I tried to use my limited time off as wisely as possible after my Masters finished. I went visiting family, managed to land a job and I even took a trip to Japan for a while to soak up some of the culture. On one of my free days I took a trip down to London with friends and went to the Science Museum. If you haven’t been, it’s a great place to spend a morning. I specifically went to look at the Turing exhibition because I live close to Bletchley Park and thought it was about time I tried to soak up some of the history. I’d also recommend the Google labs for some of the experiments they’re doing there too.
After having some museum fun and armed with the trust iPhone, we took a trip to Burberry’s new retail store at a grade II listed building, 121 Regent Street, which is now their largest store in the world at a whopping 44,000 square foot. Burberry Prorsum, Burberry London, Burberry Brit, Burberry Childrenswear, accessories, shoes, Burberry fragrances and Burberry Beauty are all available for shoppers to drool over. In addition, it has an out of hours and online collection service, a concierge service, alteration service, guest Wi-Fi, iPads connected to Burberry.com and valet service, proving it’s a store of the 21st Century. It has a fitting grand entrance, similar to all the other luxury brands that line the street. If you want to find innovation in retail, this is where you come.
When you walk into the building you’re presented with a giant retail screen (one of the 100 screens in the shop, and 500 speakers!) showcasing Burberry’s iconic trench coats, in advert style. This is the tallest retail screen in the world at a giant 22ft. It’s surrounded by a giant curved staircase reminiscent of something you might expect on Downton Abbey, yet coloured in a modern, clean, white.
The next thing you notice is probably the classic interior, high ceilings immaculately painted, muted, warm lighting and solid flooring, marble and wood. At the top of staircase there are a large set of mirrors, some of which have abstract videos playing on them, and as you wind around to the left or the right, there’s a very narrow landing leading you past more coats. However there are only a select few mind you, one of each style, which fulfills the minimalist ethos of ‘less is more’.
However, there’s something different about these coats and the screens playing videos that accompany them. They seamlessly switch from multimedia and then to mirrors and back. Although I didn’t try it out myself, apparently the coats around the video mirrors are equipped with RFID tags, which, if you put one on will then tell the mirror opposite to display catwalk video of the coat in action. I’m not sure exactly how this is meant to make one feel… On the catwalk I guess? Might be better if it was more of a mirrored image of you on the catwalk, but that’d take some serious augmented reality engineering to look any good.
If you follow the landing a little further, you can find yet more of this season’s trench coats with small screens beside them. Some of them have little videos that show you the sewing detail up very close, and the next to them another square on a stick… But on these ones there’s a lense. You can then see the detail on the coat for yourself through the lense, both stitching and the material if you so wish.
On the upper levels and even further up the floors between the stands of shoes and dynamic signs, there are large areas of comfort with plush carpets and spongy seats to park yourself while you take in the glamour of the building and its apparel. This promotes a relaxed atmosphere which is not something you would perhaps associate with that particular part of London.
The staff in the building were certainly curious about my picture taking, and I’ve read some less than flattering reviews about them and their service, but they were perfectly polite to me. There are no tills in the shop, instead the staff carry around iPads as POS, where they can show you the entire Burberry catalogue, as well as tell you what’s in stock, and even pay for your clothes right there and then while you lounge about on their large sofas. According to the Burberry, ’employees will carry iPads with applications on them that will provide access to purchase history and customer preferences to enable a more tailored shopping experience’
, which is certainly an appealing prospect.
This is described in the media as ‘the merging of the physical and the digital worlds’
. Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey states
“In renovating this iconic London building we have worked with some of the UK’s finest craftsmen to restore a wealth of historic features, at the same time as pushing the boundaries of digital technology. The result is a space defined by contrasts: at once imposing and intimate, its juxtaposition of craft and innovation is designed to delight, surprise and entertain.”
Well, it’s certainly a juxtaposition of the classic and the brand spanking new. If you come out of Burberry and go a little southwards past Piccadilly Circus you can find yourself at M&M’s world. It’s a bricks and mortar tribute to the American sugary snack. I’m not going to post many of my images of the shop as really it’s something you ought to see for yourself. Aside from the giant M&M characters, Abbey Road replica and rows of M&Ms pajamas, I did notice the emergence of screens in the shop. The first thing is a kind of M&M’s mood wizard. If you stand in the designated area it knows you’re there and will then begin to analyse you, decide which colour best suits you and then chooses a personality to go along with it.
In another part of the store, shoppers can use another wizard that will help them design their very own bespoke M&Ms selection, with the exact colour range that they want, and then they can watch some M&M elves in the Mix Lab
making it for them. Not too sure why you would use it consider they have rows and rows of different colours of M&Ms that you could make a mix yourself. But I guess that’s the novelty of it.
If you then walk towards Green Park, you pass the Audi Digital Car Showroom. In this tiny little spot of Audi real estate, you can look through various colour swatches, grab and iPad and design your very own dream Audi. It’s then projected onto the large screens on the walls and you can get a good feel for it, inside an out. Although this is just the first one, Audi are hoping to roll them out over Europe, in dense city areas where there’s not enough space to put the full range of cars for customers to browse.
I guess most of it is novelty. You’re not likely to go to a Burberry store just so you can have a close up look at how well the stitching on the collar is aligned. But Audi feels somewhat different… It’s less of a novelty and more of a technological development that practically solves a growing problem.
The though behind it is clear – if you spend a lot more time in the store you’re more likely to create brand affinity and therefore come back. However, the interesting part is how these stores have invoked the brand and its vales in order to create a beautifully crafted unique experience, with a bit of personalisation thrown in for good measure.
Lior Arussy puts it well in his book Customer Experience Strategy:
When customers step into a bricks-and-mortar location, they’re looking for theatre. They want a show. They want direct experience with products and people, experience they can’t get on the phone or on the web. Your front line people are actors in retail. On this retail stage you can present demonstrations, product trials, and celebrations. Product launches become local events. Do you have customers who drop by the store regularly just to play with the products? Embrace them. Turn them into evangelists who can showcase your products to other customers. Make them part of the show.
Of course, this isn’t going to work for all companies in all industries, but the success of these shops is clearly evident – they are in fact iconic places to visit in themselves, and you can definitely feel the evocation of theatre unfolding in front of you.