When you first step into the Burberry store in Shenzhen you might accidentally mistake it for a pop up art show. With ten rooms each offering a different interactive experience you might even be too immersed in it all to actually shop. Interactive features like the living sculpture that reflects the viewer’s shape and the Thomas cafe are only a couple of the many experiences shoppers are immersed with when they step foot into this social retail space.
This time last year, Burberry decided to take the leap into binding fashion and tech with the announcement of the first luxury social retail store. The store launched in Shenzhen, the technology hub of China and the main focus of the store is a way for the brand to connect with their younger tech obsessed consumers by keeping them engaged through video game like features. Currently China accounts for one-third of global luxury sales and even more, they make up for 40% percent of Burberry’s sales making them their largest base of clientele. Since Shenzhen is recognized as the tech capital of China it only made sense that they tested their social retail store there first. The inspiration behind the approach was this idea that while most customer journeys may begin online, they still favour an in store shopping experience. Burberry took the best of both worlds and came up with this social retail space.
It is important to note that it is still a physical space but what makes it different from any of their other stores is the added technological features that can be found throughout the shopping experience. In a partnership with Tencent Technology the luxury brand designed a store filled with technological advancements that can be accessed via a program called WeChat. Similar to an app, WeChat is meant to be the consumer’s “digital companion” that they can utilize while navigating the store. The Burberry team emphasizes how this store is really about connecting with their customers to give them an improved shopping experience that will have them wanting to return.
With e-commerce on the rise brands are realizing that adding a technological twist to their physical spaces may be the answer to get people out of their homes. As much as we love being able to buy a new closet from the comfort of our beds, sometimes you just want to try stuff on and window shop just because you can. What most customers expect when they step into a physical space is someone to take care of them, answer their questions, and respond to their needs (do you have this in a different colour?). The approach of the social retail space is that the customer is provided with the pros of both online and instore shopping minus the cons. The convenience of the QR codes and virtual features makes the customer feel taken care of and removes the awkwardness of having to walk around the store until a salesperson notices you require their help. On the other hand, the attention to detail in creating a beautiful and immersive physical space makes the customer excited to get out of the house and get into the store.
One of the more unique features of the store is the animal avatar that each customer gets. And the catch is that the more you interact with the brand, the more you will get to see your avatar grow from an egg to a little companion. Known as the mini program, this is where customers can keep track of their avatar and their progress. As the brand is trying to connect with their younger clientele the avatars are reminiscent of video games such as Animal Crossing. For many, video games are used as a form of escapism from the real world. With 87% percent of GenZ’s reporting that they play video games at least once a week Burberry was right to take this approach in a way to connect with their younger clientele. This is reminiscent of Balenciaga debuting their Summer 2021 collection in an online world. Going beyond what any brand has ever done, creative director Demna Gvasalia designed a utopian world filled with luxury fashion. Pushing the boundaries of how we think fashion should be presented and consumed is opening doors to creations such as these.
In an attempt to take it one step further, Burberry has created their own social currency to go along with the experience. Each time the customer interacts with the store they are rewarded with social currency that can be used for things such as unlocking new outfits for their avatars or being able to order new menu items at the cafe. Features like these are equally reminiscent of video games where the player (shopper) is encouraged to keep interacting in order to unlock as much as possible. Additionally, if they save up their currency they can eventually unlock a new world, or what is known as the “Trench Experience”. This digital immersive space allows them to create content to share on social media.
Smart fashion may not be the new norm quite yet but fashion enthusiasts are slowly embracing the collaboration between fashion and technology and big things are sure to come!
The QR is making a comeback and fashion brands are using this in their favour. One of the features of the social retail store is that every single garment being sold is labelled with a QR code which is also a first for the brand. When the code is scanned, customers are further immersed into the digital experience unlocking additional product information and storytelling.
In terms of aesthetics the store remains true to the iconic legacy of the Burberry brand utilizing a number of their house codes. The Trench Experience is inspired by the famous Burberry trench and is an homage to the founder Thomas Burberry. The store is home to three fitting rooms with three different design concepts: the Burberry Animal Kingdom, Reflections, and the Thomas Burberry Monogram. Customers are able to pre book which fitting room they would like to use through the mini program. And it doesn’t stop there, customers have the ability to play around with lighting and music in their dressing rooms for a fully immersive experience.
Interestingly the two leading industries that inspire emotional connections in consumers are tech and fashion. In a survey focusing on consumer connections with brands they found that 65% of people shared they felt an emotional connection with a brand. Consumers want to feel cared for, understood, and heard from their favourite brands all of which are present in Burberry’s values for this new store.
Tech x fashion is the collab of the century and brands are constantly displaying innovative ways to combine the two. The social retail space that Burberry has created is only the beginning of what we are going to see in not only luxury, but the entire fashion industry.
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