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.

Will you be my Valentine, or how brands helped lovers this year

Valentine’s day – this one day of the year drawing very mixed feelings: a lot of blaming for being a marketers’ trick to get to your wallet, a little beet of guilt as you still haven’t found a gift for your loved one, and happiness because it somehow appeals to your slightly romantic and cheesy side… No matter your point of view, you may have noticed this year that brands were trying hard to get to you! And so should they. Valentine’s Day is a perfect occasion for luxury brands to get closer to their consumers and advise them on gifts among their product lines. Still, just giving advice is not enough, especially for a romantic holiday. Brands must inspire consumers, make them feel that love is in the air and that brands love their customers. Therefore they were helping them with genuine advice extending beyond gifts. There you find a perfect occasion for branded content. Think articles on how to prep for Valentine’s Day, ideas about how to dress up, etc. Some brands did this, others merely promoted their products, but overall they tried to inspire positive feelings about themselves.

Let’s start with the obvious medium: social media. I don’t know if you follow brands as I do, but my Facebook newsfeed was invaded by brands’ posts about perfumes being great for a Valentine’s day gift,  makeup that would look great on you for your date night, outfits ideas for your candlelit dinner, and even little items you could get for your single self. Luxury brands took a chance to promote their more accessible (think cosmetics) products, as well as premium jewelry and watches, handbags, and all sorts of gift ideas that were just a click away from you. Efforts started as early as in January, and were reinforced the week before Valentine’s Day for the numerous late buyers. Dior for example, leveraged its new Miss Dior campaign to increase its sales. Let’s not forget about Instagram. Quite a paradise for marketers as it enables brands to promote visual contents (which are extremely powerful to bring out an emotion). Customers’ newsfeeds were filled with romantically-filtered photos of gifts, flowers, scenes of romantic gestures… Captions often included a direct link to a product’s e-commerce page, or information about a limited edition, online exclusives, special bundles in nice little boxes, etc. Other social media were used as well, including Pinterest, but Facebook and Instagram are the ones where it struck me the most.

Screenshot from The Cut x Tiffany & Co.'s Valentine's Day: Countdown Calendar

Screenshot from The Cut x Tiffany & Co.’s Valentine’s Day: Countdown Calendar

Brands also promoted their advice for gifts picking on their own channels, such as their e-store. Take Ferragamo. This fashion brand revisited its website with animated attractions setting the tone for a romantic Italy inspired holiday and jewelry-based gift giving. These animations were shared on social media with the hashtag #FerragamoValentine, linking them to a whole campaign. Finally, Tiffany & Co. had a pretty genius idea: a 14-day advent-inspired calendar in The Cut, a New York magazine. This Valentine’s Day: Countdown Calendar featured gift ideas such as Tiffany & Co. jewels, as well as other brands’ candles, spas, chocolates, etc. Starting February 1st, it offered a complete guide to Valentine’s Day’s spirit, and went on for 14 days. This operation leveraged both consumers’ curiosity and impatience. It was a great way to target the brand’s customers as well as the magazine’s readers with useful -yet branded- content.

I will not explore the web further to find millions of other examples as I believe you have by now understood that luxury brands can use many different ways to relate to their customers and help them in their struggles, including Valentine’s Day gift giving.

Dior’s new #itsmissactually campaign

Teaser of the Miss Dior campaign (source: Dior Tumblr)

As you are most certainly aware of, Dior is a leading actor in luxury brands’ digital strategies. With fragrance campaigns being renewed almost every year and frequent posts on social media, the Maison has established itself as an up-to-date brand online. Miss Dior is no exception to the brand’s efforts.

Natalie Portman in the new Miss Dior campaign (source: Dior Tumblr)

Natalie Portman in the new Miss Dior campaign (source: Dior Tumblr)

After a few teasers, Dior released its latest Miss Dior integrated digital campaign. With a variety of digital contents (videos, pictures, gifs) displayed on multiple platforms linking one to another, it is designed to generate maximum traffic. The campaign is shared on all of Dior’s social media accounts, including YouTubeFacebook, TwitterInstagram and Tumblr.

The Miss Dior mini-website on Dior’s site is adapted to the new campaign and has the advantage of having a built-in purchase option. While the mini-site used to show a playful, free, romantic Natalie Portman with a partner, it now showcases a later part of Miss Dior’s life: her wedding day, from which she escapes to regain her freedom.

Within 36 hours, over 88k fans liked the video posted on Facebook, and 9,000 people shared it. This makes it the most effective channel for Dior to reach a wide audience (with 14.9 million fans). Within two days, 945,000 visitors watched the YouTube video (while the brand only has 176.2k followers on YouTube). On Instagram, an average of 54.3k people (out of 2.9 million followers) liked each of the posts from the campaign.

Dior thereby has a strong fan-base on social networks, especially on Facebook. Still, Instagram offers a higher level of engagement (an average of 1,87% of Dior’s followers liked a post of the new Miss Dior campaign within two days, versus 0,5% of Dior’s Facebook fans). This means Dior should keep using this media to push new campaigns, and maybe add a link to the e-commerce page.

Natalie Portman in the new Miss Dior campaign (source: Dior Tumblr)

Natalie Portman in the new Miss Dior campaign (source: Dior Tumblr)

Dior saw things big, working with movie director Anton Corbijn to shoot a movie-like advertisement, and creating the hashtag #itsmissactually. Nothing game-changing here, but Dior leveraged its strength on social media to reach consumers all over the world.

In my opinion, Dior spread its campaign on too many channels and should have focused on the most relevant ones: those gathering the most followers and creating the highest level of engagement. This means I would use Facebook for the large community, Instagram for the engagement rate, Twitter as well. Still, I believe the brand is missing out a big opportunity for storytelling on Pinterest, where its 52.8k followers might enjoy learning more about Miss Dior.