Are the basics of retail, the future of e-commerce?

When LVMH announced the launch of its new e-commerce platform, 24 Sèvres, my first reaction was a mix of excitement, admiration and relief.

Excitement because one of the leading groups innovating in luxury had finally made a move towards multibrand e-commerce, favoring user experience over brand control. Admiration goes without saying – I mean, have you seen the website?- as LVMH managed to launch a website that lives up to the graphic and animation standards of luxury stores. Finally relief, as we are now witnessing major groups trying new efforts to offer the best of both physical and digital at any step of the customer journey.

LVMH managed to take the best of physical luxury stores, in terms of design and service, as well as the best from other e-commerce platforms, and created its own vision of e-commerce. A vision that is both customer-centric and modern.

While showing a new way for luxury e-commerce, 24 Sèvres leverages and pushes further some basics of luxury retail. Let’s dive into three luxury retail rules that make 24 Sèvres such a good example, to me, of innovative luxury e-commerce.

 

1. Tailored recommendations

Shoppers can contact a personal shopper for a digital and truely personalized fashion consultation. Depending on their preferences, customers choose their favorite medium to get in touch with these special advisors: video chat (on the app), Messenger bot (called Style Bot), live chat, phone or email. One notable advantage from the Style Bot is that of being available 24/7, fitting in online customers’ shopping habits.

Personal shoppers are dedicated to this job, and have a styling expertise. In this way, LVMH is following up on Macy’s efforts to make sales assistants available online to e-commerce shoppers, thereby bridging the gap between being in-store & advised, and online & alone.

 

2. Luxurious merchandising

24 Sèvres’ UI sets up standards for future luxury and/or fashion e-commerce platforms, with high quality visuals, animations and frequent updates of content. Such content replicates efforts made on store windows to catch customers’ attention in the street. One theme is displayed in several visuals/animations, to show the highlight of the week on the platform. The quality of execution aligns with Le Bon Marché’s high-end image, and therefore embodies this emblematic Parisian department store, online. Even product visuals have been careful shot in an editorial style, to mimic luxury settings in fashion magazines and in store.

 

3. Curated offer

Finally, and this is a major differentiating point compared to other luxury e-commerce platforms such as Net-à-Porter or LuisaViaRoma, 24 Sèvres offers a highly curated selection. Product offering is rather limited compared to competitors, because 24 Sèvres embodies Parisian luxury and as such, it only offers luxury items that match a certain style. This indicates the website is destined to an exclusive and selective audience, looking for more than traditional luxury e-commerce.

 

With 24 Sèvres, LVMH took the best retail and e-commerce practices and mixed them to offer a truely luxurious online shopping experience to a very demanding audience. While basic retail principles set this website apart from competitors, it will be interesting to witness their influence on future platforms!

Improving in-store experience with digital assistants

Nearly 80% of shoppers interact with brands or products online before visiting a physical store. What they find through digital – may it be information, inspiration, or reviews – helps them prepare their visit and partly make up their mind. 45% of these shoppers actually find that using digital makes it easier to shop in-store. On top of this, using digital when being in the store leads to a 20% higher conversion rate! (Deloitte)

The rise of digital assistants … in stores

Acknowledging these facts, it’s no surprise to see retailers experiment with mobile digital assistants, meant to assist shoppers who prefer to lead their own shopping journey, while other shoppers are invited to seek the advice of a salesperson.

One of such retailers is Macy’s, the American retailer, which has made omnichannel innovation one of its objectives. Indeed, the chain has worked with IBM Watson to offer an AI-powered digital assistant to its clients. Tested in 10 stores, this in-store digital service is called “On call”. What it does is provide guidance to shoppers, based on: real-time, geolocalization, and machine learning.

At its launch, On call mostly answered requests regarding the location of products in the store. It recognizes product types and brand sot provide the specific location of what shoppers are looking for.

Online to offline to online…

While this is just the beginning of what AI can bring to stores, it is a service crafted for shoppers who prefer not to ask sales persons for information, and enjoy being on their own while shopping. It is interesting to see how a physicial asset of stores (concierge or sales persons) are inspiring digital services to please all customers in stores.

Such inspiration is also feeding new online services for e-commerce shoppers, such as the personal shopper video chat, call or bot service of 24 Sèvres, LVMH’s brand new luxury e-commerce. More on this later!

From digital transformation to retail revolution

 

Omnichannel has been on the lips of marketers for years already, and yet, few brands have started to build a truly omnichannel customer experience. What is so difficult about omnichannel? Obviously, identifying which customer is taking what action on which channel is a big barrier. Then, linking all these data about your customer and making something of this information. Technology comes in handy to make sure you capture data at relevant times and leverage intel about consumer behaviour in the right way to make sure you remain relevant to your customer.

It is crucial for digital, but it’s also gaining importance in marketing, more generally speaking. Beyond digital per se, brands are undergoing a retail revolution. At stake: delivering a different, exceptional and memorable brand experience to each customer, in order to become a lovebrand and recruit loyal customers.

In the upcoming posts, I’ll share more insights about this transformation of luxury retail, as I believe it is the logical continuation to brands digitization, only it’s happening in a physical space.

Luxury brands use pop-up stores to test in-store digital experiences

The rise of pop-up stores

All around the world, luxury brands have opened pop-up stores to offer their customers a refreshing retail experience with a temporary focus on a specific selection of products. Formats have been diverse, ranging from the diner-like Hermès pop-up in NYC in 2013, to Hublot’s crystal-like installation in Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands the same year. But what these stores have in common is a strong retail concept (with an emphasis on architecture and design), and a small selection of products presented.

Experimenting with in-store digital experiences

Over the years, brands have been increasingly integrating digital in their retail strategies to offer an omni-channel seamless experience to customers. Pop-ups fit in these efforts. Given their small size, unique location and limited time availability, they offer a great opportunity to experiment with technology and online-to-offline services. Efforts are easier to deploy here than for an entire retail strategy. moreover, managers can observe customers’ responses to these new services in real time. Pop-ups being marketed as events, visitors are more eager to try out what the brand created specifically for the occasion, and this provides marketers with an extensive set of subjects in their experiment.

Chanel Pop Up Seoul

A recent example of this is Chanel’s pop-up store in Seoul, South Korea, in June this year. The brand promoted its makeup collection and Coco Mademoiselle fragrance in a colorful glass store, just off Gangnam Station, in Seoul’s buzzing shopping district. During two weeks, visitors were invited to experience the colorful, pop and joyful aspect of the brand through a mobile game. (NB : visitors could try products but could not purchase them directly in the store. It was a branding event.)

Chanel developed a mobile app specifically for this pop-up store, using beacon technology to create a puzzle game giving visitors access to gifts. Beacons were set up throughout the store, to interact with Chanel’s app to unlock elements as visitors moved inside the store. When hostesses welcomed visitors in the store, they helped customers install the app and activate their phones’ settings to get the full interactive experience.

Chanel Pop Up Seoul app screenshot

Through this game, Chanel experimented with the use of beacons in its stores and created a fun, memorable experience for its customers. Both the store’s design and the game reinforced the brand’s recent positioning as a fun and playful prestige beauty brand for young women. In a country such as Korea, where customers care greatly about their appearance and where smartphones are used by 89% of the population, Chanel managed to create a specific retail experience for a specific audience of digital early adopters and beauty-enthusiasts.

Let’s wait and see how this experiment transforms into a new retail experience throughout the brand’s retail network.