BertO: The digital story of an ever-evolving furniture maker
BertO was a business born out of a bold idea and the hard work and creativity of brothers Fioravante and Carlo Berto. In 1974, the brothers set up their furniture company in the Brianza design district of Meda. Current CEO, Filippo Berto, said: “My father and uncle started this company almost 50 years ago. We were a small artisanal workshop that started out in a basement then grew one step at a time”. The company now sells sofas and furniture worldwide, through its physical stores and online showrooms.
Filippo Berto is a businessman passionate about the potential of the web, and is no newcomer to the benefits of e-commerce. “It took 20 years to build this project, little by little. Digital technology and Google’s products have given us the set of tools we needed.” Filippo explained the benefits of putting showrooms online: “When customers come to us, they have already done 90% of the buying, making for more effective sales: now, a visit to our showroom is an exclusive appointment with a consultant, not just an ‘in-store visit”. A new-generation business and a jump forward for the brand: the company has grown thirty-fold since Filippo took over, with a marketing team of 11 people and the BertO website now speaks six languages.
Running a growing business requires the ability to adapt, including when faced with a crisis such as COVID-19. “Seeing everybody go into lockdown was heartbreaking. So, I decided the time had come to make the most of all those years we spent investing in digital technology. We have been doing Google Ads campaigns since 2002: lately, we’ve been trying to make them more effective by adapting them to the present-day situation”.
Knowing customers by studying the data and reacting to an out-of-the ordinary situation, Fillipo explains, “we worked on display campaigns and on analytics, we stepped up our Google Ads advertising with campaigns several times a day. Talking to customers clearly and openly, telling them what was happening in our online showrooms every step of the way. Not just online sales and promotions, but also being well aware of the potential of inbound marketing. Our strength is our credibility and ability to talk directly to customers. This is why we optimised our YouTube channel with new playlists and videos”.
As well as adapting their Google Ads campaigns and updating their YouTube channel, the young BertO CEO regularly invites experts and guests to webinars he conducts. He explained, “Digital tools were extremely useful because we could keep in touch with our customers via videos, posts, newsletters, emails and webinars”. At the peak of the emergency, he announced the temporary closure of the company’s stores and interruption in production during a video. “In the early 2000s, I realised that we had to invest in new strategies in order to compete. Ours was a great heritage: our history, our district, our know-how. This is why I posted a video when we went into lockdown. I was emotional, but it was something I truly felt. And this is why we decided not only to reboot, but also to help our local community: we donated 5% of our online sales to health facilities fighting COVID-19 in our area.”
Filippo, like his company, is not afraid to try something new: “Ours is a very traditional sector, still very much using an old-style of communication and distribution. It’s only through hands-on experience, by learning, understanding and trying out new tools first-hand, that business people can truly see if they work and how they can turn around their business”. No surprises, just courage. As the CEO says: “People will always be the same. It’s the companies that need to change.”