Connected & Ready

Making retail experiences more intelligent, with Augusto Modigliani

Episode Summary

In this episode of Connected & Ready, host Gemma Milne talks with Augusto Modigliani, Chief Marketing Officer at Beabloo about the impact of AI and big data on marketer decision-making. They discuss customer experiences and loyalty, how AI can help companies increase their advertising ROI, and the ways automation and bot technologies are unlocking opportunities to improve customer service. Dynamics 365 Commerce delivers a complete omni-channel retail solution that unifies back-office, in-store, and digital experiences. This end-to-end solution empowers retailers to personalize customer engagement, increase employee productivity, and optimize operations across physical and digital channels. Request a live demo today: Thank you for listening to Connected & Ready! Do you have ideas of how we can improve the show? Want to recommend a guest for us to interview? We value your partnership and participation. Please drop us a note at We would love to hear from you.

Episode Notes

Gemma Milne talks with Augusto Modigliani, Chief Marketing Officer at digital signage, analytics, and marketing automation company Beabloo. They discuss expectations for the impact of technology on online and offline shopping; how companies are using AI, automation, and bot technologies to shape the customer experience in stores and online; leveraging technology to drive customer service improvement; and where these solutions may be taking the world of marketing in the future.

Topics of discussion


About Augusto Modigliani:

Augusto is currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Beabloo where he is responsible for the strategic development and tactical execution of the marketing, sales, and partner strategy across the organization and alignment with the overall Beabloo Group strategy. A creative, strategic thinker with a successful track record of rapidly driving initiatives from concept to implementation, Augusto has a strong entrepreneurial spirit with solid marketing and business development expertise. He has exceptional product intuition and is an engaging team builder, problem solver, and savvy go-to-market strategist.

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Episode Transcription

Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready, an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed, brought to you by Microsoft. I'm Gemma Milne. I'm a technology journalist and author, and I'm going to be exploring trends around how companies are adapting to a disrupted world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. In today's episode, I'm chatting with Augusto Modigliani, chief marketing officer at Beabloo, to hear all about how artificial intelligence and big data help marketers make informed decisions that directly influence the customer's experience and loyalty. We dive into AI technologies can help companies increase the return on advertising investments by as much as three hundred and fifty percent, how learning more about how automation and bot technology is unlocking potential opportunities in the field of customer service. 

Gemma [00:01:06] Augusto, thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show today. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, a bit about your role, your experience, and your journey at Beabloo? 

Augusto [00:01:16] Hello and thank you for having me here today. So my background is in marketing. I'm the chief marketing officer at Beabloo. So my experience really is related to the marketing, I've been a marketer for more than 20 years now. Different areas of marketing. I started more in advertising and then I developed my career towards technology. And nowadays I'm working with technology and mainly I take care of the marketing strategy and the business development and with this special focus in artificial intelligence and innovation. 

Gemma [00:01:51] Amazing. There's so many different topics to touch on when it comes to that intersection between marketing and technology. Thinking about the evolution of technology, the transformation of shopping habits, I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about what Beabloo does in terms of helping retailers strengthen what we call omnichannel customer experience. 

