Are social stores the future of retail? According to Burberry, they are.
The English label relaunched its brand in the post-pandemic era by opening the first Social Store in the world in Shenzen, the Chinese Silicon Valley.
What is a social store?
A social store is a digital place where enjoying social shopping having the possibility to enter in the world of the brand thanks to the virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Her you are. It is a matter of seconds. Simply cross the threshold to immediately immerse yourself in the world of Burberry’s social store.
An interactive display case brings you to the Burberry‘s iconic catwalks. An innovative selfie station let you share yours with your followers; and this is just the beginning. Another important innovation is the social currency, which increases the interaction with the brand.
Consumers unlock exclusive rewards and experiences thanks to the social currency.
Each individual will be assigned an avatar that will evolve as interaction improves, unlocking discounts, new characters, and rewards such as one-of-a-kind dishes at Thomas’s Café. Another prize is the access to the “Trench Experience” room, where people can create special content for social media and try on the iconic trench coats.
Besides, all products are accompanied by QR codes linked to digital screens: by simply scanning them, the user will be able to enjoy the storytelling, which can be easily shared on social media thanks to special content designed ad hoc.
Through this engagement, it is possible to educate the consumer, making traceable and completely transparent all the processes involved in the production of iconic garments of the highest quality.
Mobile and smart devices are the protagonists of this universe, involving customers in an immersive experience that can accompany them wherever they go, reaching its peak with the visit of the physical social store.
Why the first social store has been opened in China?
China has enjoyed an unhoped-for economic recovery over the past year, which has seen the luxury sector grow exponentially, even in brick-and-mortar stores. Although the Chinese follow European fashion trends, they are early adopters when it comes to technology. The average age of the population is very low, so the interaction between physical stores, technology, and social media is crucial. Chinese consumers represent one third of Burberry’s global sales, accounting for 40% of the British brand’s business.
All the big brands have developed omnichannel sales and communication strategies that see the social media WeChat as the protagonist of online-to-offline features, also capable of building a one-to-one relationship.
How can entertainment support social stores?
The brick and mortar store has being transformed from a distribution channel to a media channel, where entertainment and gamification play a key role, as explained here.
The affirmation of a virtual community, if transferred to a brick and mortar context, will lead each individual to feel part of a family that shares the same values and passions. It increases that sense of belonging that will trigger in each consumer the need to visit the physical store, the only channel through which to achieve exclusive experiences.
The entertainment factor is exacerbated by the use of gaming and artificial intelligence techniques, which encourage customer defilement through order history and preferences. This connectedness promotes a singular customer journey and fuels customized outreach, even transforming the way staff will serve the customer, presenting only items compatible with the customer profile. The playful effect enhances the added value offered by the physical store, capturing the customer through engagement and rewarding activities and one-of-a-kind experiences where dynamic images are projected on all surfaces.
Gen Z and the Social Stores
According to a study by Altagamma, the pandemic has accelerated online sales of luxury goods (from 12% to 23% in 2020), however, in-app shopping will continue to be used by 51% of consumers, as well as shopping via social media, which already amounts to 41%.
The new trend is to witness and share shopping experiences with followers via short videos, created especially on Instagram and Tik Tok.
They are set to increase among the consumers of the future and Gen Z, which will attack 40% of the market by 2035.
These new consumers are increasingly demanding engagement and transparency, and a hybrid solution like the one outlined by Burberry may be the answer. The pandemic has radically altered consumer habits.
People now assess every risk, including health in times of Covid-19; therefore, they want to choose the channel that best suits their needs. Minimizing contact is an essential factor in the evolution of brick-and-mortar stores; at Burberry’s social store, the personal cell phone acts as a guide, representing a solution to maintain social distances and convert stores into a kind of “museums”.
“Social” and “Sustainable”: how does the store of the future look like?
A hybrid format, inspired by Burberry’s Social Store, will allow customers to benefit from fitting rooms with augmented reality and artificial intelligence that propose the projection of the consumer’s avatar.
The relationship between offline and online will be crucial in a business logic in which technology, people, and creativity will be combined to convey a unique customer experience.
Inventory and stock will be reduced to a minimum, discouraging overproduction and product obsolescence along with out-of-season promotional sales. Storytelling will be a central theme, thanks to a transparent communication of the entire product journey, encouraging customers to adopt sustainable practices.
This interaction along with traceability assurance technologies such as blockchain, will allow for authentic and effective communication, sensitizing and educating people on sustainability issues.
Special areas and corners will be dedicated to product repair and rental services, complementing the primary product business with a secondary service business that has been growing in recent years.
The integration of these strategies will be crucial for increasingly attentive and demanding consumers, and above all will promote the high quality and durability of sustainable products on sale. These latter do not lose value over time and can be repaired rather than thrown away at the first defect.
The transition towards a more sustainable fashion also passes through disruptive business models capable of transforming markets and consumer habits.
Only the union between innovation and sustainability can lead to a real transformation and unique immersive experiences made of emotions and, above all, awareness.
Stores will become reference points for communities and will combine the shopping experience with the exclusive experience driven by a culture of purpose that will change the entire fashion system.