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.

360° videos already mainstream among luxury brands

Luxury loves 360° videos…

360° videos technology has become easily accessible to brands a few months ago and we have already noticed multiple brand experiences offering a 360° mini-websites or videos. These efforts from brands to create an interactive and original experience is great but using 360° for the sake of 360° is not good enough for luxury brands. Why? Because that’s what all their competitors are doing.

Let’s just take the example of luxury fragrances: last Fall, Dior launched a 360° mini-website for its new men’s fragrance Sauvage, with a road-trip inspired journey to discover content around the perfume. this winter, Jean-Paul Gaultier created a 360° video called #BeTheBottle where viewers see a factory through the “eyes” of a perfume bottle, and they get to take a sneak peek at the brand’s fragrance characters.

The latest example would be Chanel and its 3 videos for its men’s Allure Homme Sport fragrance. The brand invites viewers to dive, slide and ride with the brand by watching men taking a dive in the sea, skateboarding on a mountain road, or horseback riding in the sea, and eventually seeing what they see in order to experiencing it themselves.

… but is missing the point

All the examples above are in line with their brand’s DNA and they deliver a rather original experience to consumers. But there is one thing that bothers me: they all seem a little off, either because they just support an existing campaign, or because they are not good enough for the status of the brand. By not good enough, I simply mean that 360° videos have not yet reached the standards of image quality that these brands have got us used to. And while brands offer a rather fun experience every time they create new interactive experiences, they should also contribute to improving the standards in new technologies to keep their edge on other brands. Because, as of now, it mostly looked as if they are only trying to stay at least at the same level as their competitors by using the same technologies.

What I would like to see is a brand like Louis Vuitton embracing its travel-brand positioning and extending its City Guides offer with 360° videos that bring life to their content and pushes the quality of their recommendations even further. Brands each have their distinctive identity and I’m sure they can find adequate ways to communicate on them while using new technologies and actually bringing great content that people want to consume and share.

Chanel Coco quiz: find your lipstick shade with a click

Coco Quiz on Chanel's website

Coco quiz on Chanel’s website

Quizzes are great to get consumers engaged. Buzzfeed attracts thousands of visitors with numerous quizz articles, but also lists and catchy posts. These tools can also do wonders in luxury.

It can be hard to make luxury and digital meet without denying some of their respective principles. Yet, brands leverage social media for CRM, and their website for e-commerce. From time to time, they launch a new feature on their website, or a digital campaign to spice things up.

With the launch of Chanel’s Spring make-up collection, Chanel plays the personalization card: last week, the brand set an online quizz to find the right shade of the Rouge Coco for each consumer. After answering 6 questions, visitors are shown a shade, accompanied by a short description explaining the inspiration for the shade. The inspiration is actually linked to a character from Gabrielle Chanel’s life, thereby reinforcing the storytelling around the brand. Each name of lipstick shade is the name or nickname of someone who mattered in the brand Chanel’s development, because they mattered to Gabrielle.

As usual, the brand shared the quiz on its social media accounts to ensure traffic to the e-commerce platform where the quiz is hosted.

So borrowing codes from women’s magazines and popular websites can guarantee success with digital consumers looking for entertainment, added value and storytelling combined. I know I enjoyed taking the quizz. And taking it again. And again!