Augusto [00:02:10] Taking a little step back, you know, I don't know if you guys remember that, you know, a few years ago there was this kind of buzz words going around that they all, the business will all transfers into the online world. And you know, there will not be any retailer in the physical world. That actually didn't happen. I mean, that was completely false. Obviously, we are physical people and we need to have physical experiences. So it is true that a lot of business transferred into the online world, especially after the pandemic. You know, that was a great help to keep business going on. But what we know today is that we are a O2O environment, so we are online and offline all the time when we wake up in the morning. We immediately go online. Then we go offline again. We have breakfast and we go online again and we're checking the news or whatever. So it's a complimentary thing. So we keep going on and off because from the retailer point of view, easily there will be some time confusing to understand the behavior of customers and the real focus is always to improve the customer experience and to retain customers. We know that in time, businesses acquire more value. So the concept of having a good customer experience has become the real value of a purchase. So this is changing the way we market things and the way we want to promote things. We know that people want to share their experiences, for example, it's very relevant for people to share their experiences. I know that you go to a restaurant, and you know, as soon as the food is brought to a table, people take a picture and shared it before eating it, and they don't care if the food gets cold or not. It's a different concept of an experience. So knowing this, we can help retailers to kind of meet that gap. What does it mean? As a company we started about 14 years ago as a digital signage company, so it was like, you know, work software hours and basically creating this concept of a you know, a CMS, a content management system that could deploy content into screens inside of stores. Then there was a really big evolution of this concept and a clear understanding that you know, you can distribute content. But if you do not know who's watching this content, your whole investment is you know, it's based on something really that you cannot measure. And this is where data came into the equation. So we understood that to collect data and to use those data to improve the customer experience was super necessary to us and for, you know, to our customers. So we started to build our big data platform and started to collect data in the physical world to understand if this content that you know, we were showing in screens was content that was appropriate for the people that were experiencing in the physical space of improving the customer experience. And this developing time to the point that, you know, nowadays we collect a lot of data. Of course, always seen in an anonymous way, always respecting the privacy of people, never recording. So is this statistical collection of data, so is aggregated data. And this is helping us to make things happen in terms of an experience. And we got to the point, but of course, artificial intelligence made perfect sense because you always have this duality. So you have the customer experience and you also have the employee's experience. I come from marketing, so I know what is the pain of creating content and distribute content, you know? So this is what we're really focus on, is improving customer experience, doing the automation of certain things happening in physical store and collecting insights. Inside that can help, not only, let's say, the store owner or business owner to improve the customer experience, but also to optimize their resources as they have, and in the end, it's improving efficiency. 

Ad [00:05:58] Dynamics 365 Commerce delivers a complete omni-channel retail solution that unifies back-office, in-store, and digital experiences. This end-to-end solution empowers retailers to personalize customer engagement, increase employee productivity, and optimize operations across physical and digital channels. Request a live demo today by following the link in the episode description.

Gemma [00:06:32] So let's dive in a little bit to some examples then, of what precisely you mean by making these physical spaces, I guess embedded with AI. It's interesting, specifically, this idea of making the spaces more intelligent because the big discussion that you've been hearing a lot in these kind of technology and retail of the future retail conversations, you touched on this, the idea of the death of a high street. Is this idea of like using your bricks and mortar store for a really particular usage and then using online for what it's good for. So I wonder if you could touch a little bit on that. What do you mean by making physical spaces more intelligent and why does it work so well specifically in that environment? 

Augusto [00:07:13] So I can give you some examples, so imagine that you know you entering in a brick and mortar in a store, and the music is set to a certain volume that is a standard volume for 200 people and you're alone in the store, so that immediately doesn't add up to me. So the music should go down or up depending on how many people you have in the store. So then imagine that you are walking through the store, and as you're walking, there is some content on the screens and the content, let's say that doesn't reflect at all who you are. So, for example, you know, nowadays we can show content based on gender and age. The content can be a little bit closer to what you may look for. The other thing that we do is when you see the content on the screen, we make sure that what is represented in the screen is physically available in the store. So one of the worst experience when you go to a store is that you go there and you see something you, want to buy it, and then they do not have it and they send you to another store in the city or they say, buy it online or they say, we can have it here tomorrow. No, I mean, our system connects to the inventory, so you can decide to only display scenes that are available in the store, and this helps employees as well.

Gemma [00:08:32] I think that leads quite nicely then onto this question of what does it mean to really enhance the marketing team? So you guys have this active customer intelligence suite. Tell us a little bit about that and how it works with the marketing teams. 

