today, Bulgari is in the process of transforming how customers, employees and the wider industry are able to interact with its products and brand, comprehensively optimising its teams’ operations and development paths through new technologies and innovative approaches.

Empowered by state-of-the-art digital tools in Bulgari’s new 14,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Valenza, today Bulgari’s five main product pillars — jewellery, watches, accessories, perfumes and hotels — are perceived as one comprehensive whole. The strategy driving each business unit, designed to complement the others to create a connected, holistic brand experience, engages consumers at a number of different touch points in their lives and experiences.

Indeed, Bulgari is investing significantly in digitising its client-centric culture to continue to distinguish itself in the market through its connection to clients. “When [Sotirio] Bulgari first operated in Rome over 100 years ago, he knew each and every client, their daughters, sons, parents,” Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin told BoF. “Thanks to the digital world today, we are able to recreate those one-to-one relationships and re-establish a personal connection.”

To hear more about Bulgari’s evolving strategy to connect with its consumers across its business, BoF sits down with Mauro di Roberto, managing director of its jewellery unit, Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, creative director of the Bulgari Watches Design Center, and Eleonora Rizzuto, CSR sustainable development director for Bulgari.

Mauro di Roberto, managing director of Bulgari's jewellery unit |
Source: Courtesy

Mauro di Roberto, Managing Director of the Jewellery Unit

"Quality and craftsmanship are the foundation of Bulgari products, but we now make our products an experience."

How has digital greater enabled a connection with consumers?

The digital world has brought in a large number of new or prospective clients from the younger generations and enabled us to be more attentive to these clients' needs. The challenge is to learn about the digital platforms these younger consumers use as quickly as possible — and adapt to any changes quickly too. Indeed, we need to consider digital tools in every decision we make.

Before, it was about making a product you liked, putting it in stores and a client may like that product and buy it. Now, clients want to know about the product, so you have to show the quality behind it, who you are as a brand and how you work, through various communication channels.

How has your work evolved to meet the demands of consumers today?

Bulgari, like any other brand, has a history and DNA that we need to be faithful to, but there are definitely ways to evolve how we develop product moments to engage with new clientele and what they represent, as a new way of looking at the world. I don't think we have changed the type of product that we make, but our client-centric nature is becoming a more and more important part of the creative process, so we now look at certain needs of consumers, like Millennials, who look for experiences alongside products.

Quality and craftsmanship are the foundation of Bulgari products, but we are now trying to make our products an interesting experience through our communication strategies, interactive moments and so on. So today, we look to create what I call “moments of interest.” This might be creating limited editions of products, for example, through which we would use digital tools like WeChat in China to reach the younger target audience, or on Instagram, we make videos to show the value of craftsmanship behind the jewellery.

How has this changed how you work?

Today, we start the design process with marketing, who share insights with our designers. We are integrated, which allows us to continuously look at and evolve to current trends and take inspiration from the market.

As a brand, we're trying to make the company more appealing to the younger workforce and we have hired quite a few Millennials, which allows us to better understand their expectations as a consumer-base and employee-base. We're incorporating more CSR elements, so the manufacturing plant in Valenza has an LEED gold certification, which means all of our gold comes from a non-conflict context. We also have a partnership with Save the Children and through this, Bulgari gives back to society.

Today, we start the design process with marketing insights, which allows us to continuously evolve.

We are also very proud of our Made in Italy heritage and we want to continue to foster craftsmanship from within Italy. Hiring and recruiting new craftspeople is not easy but the Bulgari Academy has allowed us to work with Italian schools and choose from the best students.

How do you connect with other business units to facilitate further development?

Today, we collaborate with the accessories and watch units, which allows us to share ideas, and gain and share inspiration with these departments. I also think the Bulgari hotels offer great opportunities for the jewellery unit because we can utilise them for events. The hotels also create a sense of community among our clients, which builds upon the desire for experiences that younger consumers look for in a luxury brand today.

Our objective going forward is to work more closely with the marketing and communication teams when we are considering whatever products we will develop in the future, to bring us closer to the market and greater understand how it moves.

We have learned, and are still learning, how to collaborate better — because there are different needs across the units and it would be useful for us to better understand them and their clients' needs, so when it comes to creating a watch that looks more like a piece of jewellery, we can work together.

Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, director of the Bulgari Watches Design Center |
Source: Courtesy

Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, Director of the Bulgari Watches Design Center

"We work closely with our creative committee — it's really interesting to get inspiration from each other."

How has digital greater enabled a connection with consumers?

Today, it's important to have a specific target consumer in mind when we imagine our products. For sure, the younger generations are one of the most important target audiences and the tools they use the most are digital, so we think about this when we imagine our products. Digital tools allow us to gather data on our customers, to learn about consumer behaviour in stores and footfall in our boutiques, for example. This data helps us target specific audiences when developing certain products.

We also use digital tools like 3D printers to make prototypes and each time the technology changes, it provides more opportunities to play with materials in completely different ways. We are able to make a simulation of the portion of the cases and the dial, or look at how some components can live inside the watch together, and you know it will be accurate when calculated by a computer, so you save an amazing amount of time and money.

Hand-drawn designs are still my first tool today but thanks to computer-aided design and a tablet that we use, the limit is just your creativity. It's interesting to mix new technologies with the savoir faire because you can make an amazing rendering, but you need someone that can make it by hand and ask, "Is it actually possible to make it this way?"

How has your work evolved to meet the demands of consumers today?

We think about the new generations as a new client, so when we design a new product, we design it even for this new client. But in the next three, four, five years, we will again have a different generation and therefore a different consumer base, so it's important to be consistent with our roots and iconic designs, to reimagine ways of evolving products for the younger and loyal clientele. As a result, we use our archive as a resource to reinvent the brand, but we won’t copy and paste designs so we can keep it new and engaging.

How do you connect with other business units to facilitate further development?

Often, we get inspiration from the jewellery products and sometimes, we design with the jewellery department or we make products that inspire their collections. I’ve seen the accessories collection take inspiration from some leather straps we use on our watches, for example. We are very open and work closely with Jean-Christophe [Babin, Bulgari CEO] and with our creative committee.

It's really interesting to get inspiration from each other. It's amazing for us to then see different trends, materials and ways to play with leather or hard stones, for example. Whether a designer is making a necklace worth $5 million, leather goods or our watches, they work with exactly the same passion, attitude and attention to detail.

Eleonora Rizzuto, CSR Sustainable Development Director at Bulgari |
Source: Courtesy

Eleonora Rizzuto, CSR Sustainable Development Director

"We share our knowledge among all business units and departments on a frequent basis."

How has your work evolved to meet the demands of consumers today?

Consumers today are demanding to know more about how raw materials are obtained, how products are designed and how they are produced. With these demands for greater transparency, Bulgari put in place a robust social and environmental audit on suppliers, which not only offers transparency for our consumer but also has value across the supply-chain. As a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, we are also certified and monitored when we source gold, diamonds, coloured gemstones, leather and packaging.

We produce all of our products, except for our watches, in Italy, but our supply-chains for stones and raw materials come from other parts of the world, so we do a thorough check on how our partners work, to see if minors are working in the mines or if there is forced labour, which led to our very important partnership with Save the Children.

How has digital greater enabled a connection with consumers?

More and more, sustainability is a topic that is considered a real leverage for businesses and we collaborate with our colleagues across different units to help them leverage sustainability developments within their product types.

For example, we worked with the accessorises unit on a pilot project on a bag called Bulgari Touch. With the IT department, they invented an app on which the client can check all qualities, raw materials and characteristics of the product, so you have all the information on your phone. It's about putting CSR into the core strategy of the business.

How do you connect with other business units to facilitate further development?

We share our knowledge among all business units and departments on a frequent basis, and our sustainability vision is inspired by a continuous dialogue among our internal and external stakeholders. For example, we work on a daily basis with our purchasing department for stones and diamonds, who visit the mines with us as they know the markets and suppliers well and I benefit from their knowledge, to combine sustainable practices with their checks on quality.

The LVMH Group allows each company to operate autonomously and we are free to organise our own sustainability efforts, but we remain linked to their main projects. For example, Bulgari has implemented the LVMH Initiatives For the Environment, or LIFE, which is a programme based on nine factors taken from the 17 United Nations Sustainability Development Goals.

Each unit has developed specific plans to support the achievement of this objective, from product design to the shipment of raw materials, to help reduce the environmental footprint of all LVMH products.

This is a sponsored feature paid for by Bulgari as part of a BoF Careers partnership. To explore careers at Bulgari, please click here

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