Innovation has been a welcome development for retailers in the pandemic. Pivoting business models have been the hallmark of some major changes, including the complete reconfiguring of companies such as Zara and Nike and luxury brands like Ferragamo and Moncler. Now, Burberry is continuing its status as an innovator.
On Friday (July 31), the company opened a new concept store in Shenzhen, China, which is an important market for the brand. The store marks a new chapter in retail technology, social retail and social currency all at the same time.
In partnership with Tencent, Burberry has developed a “mini program,” which generates exclusive content and personalized experiences that can be unlocked on Tencent’s messaging and commerce app, WeChat. The mini program is in the form of a digital companion, similar to a Pokémon Go experience, crafted to enhance the customer’s physical and virtual experience. Through the social experience, customers can access store tours and learn about products. It also provides a platform for appointments, events and reservations in the in-store café and community space.
For example, a WeChat user can enter the Burberry mini program at home and sign up for a virtual tour. The personal avatar acts as a guide as the user inquires about products or tries them on virtually. All products are labeled with QR codes that, when scanned, reveal additional content. The more interactions, the richer their experience.
If shoppers use the app in-store, they first see an interactive window displaying a living sculpture, inspired by the mirrored runway from the Burberry Autumn/Winter 2020 Runway Show. According to a statement from the company, “the window reflects the viewer’s shape and responds to body movement, creating a unique moment that can be captured and shared with friends. The window evolves through the seasons to reflect the latest collections and house codes.”
The Burberry-Tencent venture could be the most high-profile use of social currency in retail. Within the mini program, customers can earn rewards and unlock exclusive experiences if they share them on social media. If a shopper shares a photo of her reflection in the entrance way mirror to their social media account(s), she receives points from Burberry. The bigger the shopper’s network and the more frequently it is used, the more lucrative the points. Rewards can include exclusive content, event invites and discounts on menu items from the in-store café.
“Together with Tencent, we have pioneered a new concept that will redefine expectations of luxury retail,” said Marco Gobbetti, CEO at Burberry. “The first step in an exclusive partnership between our companies, Burberry’s social retail store in Shenzhen is a place of discovery that connects and rewards customers as they explore online and in-store. It marks a shift in how we engage with our customers, and we can’t wait to share this innovative experience with the world.”
Asia has led the world in the development of social commerce. Social media platforms such as Instagram account for one-third to one-half of all eCommerce transactions in Thailand. eMarketer estimates that 11.6 percent of total retail eCommerce sales in China are driven by social commerce. With more than one billion active monthly users, WeChat has been the main platform for social commerce in Asia.