Augusto [00:08:44] The customers are super sophisticated nowadays. There are tons of information available online and offline, and they don't need to be convinced of anything. You know, what you need to propose is something that is relevant to them and is something that they spontaneously want and they need to buy. And so basically, the marketing team creates one content for everybody. So you have a female and male content, and they distribute this content everywhere. So because it is complexity from a marketing team and previously you were talking about the omnichannel concept, you can imagine that the game has really changed now because before we were talking about, you know, billboard on the street, we were talking about television ads saying we were talking about radio. Now, with the social media it's completely different because you can reach people immediately. You can have an immediate reaction. And when you create a content, the content needs to be replicated in many different platforms. So for a marketing team, it is a really complex job to create all the content for many different platforms and distribute it. And, you know, see the reaction, and reacting in real time. And here is really where artificial intelligence can come to an end, helping the marketing team to focus on the content creation and the creativity on the content, but not on the distribution of the content. This is why we have one of our solution is called Minerva, which distributes content. So what it does is connected with sensory and so it's sensory and in the physical stores, and it collects data in an anonymous way. So it's not collecting, you know, is not recording any video is not recording any faces or, you know, identity of somebody. What it does is notice that x amount of people were here today. Their age brackets was this. They spend this amount of time in this area, and most likely they purchase from this area because they stayed x amount of time in this area, so you know most likely they picked up. But this is anonymous, and this machine learning also knows that, you know, start to learn that that day was sunny. You start to learn that it was a bank holiday, maybe. Start to know that, you know, at a certain time you have more of a peak of teenager and at other times you have a peak of, you know, more adults, the amount of time they spend inside of the stores. In all of this, the machine starts to learn it, and understanding, you know, what's happening into this environment. And then you start to propose to deliver certain content that is being created by the marketing team. You know, it could be a more efficient way of doing it to having a great marketing team, able to create great content to create campaigns to focus on the result of this campaign because the machine learning is distributing the content. And I always like to add to this that, you know, artificial intelligence, the concept of artificial intelligence has to be clear that, artificial intelligence, the way we do at least, but I think in general, is not built to substitute humans because there is no machine that will create the content. The creativity of a human being is not going to ever be replaced by a machine and this has been proven. What it is to help humans to perform better in their job and to do the part that, you know, is more related to their creativity and to the campaign and so on. 

Gemma [00:12:03] Let's build a little bit on that point. There was a study said that in 2022, 40 percent of workers with customer facing positions are going to consult daily with a virtual AI powered support agent in their role. So I wonder if you could just build a little bit on that projection and tell us a little bit about how important it is to humanize bot technology for customers or for workers who are using these technologies to engage with customers? What does that really mean? 

Augusto [00:12:30] Well, I think, you know, we also do have like, you know, some solution in our company that are bot that are in physical spaces. So our digital signage screen can give you information and, you know, compare products and can suggest you complimentary products. And all of this is happening because again, it's connected to the customer experience. So you are in a store, you want to have information. There are some solutions that you can pick up a product that you immediately you get on the screen the specification of the product, the ingredients understanding that you know, if you're allergic to something, and so on. So let's say virtual assistant are super important in terms of improving the customer experience and as well in helping their employees to not go crazy and running around in a store and close to some product. But you have the possibility to talk with the screen, and the screen has the possibility to answer to you. It is a virtual assistant because it is a screen and it's not a human being, but it's next to the product and it can give you all the information about the product, it can do a comparison about the product, it can tell you what is complimentary, it can even tell you know which colors they match because, for example, I'm one of those guys that don't match the colors very well. So is basically a digital sign, a screen, or we can put it even in a video wall or in any shape or form. What is very relevant to us, and this is something that came out from research that we have done. But in general, we understood that people liked the bot to not be confused as a human. What I'm trying to say is that most people prefer to know that it is a machine because otherwise they feel cheated. You know, they feel like, you know, you made me speak with a machine. But this machine cannot really solve my problem. When instead from the beginning, making sure that it's a machine that is talking to you but is there to assist you anyway, people are more than happy to use it and to take advantage of the fact that, you know, it's available 24 seven. So this is what we are focusing on, of course, is to create the best experience possible, but never forget that you are interacting with the machine. And if you need the next level, there is always a human available to help you. So the machine is not there to substitute the human, it's there throughout the human and employees. 

