MILAN — “People don’t need to actually buy products but essentially to have access to them,” said Giuseppe Mayer, chief digital officer at the Armando Testa Group advertising agency.

Mayer believes that the shopping experience — whether on or offline — is often more important than the final purchase. Mayer was speaking on Thursday during the third edition of the “Mashable Social Media Day Italia + Digital Innovation Days” summit here. The three-day event hinged on speeches and roundtables focused on digital innovation, marketing and social media.

“Customer journey, such as to create a purchase experience, is essential,” explained Pepe Moder, freelance senior digital adviser, to introduce the audience to “experience marketing” and illustrate how it’s shaping retail globally. Both speakers agreed in suggesting that experience is the main goal brands should target to gain new appeal, both on and offline.

Moder highlighted that today brands are seeing declines in store traffic and worried that the expected number of store closures in the U.S. in 2017 will be greater than the amount of those closed in the previous two years.

To foster sales and customer loyalty, Mayer pointed out that “being a [retail] platform which listens to clients, competitors and the pipeline is essential.” He also noted how this could improve the client’s perception of a brand. For example, the U.S.-based online retailer Stitch Fix, which just filed for an initial public offering, offers a personal stylist service and delivers five pieces of clothing to the client’s house each month based on personal settings, feedback and returns.

Using the expression “reconciliation of experiences,” Moder described the combined approach of the Internet with offline retail. A case in point is Timberland, which equipped two of its U.S. stores with smartphones that clients use to make their selections. The product will then be directly found at checkout. “Because if a person is not a [loyal] client of a brand, he will unlikely download the brand’s app, and usually does it after the purchase,” continued Moder.

Mobile purchase was also a hot topic, as it is shifting the way customers are willing to buy. One example was the case study of the cashier-free shopping experience, which Amazon’s convenience store debuted in Seattle. Also, the new mobile payment methods are affecting companies’ business models, which need to align with recurring payment, a standard that involves products as well as services.

The speakers also stressed the importance of a customized experience, which gives brick-and-mortar retailers the same opportunities clients can find online. The eyewear firm Warby Parker and Italian bespoke tailor Lanieri were given as examples of the “hyper customized” approach.

“Clients come first,” said Moder, who described the social customer journey as today’s goal for retailers.

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