Burberry Brings Bricks and Mortar Back to Life
When Burberry announced that its flagship London store would become a physical manifestation of its website, the luxury world jolted to reality.
Upon the transformation of the 1820s Regent Street site, fashion insiders have been forced into a collective rethink of their previous 'looking down' at digital opportunities. Take Patrizio Bertelli, Chief Executive and co-owner of Prada, who told Harvard Business Review in August 2012 that he would not sell his collections online because he didn't want to use the same channel where "secondhand cars and books are sold." Is Bertelli throwing away a huge opportunity by shunning the world of online?
Whatever the belief is, Burberry is making an impact. Opening in September 2012, customers were promised that Burberry.com would be brought to life in what is the now the biggest Burberry store in the world. On my own visit to the store, instead of queuing, I was directed to a sofa by an iPad-equipped sales associate ["We designed it like that because when you shop online at home, you are on the sofa with your credit card, not standing up and queuing" says Burberry's Christopher Bailey].
Clothing is also embedded with chips, which can be read when placed on various screens across the store to produce product information. Further, if you choose to try an item on, the changing room mirror can transform into images of the item as soon on the catwalk. And if you have children with you, low interactive tabled are loaded with drawing applications to keep little customers entertained.
Merchandising in the store is also consistent with Burberry.com, so I didn't have to learn which categories/collections included what product if I was familiar with the online categories and vice versa. This is a great example of digital technologies, merchandising, physical product displays and the overall shopping experience coming together.
Music is a prominent theme, and a personal passion of Bailey's. I soon found out that the CCO could tweet his music recommendations and the songs were instantly streamed onto the website, whilst the store itself is equipped with 420 concealed speakers and a hydraulic stage for live performances.
Despite all of this, the question I often hear raised in retail circles is what is the future of bricks and mortar? However, this is the right question in that it implies there is a future, rather than the demise of physical stores. With e-tailing becoming proliferate and many customers preferring the convenience of shopping online, important questions are being raised for retailers.
Despite this, Burberrry has given us a glimpse of the future in terms of how the online retail world and physical stores can work seamlessly together. The Regent Street London Flagship store uses technology to create consumer experiences of the brand in new and innovative ways.
Within the fashion industry there are still many who look down on the enabling features of the internet, whilst Burberry have successfully utilised all mediums - from streaming their catwalk showson Twitter to sending 250,000 samples of their new fragrance via Facebook in exchange for customer details.
"The world is moving so fast. There is absolutely no room for laziness or for resting on your laurels" says Bailey. The Burberry team are now leading the way, and I hope more luxury retailers will give serious thought to their digital strategy.