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.

Let Chanel tell you its story

Inside Chanel (source: Chanel)

Chanel is one of those luxury houses enjoying a rich heritage, built on a brilliant founder and his/her vision. Gabrielle Chanel played a role in women’s emancipation, she dared to say what she thought and she embodied her brand to perfection. She also broke the rule in fashion, jewelry and perfumery and her audacity and vision of free women are now part of Chanel’s DNA.

To leverage this strong history, closely linked to a –literally– extraordinary founder, Chanel has long told its story through ads, product names (think of the Coco and Mademoiselle Coco perfumes, both echoing to Gabrielle’s nickname), and more recently, a website called Inside Chanel.

Inside Chanel is a platform dedicated to Chanel’s history. Quite a paradise for marketers who love a bit of storytelling. And this is a field where Chanel has always been great. With 12 videos, pictures, drawings, ad campaigns, and a chronology, the website immerse visitors into the brand’s universe.

N°5 on Inside Chanel (source: Chanel)

N°5 on Inside Chanel (source: Chanel)

Such a website is a strong tool for luxury brands to make customers feel closer to the brand. Here, Chanel tells different stories: from key products (N°5, the jacket, jewels) to the vision of the brand according to its artistic directors (Gabrielle, Karl Lagerfeld)… The contents are of high quality, and do tell a story, full of interesting and instructive facts. The brand shares a part of itself with demanding consumers who want to feel involved with the house. It extends the user experience with the brand from an in-store or online visit and purchase, to a moment of sharing. And this is something luxury brands should keep on exploiting as it is a key differentiating element between luxury houses. Every house is unique so they should insist on their unique history to build stronger relationships with consumers.

Jaguar reveals your inner villain

I have always dreamt of driving a sports car, just to get a sense of it. Who hasn’t? With all those action movies and Formule 1 races on TV, most of us want to drive at an extreme speed and picture themselves as the next Schumacher, for a brief fantasy of our cooler selves. What a genius move it was from Jaguar North America to leverage this child dream of ours last year. The brand’s multi-channel “British Villains” campaign promoted the F-Type Coupe, the brand’s newest high-performance sports car at the time, which was to be launched in July 2014 in the US.

Credits: Jaguar North America

Credits: Jaguar North America

You may have heard of Jaguar’s 2014 Super Bowl 60-second spot… Yes, the brand really went for it! (It was Jaguar’s first spot during a Super Bowl, and we all know those spots are quite pricey.) Featuring three renowned British blockbuster actors (Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong), the spot was filmed by awarded movie director Tom Hooper. It promoted the tagline “It’s good to be bad”, appealing to customers’ inner villains, and launched the hashtag #GoodToBeBad. A spectacular launch for a spectacular campaign, which helped the British brand challenge its competitors on the North American luxury cars market.

Let’s jump to the online side of the campaign (as cool as the spot may be, you are after all on a blog called Digitizing luxury). Aside from online ads and community management (what I like to call the classics, or basics, given nearly everyone does it), Jaguar launched an application process for wannabe sports car drivers. The idea was to create a Jaguar Villain Academy (keeping the marketing communications very coherent, as you can see) and make four lucky contestants win a trip to Austin, TX, to try the new car before its launch, in July.

The best part? Winners wouldn’t just drive the car; they would spend a full day with the car, testing its capabilities, performance and handling on the Formula 1 track in Austin. Yes, you read me well. Way cooler than playing Gran Turismo on your screen, right? How’s that for a motivation to share content about Jaguar on your social media accounts? The brand promoted the application page on social media and applicants were asked to indicate their Instagram and Twitter accounts, indicating a social media campaign (nothing surprising here). A few months later, contestants were contacted by e-mail and asked to complete challenges. This campaign encountered quite a success on social media, with loads of shares and retweets or regrams.

Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong in the British Villains campaign. Credits: Jaguar

Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong in the British Villains campaign. Credits: Jaguar.

Jaguar North America also leveraged the potential of branded content. Several partnerships were created, including one with Sports Illustrated. Jaguar sponsored an original video series talking about infamous sports villains on SI.com. The two companies thereby made their respective fields meet to increase both of their audiences. Another great idea was the partnership between Jaguar and Pandora Radio: subscribers were offered to contribute to a crowdsourced playlist (the GoodToBeBad Mixtape) of the best of British music.

Therefore you see that Jaguar went all in to engage with its fan-base, through those means and many other channels (I chose to focus on social media and branded content, but there were more channels used, including online). Featured in countless media pieces, this campaign sure made a buzz.