EMEA Experience Maker of the Year Laura Pezzotta dreams big with personalized, poignant ecommerce

“It’s not a catalog...” says Laura Pezzotta, EMEA winner of the Experience Maker of the Year category at the 2022 Adobe Experience Maker Awards.

She’s absolutely right — Dedicato a Te is a completely reimagined ecommerce experience, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) delight dreamt up by Pezzotta in her role as head of the DTC personalization unit at Italian multinational food company Barilla.

Pezzotta calls it “emotional ecommerce” — an innovative move for the world’s largest pasta producer — one born from passion, curiosity, and a willingness to ask questions and disrupt business as usual.

We spoke about what it takes to create memorable and emotional customer experiences.

Congratulations on taking home the coveted Experience Maker of the Year award in EMEA! What it was like to win?

This prize represents a huge amount of work with a great team, great partners, and a great partnership with Adobe. But it was totally unexpected! Our project is something new, an innovation and breakthrough for our company. To be recognized creates more awareness about what we have done.

You’ve built an experience that creates a direct relationship with the end consumer — can you tell us about Dedicato a Te?

Dedicato a Te is emotional ecommerce, meaning to us, it’s more than just a transaction — we’re creating emotions and selling a connection. The main proposition is that you create a personal gift to dedicate to someone you love — cakes, cookies, and more.

You can select from different graphics for mothers, fathers, grandmothers, a birthday, anniversary, or love, for example, and add a name, quote, and photo. The name Dedicato a Te means you have to take time to create something that is totally unique, personalized, and a really special package that represents the love you want to show.

There’s also the real-time aspect and ability for customers to see it come to life instantly. How did that come about?

It’s not just a catalog standard to ecommerce. We customized the Adobe Commerce platform to create a 3D configurator — a powerful tool for people to understand what they are creating in real time.

At Barilla we produce lots of products, and with Dedicato a Te we created a hybrid supply chain that operates on-demand and is made with many different partners. The crucial part was to build something that is stable, easy to manage and monitor, and solid. This is not just a campaign, it is a stable business unit and product.

We created a website that is emotional, easy to use, and really functional, because in less than 3–4 minutes, you can customize everything and check out in a no-friction path. It has all the benefits you have with standard ecommerce, but the emotion you don’t normally have with a catalog.

You say it’s not a campaign, it’s an actual business. What was your motivation for this?

I decided to take on a new challenge, to get out of my comfort zone, and to prove that digital is something that can not only sell product, it can improve the connection we have with people.

We learn every day, and hear a lot of customer feedback. Some have said to us that we create magic moments. We’ve saved some couples! We’ve created unforgettable Christmas moments. Grandmothers start to cry when they unbox the package.

We create more connection, and our customers really want to share the emotion we’re able to generate. When you wake up in the morning and think your job is to bring a little bit of joy to other people, it’s the best reward you can have.

Saving couples and making grandmothers cry — these aren’t your standard KPIs!

Yeah! And we’ve introduced a new type of KPI, not just revenues or net promoter score, but also the level of satisfaction among our clients. It’s a new way to think about the role of digital, not just in terms of sales or revenues.

How did you sell the dream internally and galvanize support from the C-suite down for resources here?

My advice for others is to spend a lot of energy internally to create commitment, positive vibes, and attention. It was crucial for us from day one to gain buy-in and commitment. It’s important to have commitment from the leadership team down.

We have a cross-functional team including packaging, supply chain, customer care, marketing, and more that work within an agile methodology. It’s a new way of working inside our company — technically, we’re not a startup as we’re inside a multinational company, but at the end of the day, we bring all the characteristics of a startup.

I started with a proof of concept with a small team. Colleagues were reassured that we were proceeding step by step, and measuring results along the way.

From the beginning we started a new way of working, using a hackathon among agency partners instead of a normal pitch to think about how we could deliver this pilot together. This was a new way of thinking, and those who attended the hackathon said it was amazing — a new way of running a project.

It sounds risky, and it takes courage, just like a startup, but look at the result. It’s very cool, and I’m sure you’ve inspired others at the company to start thinking differently.

Yeah! A lot of people want to work for us, internally. And externally, consumers may know the brand, but with this project they come to know the brand in an innovative way. They view us in a different way. For me, that’s the best feedback I can receive.

It’s one thing for our brand to be on the table during a customer’s breakfast or dinner, but it’s another to stay in the kitchen with our logo next to a family photo on a tin box, totally customized, with a special message. It’s a completely different way to perceive the brand, with emotion, memory and familiarity.

A wonderful brand experience. What motivated you throughout this initiative?

I’m a curious person, and I never stop myself from asking a question, or being disruptive. I try to bring value and to change the rules.

I try to improve the potential, the heritage, and the strength of any brand I work with, and mix it with new technology, new opportunities, and new customer needs.

Every brand can innovate, but the crucial point is not the knowledge of the technology, because you can buy anything now, but to dream something different, something bigger, and something stronger.

- Laura Pezotta

I think I’m quite a dreamer because I really love to test and learn. It’s not just about breaking the rules because it’s cool, I want to demonstrate that it’s possible to create something beautiful in another way.

It’s a way of thinking, of acting, it’s in my DNA.

Where do you envision this going, and how may it impact your business in the future?

I think it’s so powerful and versatile — our dream is to share this model across different brands, markets, and nations within Barilla. But, I also think it’s a great idea in general, showing that it’s possible to use ecommerce to create something totally different.

Food is an amazing sector in which everything is evolving, and we can explore so much with personalization. Food is really an innovation area in this moment. It’s not just a matter of translating and selling the same product in a different way, it’s a matter of thinking in another way.

What advice do you have for other experience makers?

Passion is the key. With passion and curiosity, you can do anything.