Burberry Opens Its First Real-World Social Media Store in Shenzhen
(Australian Financial Review) — Luxury brand Burberry has opened a new store in Shenzhen where people can like, share, scan, book and spend their way to more shopping experiences via an associated mini-program on WeChat.
Burberry customers of the new store will have an animal avatar that evolves as they use the app more and interact with the physical store.
Like a coffee loyalty card remixed with the addictive thrill of Candy Crush, the WeChat app is designed to present shopping as a game with levels and rewards. The company is trying to cement the idea of finding new products on social media, and then sharing pictures wearing them, as part of the Burberry shopping experience.
The new mini program is synced with the freshly opened bricks-and-mortar store, and in-store shop assistants will be able to access the customer’s preferences, bookings, and other data through the backend of WeChat Work.
People who download the mini program will start off with an egg avatar icon, which then evolves into different animals that grant higher levels of access and privileges within the Shenzhen store the more they use the app and spend in store.
The Burberry Shenzhen store is targeted at its most innovative and influential customer base who crave new, exciting shopping experiences.
Burberry senior vice president of digital commerce Mark Morris said this will include being able to dine at the cafe, order different items off the menu and access a special room dedicated to Burberry’s signature trench coat. He dubs the experience “social retail.”
“We did quite a lot of customer journey analysis and found out they are very social in the first part of the journey, they want to interact with you online, they want to discover you online, but still, they want the in-store experience, with the luxury and service, before going social online again,” Morris said.
“So we have created a store that symbiotically exists both online and offline. The store itself is a beautiful luxury store with various components to it — it has a cafe, it has a secret experiential room, it has interactive windows with a sort of creative technology component to it that responds to your moment.”
Asked whether Burberry had debated the potential harms of further allowing and normalizing the use of technology to track, codify and benchmark peoples’ social currency, Morris said the new store was more about driving engagement among Burberry’s “fashion vanguard” customer target group than anything else.
“It is born from more the playful aspects of social currency. It’s about engagement rather than hierarchy,” Morris said.
While many luxury fashion houses have eschewed new technology as antithetical to their legacy brand positioning, Burberry has embraced change to avoid seeming stale.
In 2010 it was the first luxury brand to livestream a runway show online, by 2011 it launched Burberry.com in 44 countries and 11 languages and in 2013 it was the first luxury brand to join Instagram.
Earlier this year, a livestreaming event on T-mall with Chinese influencer Yvonne Ching browsing through items at Burberry’s Shanghai Flagship store attracted almost 1.4 million viewers, and a collaboration last month with Chinese influencer Bags to sell an exclusive range of bags through WeChat led to the collection selling out in under a minute.
Despite successes, Morris said that some of the brand’s experiments with new technology had not worked out as hoped for.
For instance, a bot that people could interact with during a fashion show was a flop, and it has had some failed experiments with voice activation tools, leading it to conclude that visual technology innovations work far better with its products.
For Morris, the new Shenzhen store is all about bringing together the best of the physical, tangible world with the growing possibilities of digital in the luxury retail space.
“For me personally, what I am most excited about is that it ties together a lot of the strands for what we have been doing,” Morris said.
“I think it lays out a road map for innovation for Burberry over the course of the next few years because you’ve brought together the physical and digital, you’ve done it in a way that then allows you to extend the work to other stores both in China and abroad, and it allows you to extend that social currency concept to other areas as well.”
The WeChat app and Shenzhen in store experience are designed to be mutually reinforcing.
This article was originally published by the Australian Financial Review
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