According to McKinsey’s 2015 Digital Luxury Experience Observatory, e-commerce will be the world’s third largest luxury market after China and the US by 2025. While online shopping is increasingly commonplace, studies show that this does not necessarily ring the death knell for physical stores. According to McKinsey, brick-and-mortar outlets have the most impact on a consumer’s final purchase decision – because people still want to see and experience items of interest in real life as well as basic human interaction. As such, physical outposts remain crucial in building a connection between clients and brands.
“In my opinion, luxury brands create an emotional dimension of exclusivity in their stores which is difficult to replicate online. What will distinguish luxury brands in the physical sphere from the digital realm will be their ability to create unique in-store experiences for their clients,” shares Marc-Olivier Peyer, the Head of Technology at Digital Luxury Group. Peyer has worked with several luxury and premium brands over the last ten years to shape their digital strategies.
Increasingly aware of the importance of using online channels to drive offline store traffic, brands have taken steps to implement interesting strategies that address this.
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Luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet presents a click-to-try strategy on its official website. This allows clients to create a profile and book appointments with a luxury watch expert at the nearest store, in order to view the watches they selected online. This tactic is ideal for travel retail. It also gives the brand an opportunity to become informed about their clients so as to customize their experience.
“Online selling for luxury watch and jewelry brands isn’t a standard practice yet,” adds Peyer, “simple click-purchasing can diminish a luxury brand’s value. Within the luxury watch and jewelry industry, the pinnacle point of a client’s experience is the in-store purchasing of the item.”
Therefore, it is imperative that luxury watch and jewelry brands use the digital sphere to educate their clients before they visit the store, and to inform themselves about the customer too so as to master the moment of purchase. And with close to 1.5m followers on its Facebook page and 184k followers on Twitter, Audemars Piguet is already ahead in this regard.
Image : Audemars Piguet Official Website
In 2016, Hermès launched a teaser video for the announcement of the HermèsMatic Pop-Up-Store in Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Munich and Kyoto. Hermès’s laundromat-themed pop-up stores made use of creative storytelling and entertainment value to draw clients in. The idea was for customers to be able to either buy limited edition scarfs or dip-dye their old scarves. The pop-up store strategy creates a sense of urgency on the client’s part to visit it promptly due to its limited lifespan.
Peyer explains: “Today, consumers are better informed about the brands they are interested in than ever before. The customer’s habits in the industry have changed, and therefore the habits of the physical stores need to change too.”
In this case, Peyer means that Hermès needed to create an in-store experience that not only matched the client’s level of knowledge about the brand, but also that was unique and captivating. The pop-up store strategy was therefore used to re-invent Hermès’s in-store customer experience.
Image: HèrmesMatic Campaign
Rebecca Minkoff’s New York store, opened in 2014, has used the omni channel approach to embrace both the physical and the digital. The omni channel customer experience is a multi-channel strategy, which provides clients with the choice of shopping either from various digital devices or directly from a brick-and-mortar store. This tactic gives the brand the ability to customise each client’s experience by offering personalised suggestions for them.
“The online experience which clients take part in becomes integrated in their shopping habits. By digitalising one’s store, this enables the customers to engage in these same habits. They expect the same kind of experience offline as online,” comments Peyer.
Image : Rebecca Minkoff Connected Store Demo
The future of luxury brands lies in this hybridity between offline and online retail experiences. Brands will no longer be pre-occupied about whether their customers are shopping in the digital or in the physical spheres because a unification of both shall be the norm.
Peyer explains: “It will be all about context rather than offline or online retail experiences.”
By this he affirms that the focus will be about finding ways for brands to adapt themselves to the context in which the client would like to have their retail experience. The challenge for brands in the future therefore will be how they can generate interesting messages and moments in all spheres for the consumer.