Blurring Physical and Digital Experiences
One brand that has seamlessly integrated their online and offline experience by blurring the physical and digital worlds is Burberry. What the brand has experienced in the last decade perfectly captures the changing landscape of brand experiences due to digital technologies. In 1856, 21-year-old Thomas Burberry founded what is now an iconic British luxury brand. Since the company’s establishment 159 years ago and the introduction of its signature trench coat in 1914, Burberry has grown into a global fashion powerhouse with 214 store locations in 50 countries and 10,600 employees (Burberry, 2015). The brand currently offers a diverse range of outerwear, fashion accessories, fragrances, sunglasses and cosmetics for men, women and children.
The previous nine years has seen Burberry go above and beyond to offer their consumers a complete brand experience. To engage consumers with the brand, Burberry has developed increasingly personalised and connected experiences across consumer touch points. They connect with customers globally through their runway shows, marketing innovations, campaign talent or music, and by utilising digital and customer insight to enhance customer experiences. Burberry finished the year 2014 as one of the most followed luxury brands on social media, including over 16 million followers on Facebook, over four million on Twitter and over four million on Instagram (Burberry, 2014).
Authentic Branding for a Global Audience: Angela Ahrendts
Burberry understood that consumers are becoming increasingly mobile and global, and therefore continued to invest in digital commerce. To further enhance the user experience, the brand improved its mobile site and invested in search engine and browser optimisation, data analytics, customer management tools and delivery options (Burberry, 2014). The customer is the core concern for all brand activities, thus, Burberry focused on improving sales productivity online and in stores by:
- Continuing to invest in customer insight and analytics to better understand the core luxury consumer,
- Introducing its customer value management program, which is a loyalty and retention tool used globally to serve customers better, and
- Continuing to invest in sales associates and store management training (Burberry, 2014).
Burberry key events are fully integrated into the brand’s digital platforms and brought to life for global audiences through live, interactive experiences that have included 3D and hologram runway shows, innovative social media partnerships such as Tweetwalk and BeautyBooth, and immersive events that blend large-scale digital installations with live music (Burberry, 2015).
The Burberry Identity, Design & Packaging
Burberry has launched a number of platforms as part of their customer journey innovation, with a strong focus on personalisation. For example, Runway Made to Order allows customers to purchase and personalise next season’s runway outerwear and accessories for delivery in 8 weeks (Burberry, 2015). In 2012 Burberry Bespoke went live on Burberry.com offering approximately 12 million possible styles, and began introducing the styles in physical stores in London and Chicago in 2013 (Ahrendts, 2013). The brand also launched the Burberry Beauty Box in 2013; the space offers customers the choice to interact with the world of Burberry Beauty and accessories through physical and digital experiences. Customers are offered a variety of experiences ranging from one-to-one consultations with a Burberry Beauty Stylist to discover your ideal fragrance, to a virtual experience where you can try on the latest Burberry runway nail shades. The My Burberry Digital Experience enables customers to digitally interact with a large screen to discover the scent, explore the craftsmanship, watch the My Burberry campaign video and create their own virtual monogrammed bottled (Burberry, 2015).
The Burberry Beauty Box
Resigned CEO, Angela Ahrendts (2013), noted: “we had to rethink our entire marketing approach for these customers—to make it digital. When we began, we had a few regional websites, so we consolidated them and redesigned everything on one platform. It showcases every facet of the brand. It has become the hub of all our marketing and branding, and a trench coat is always one of the first things you see when you go online”. The site is designed to speak to that millennial consumer through emotive brand content: music, movies, heritage, storytelling. And we understand how critical it is. More people visit our platform every week than walk into all our stores combined” (Ahrendts, 2013)
The brand launched The Art of The Trench in 2009, which is a social networking platform where Burberry lovers can share pictures of themselves or others wearing Burberry on the streets (Burberry, 2015). The brand also engages consumers on Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and most recently, Snapchat. Burberry.com is available in 44 countries in eight languages, with live Click to Call, Click to Chat, Twitter and Sina Weibo customer service that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (Burberry, 2015).
Burberry introduced Burberry Kisses in 2013, Christopher Bailey (CEO) explains that the idea came from “giving technology a bit of heart and soul, and using it to unite the Burberry family across the world – by telling a story that makes the digital personal” (Burberry, 2015). “Burberry Kisses is a collaboration with Google that allows users to kiss their touch screens in Burberry colours and send their lip prints to loved ones” (Davis, 2014). The journey of each kiss is brought to life via 3D animation using Google Earth and Streetview products, which is then displayed to the recipient (Burberry, 2015).
Burberry Kisses Campaign
Like most Burberry runway shows, the menswear Spring/Summer 2016 show allowed viewers to experience the action live across the brand’s multiple online platforms and Burberry social streams. For the first time at a men’s show, Burberry streamed live via the Periscope platform, taking followers on an uninterrupted journey from the red carpet, Keston Cobblers Club’s acoustic music performance, and into a front row seat to watch the entire show (Burberry, 2015).
The Burberry Environment
Angela Ahrendts (2013), CEO of Burberry stated: “Burberry Regent Street brings our digital world to life in a physical space for the first time, where customers can experience every facet of the brand through immersive multimedia content exactly as they do online. It is Burberry World Live”. Burberry’s flagship London store features mirrors that double as video screens and use of radio-frequency identification technology (RFID), which triggers related catwalk footage when products are taken into a fitting room or near a video screen. The flagship store expanded early in 2015 to create an exclusive area dedicated to gifting and to accommodate an all day café that will offer an entirely British menu (Burberry, 2015). Through Burberry Retail Theatre audio-visual technology, digital content is streamed to stores globally, ensuring a consistent brand experience is synchronised across all online and offline platforms (Burberry, 2015).
Today, customer experience is centred on “understanding the customers’ needs and motivations and designing an experience that best meets that need” (Davis, 2014). In today’s digital age, there is hardly an excuse for brands not to know what their consumers want because these technologies enable them to get a glimpse into the consumers’ mind like never before. Burberry has understood this and taken complete advantage of what digital has to offer.