Exciting things are happening in the luxury world. As technology grows at an unprecedented speed in the digital era, the luxury shopping experience for today’s consumers, who are as impatient as they are demanding, has been taken to a new level.
The development of digital technology – from the internet and portable smart devices to the “internet of things” – has heavily influenced the growth of e-commerce in the retail market, and much of the sector is stepping up to change the way they do business. In the world of luxury, this means customising products for the consumer as much as possible, while minimising hassle and maximising convenience through the most efficient use of the technology available.
Burberry is one such forerunner in the retail industry. It uses the latest innovations to bring the customer closer to the product and the brand, in both location and waiting time.
Extending its partnership with the world’s hi-tech magnates, including Apple, Google and Tencent, the British fashion house has heavily incorporated digital innovation in its retailing strategy. The latest is the pioneering “see-now, buy-now” system supported by live broadcasts of the house’s fashion shows through different digital platforms, such as Apple TV, LINE, Periscope and Snapchat, delivered to eager audiences around the world.
This innovation means that fashionistas and brand enthusiasts can now skip the six-month wait for production and own their favourite picks right after the shows. Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey describes this as being able to capture “the spirit of a moment”, allowing “a unique, real-time view of the creation of [Burberry’s] shows which will include an unprecedented collection launch, hours before they hit the runway”.
The livestream tactic is strategically complemented by the launch of another marketing breakthrough – the live showing of the brand’s advertising campaign and shoot, which Bailey expects to make the brand’s products “much more immediate and accessible”. Meanwhile, Mario Testino, a world-famous photographer who is handling the shoot, is hoping to open up “a completely new way of capturing and sharing content – with the result being much more instant and genuine”. Other fashion maisons have invested in other aspects of retailing. Dior and Tommy Hilfiger have given three-dimensional shopping a try by introducing in-store virtual-reality headsets to bring shoppers to live runway shows in what Tommy Hilfiger describes as “a compelling and interesting elevation of the traditional shopping experience”.
Virtual reality has clearly made a significant difference to product visualisation – a process that is key to consumer satisfaction, and the most dedicated brands are using a combination of virtual-reality and 3D technology to ensure consumers are getting exactly what they want through design customisation and enhanced interaction with the product.
In the automotive industry, for example, companies use 3D scanning to enable optimal sizing and creating models for the best fit, then implement virtual reality to allow the consumer to visualise the individually configured product, and finally, using the latest 3D printing technology to flawlessly produce the design.
Audi uses a virtual reality system to provide threedimensional environments for buyers to explore their dream cars and virtually take a seat behind the wheel.
“Hand in hand with our dealers, we are bringing digital innovations into the dealership in order to improve convenience and to provide even better advice,” says Luca de Meo, member of the board of management for sales and marketing at Audi.
BMW applies 3D printing to its component manufacturing. “Car components made with [3D printing] give us a lot of freedom in the [manufacturing] process; they can be produced quickly and of appropriate quality,” says Dr Udo Haenle, head of production strategy, technical integration and pilot plant of BMW Group.
Not only does Haenle see the future implications for cost and time control, he also identifies the “major potential for the future application in series production as well as for new customer offerings, such as personalised vehicle parts, or the spare parts supply”.
In the long term, drivers can enjoy the extra option of getting individual vehicle components made according to their personal preferences, while car collectors can also benefit from reproducing previously unavailable spare parts for their vintage cars.
Luxury extends even to the necessities of life, taking food purchasing to the next level by customising the experience through data collection and the latest nutritional information.
The enhanced connectivity and intelligence that the latest technology offers has revolutionised the food industry. According to John McGuire, chief innovation officer at Aurecon, “the call to manufacturers is to think beyond the production and processing of food [and take into consideration] data collection and health benefits they can bring directly to individuals”.
McGuire suggests digital redesigns by making use of the power of smart electronics, such as providing product insights into the origin, nutritional value and even carbon footprint of food products using intelligent supermarket shelving compatible with mobile devices, or supermarket navigation synchronised to a shopping list.
“Smart technology allows any manufacturer to talk directly and individually to a consumer,” McGuire says.
“It paints the picture of technologically rich data gathering, production process and supply chain.”
The greater access to information opens up new horizons for customisation. Brands have stepped up their game by embracing the innovative change.
Nestlé, the world’s largest food manufacturer, has taken its first steps towards providing personalised tailormade nutritional advice through its Health Sciences Group. “The concept explores the possibility of tailoring food products to an individual’s specific health needs,” McGuire says.
From online platforms, portable devices to 3D technology, new opportunities are opening up in the retail industry and better customised services are on their way. Shopping will never be the same again.