Gemma [00:14:46] It comes back to that point around managing expectations, right? It's you don't want people to expect something of a particular ilk and then be disappointed. You've mentioned data and security and privacy quite a few times in this conversation, and it is great to hear that it's clearly really important to Beabloo and to yourself. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about how you're able to ensure data privacy when you are working with lots of different kinds of data to provide these experiences both in store, but then also across all these various different kind of marketing suite of products that you have? 

Augusto [00:15:20] Yes. We follow the GDPR, which is, you know, one of the strongest law for data privacy regulation. The main concept behind this is that, first of all, it's not right to use personal data of people. And the second that is even more important, maybe, is that you don't need it, you don't need it. You don't need to know the name of somebody. It has to be such a great experience that you don't need to be intrusive of their life to convince them to buy something. So the new generation of consumers and customers are completely aware of this, and they value the experience way more than the previous generation. And you know, sometimes the product itself that they buy is not as relevant, because it's the experience they are having buying their product and sharing that experience. For these, you really don't need to violate any privacy, it doesn't make any sense to violate the privacy of people.

Gemma [00:16:13] So you mentioned that you're not collecting specific information about customers, but at the same time you are able to determine rough age segments, what the weather there is, how many people roughly are in the store? I'm assuming you have some kind of sensor technology within the digital signage or within your system. How does it work in order to collect that data? 

Augusto [00:16:34] So we have different ways of collecting the data. Of course, when we talk about gender and age for example, there is a technology called computer vision that doesn't record any image, but only is acting as a sensor. So there is like this micro camera that only detects that a woman between the age of 20 and 30 was in a specific moment for a specific amount of time. This is the technology that we use to determine the gender and age, basically.

Gemma [00:16:59] Talking about, I guess you mentioned this idea of if you can just make the experience so great or really get the segment right as it were so that whatever is being shown on screen is relevant. How do you get that right? Right. Because I'm a woman in between the ages of 26 and 30, and I'm not the same as many other women between the ages of 26 and 30. But if that's what you knew about me, maybe to address, I hate wearing dresses, for example. So how do you get the insights that work without making assumptions that are frankly going to put people off? What's that based on? And specifically, how do you do that for all different clients who have got different market segments? You know, you can't possibly have enough data from each individual client to then use for their own personal segments. Tell us a little about that. 

Augusto [00:17:49] For sure there is an approximation. You know, it's not a perfect science or, there will always be the possibility that I'm showing you something that you don't like dresses. And there is no way that I can know that. But it's through a calculation. So we analyze data and we understand trends and we understand the behaviors and we go for the majority. So we go for in general, statistically. I'll give you an example: so let's say that we are, you know, we are analyzing the physical space where you have a store. And by analyzing the store, we understand that this x amount of let's say data points. So this amount of people, let's say were in this area. And you know, we're looking at let's say the dress area and there are these age brackets. And then this converted to a cell. There is a statistician calculation that this is the content that fits the most in the specific moment. Then you have all that type of things because to the equation, you add the concept of, you know, the weather, you add the concept of the special event that is happening. So that's why it's not anymore a human calculation it's a machine learning that we calculate. So there is always a margin of error because, you know, maybe I like dresses and now it's going to show me other things, and this is, I think, acceptable, but it's way better than to have, you know, the same content looping constantly. 

Gemma [00:19:15] Let's kind of talk a little bit about the future. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about I guess what you envision the future of, I guess marketing technology is? How do you think technology is going to continue to impact organizations marketing plan? What kind of possibilities can marketers unlock with technology? 

