On July 4, we caught up with Massimiliano Benedetti, the former Yoox marketing director, at the Hotel Principe di Savoia, in Milan. We were introduced through mutual friends in late April and made sure to cross paths during our summer travels through Europe. Massimiliano has an inspiring view on entrepreneurship, and he humored us while we recorded our conversation over coffee. We asked him the following four questions to help all of us better understand the life of an entrepreneur in the ever-evolving e-commerce space:
With your 12-plus years of experience building a global, publically traded e-commerce brand, what would you predict the online space will look like ten years from now?
Do you remember Star Wars? So think of business conglomerates like the evil side of the force and think about all the planets together in a constellation; the Internet will go in the same direction. You will not have more than three to four constellations of planets belonging to the same union, in a way. I don’t know if Amazon will be the big Star Wars button of the Internet, or if it’s going to be Google, or a group out of Japan or China, but I can guarantee you that only few will last, and the majority of all the Internet properties will go under the authority of the few. So it will be very much like the Star Wars unions of the planets that you see in the movie.
What tips would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
I always start from the customer’s perspective. Even if it is online, the customer experience is the most important variable. Always put yourself in the [shoes] of a customer when you look at a website or when you see the package, and you will always create the best results. Furthermore, consider what the customer is going to think about at home when they receive a package—really think about the full experience—and that’s truly the most important tip for building an Internet business.
What does an average day look like for you?
Most of the time right now, it is raising my nine-month baby boy. Otherwise, I am fortunate enough to spend a lot of time thinking and dreaming of new projects. I spend two-thirds of my year in Milan, and the balance traveling; most often I am in New York. Overall, I really value traveling. It continues to be the best form of inspiration for me. While on the road, I am able to get answers to my questions by talking to friends and sharing our experiences. But I still spend a lot of time looking at numbers. I love the analytical side of what I do, and it helps me create very focused plans for small and large companies.
What emerging market do you think is the most underestimated for fashion e-commerce?
Indonesia, but you obviously need to be careful in any emerging market. The biggest emerging market in Europe is definitely Russia. The challenge is, Russia is changing its rules for customs every month.
Photos: The Wade Brothers