Augusto [00:19:34] Well, I mean, they're different, as I explained to you before. You know, we tend to always forget about a specific segment or category, the data, the employees, you know, so we see that there is a lot of space for improvement in the area. And I'll just give you an example. So the solution I was explaining to you before that is called Minerva, this artificial intelligence that distributes content based on, you know, machine learning. Also, we built something on top of that, which is a prediction model. So it forecasts. So we are testing this right now, it's actually existing. So what we did, we are able to predict what will happen into the store, into the physical place that day. So imagine normally if you are an employee of, let's say, a fast fashion. So every morning before the store opens, normally they are inside of the store, they set up the different things that need to be set it up and, you know, refilling the shelves or whatever it is. This machine learning delivers every morning a forecast of what will happen in the store that day, so the amount of customers that will go there, which areas they will visit, which will be the most like product to be sold that day. And this will allow them to be prepared to understand when they need to have more people on staff during their working hours, and to have a better experience as an employee as well. You kind of have like a guide that is not 100 percent, but let's say, maybe, you know, 70/80 percent accurate and it improves during the years because the more the machine learn, the more you know, the forecasts get closer to what's going to happen. Talking about the future, there is something that we did, and actually we're going to present it at the Smart City World Congress next week. So together with Microsoft, we together with the City Council of Barcelona, we created what is called City Retail Lab. So we took an entire neighborhood of the city, and we digitalized some stores there. So we choose four categories of stores: so we took a cafeteria like a coffee shop, we took a sport store, we took a hair dresser and we took a flower shop that is really famous in Barcelona because it's 24/7. So this is something that was very, very successful. And, you know, they saw, a really big increase of their presence, and of course, in sales and optimization of internal resources like employee time and all of this. And all of this was thanks to everything that I was telling you before, you know, artificial intelligence. Receiving a forecast in the morning and telling you what is going to happen to that day, having an analysis of the space and knowing you know how people are moving inside of the space and understanding, you know, where are the critical places in your store that are not working? So why people are not going there and understanding what is the flow inside of the store? For sure, we are going more and more towards using data in a conscious way and a little bit try to make sense out of this data with concrete actions, so we need to have concrete action. And data you know are fantastic, are the most beautiful thing in the world because, you know, they can give you a lot of insights, but they need to have some outcomes that small and medium business can implement. And we are replicating this lab now in different cities. And you know, it is becoming something quite important because cities are worried about, you know, probably the neighbors, you know, you cannot lose the local stores. Artificial intelligence will play a big role in the near future. And you know, we are in this stage where artificial intelligence now is coming to, let's say, most use because before it was only used by certain entities that were banking, you know, they've been using artificial intelligence for several years. And now that it is reaching the small and medium businesses, that means the artificial intelligence is available to basically everybody. And you know, you have a lot of toolkits where you can develop your own things and, you know, try things. So I'm sure the artificial intelligence will play a great role in the next year, it's already playing a greater role right now, and it's going to get better and better, better, always connected to improving, you know, performance to improving customer experience or the experience will be in the center of this equation. And if I have to look really far away and I'm really curious and I, you know, I would like to talk to you one day about this, meaning that, you know, for some, some years from now, for sure, you know, maybe we will talk about quantum computing and you know where that will bring us to because that will be disruptive, for sure. Because if we are thinking about data and you know, the concept of, you know, collecting data, you can just imagine with the quantum computing what could happen theoretically. So one day would be nice to talk about that as well. 

Gemma [00:24:31] Perhaps a topic to keep the podcast going for a couple of years and we'll get to it. Although saying that quantum computing is certainly a topic that's still very now and is getting a lot of attention precisely, as you pointed out, because of the need to be able to handle huge amounts of data and run simulations to be able to make these kind of intelligent predictions. But I really like what you said earlier on about using data and technology in general, in both a conscious, but actionable way. And I feel that that's true now and absolutely should be moving forward. It really is the only way we're going to get a good future, regardless of what technology, shall we say, wins out as we move forward. Augusto, thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show, talking about marketing and technology and their intersection really broadly, but also giving us some brilliant examples of what you guys are up to at Beabloo and some of the really exciting and new things are happening with you in your labs all over the world. So Augusto thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show. 

Augusto [00:25:25] Thank you very much for having me. 

Gemma [00:25:30] That's it for this week. Thank you so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Augusto's work and indeed, some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. If you enjoyed the episode, please do take a few moments to rate and review the podcast. It really helps other people discover the show. And don't forget to hit subscribe, and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. 

Ad [00:25:58] Learn how Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce can help you personalize customer engagement, increase employee productivity, and optimize operations. Request a live demo today by following the link in the episode description.