Digital showrooms and interactive virtual spaces are becoming the norm in retail as entirely new channels to engage and showcase products. And there’s huge value for fashion retailers in exploring this medium further.
“With virtual retail experiences, the possibilities are limitless,” Mark Dries co-founder at Spaces Interactive, a creative studio delivering unique virtual brand experiences, said.
“When we’re not confined by physical walls, we have the potential to craft experiences that redefine brand engagement and can touch people anywhere in the world. We’re only at the beginning, so it will be exciting to see what forward-thinking brands create.”
Burberry’s ‘Store in the Sky’ is a great example of the unique shopping experiences Farfetch creates for its luxury brands, leveraging data and the Store of the Future suite of technologies developed in 2017. Farfetch announced these digital solutions at the same time as it shared its Augmented Retail vision, setting the bar high for innovative retail globally. Farfetch believes ‘the future of luxury fashion retail will be defined by the reinvention of the consumer experience, through online and offline integrations’.
The luxury e-commerce platform brought this vision to life via a temporary concept store in New York in 2017 that showcased the advanced capabilities of a technology-powered retail operating system. Shoppers were prompted to log in upon entering the store, enabling sales assistants to access their Farfetch profile and provide highly personalised customer service, while a smart clothing rack called the Connected Rail used ultrasound motion tracking and RFID technology to detect when an item had been picked up to then display it on an interactive screen and the shopper’s smartphone, effectively creating an in-store wishlist.
One of the most futuristic features in the concept store was a holographic display where shoppers could customise shoes by selecting from various colours and leathers and order them.
From clicks to bricks
As one of the largest luxury retail platforms in the world, Farfetch is not solely focused on online. It had its sights set on physical retail long before launching the Augmented Retail vision. In 2015, Farfetch acquired British luxury goods boutique Browns to test its Store of the Future technology, and this is now the blueprint for immersive shopping experiences underpinned by connectivity, data, and superior customer service.
For the past six years, Farfetch has been working to align its retail technology with one of the Browns boutique locations. The result, the recently opened four-storey Browns flagship store in Mayfair, London, offers a new world standard in luxury shopping, including a zero-waste restaurant, Native, beauty bar, tattoo parlour, private shopping rooms and multiple floors to explore, play and linger.
Subtle digital touchpoints previously featured in the Farfetch concept store, such as the Connected Rails, smart mirror technology and hyper-personalised shopping services, are woven into the flagship.
And…back to clicks
Farfetch’s focus on connecting with customers online and understanding the digital landscape has given it a competitive advantage, aiding in the activation of its own immersive experiences on external platforms such as social media. After all, for an online luxury fashion retailer, engagement is key.
Recently, Snapchat upgraded its augmented reality tools by enhancing the virtual try-on capability. Jumping on board straight away was Farfetch with an AR lens for people to try on three different Off White jackets. Since then, it has added a lens to view Prada’s Galleria bag – a swipe to the left or right shows the bag in another colour.
It’s clear Farfetch incorporates social media to its fullest potential, playing to the strengths of each platform. This is critical in understanding who your audience is, where they’re spending most of their time, and the style of content they connect with.
The use of augmented reality in Australia is increasing, particularly for retailers selling furniture and appliances where the customer can use their smartphone to see what an item looks like in their home. As the technology is constantly improving, fashion brands will be quick to join the party, getting more familiar with digital fashion and its place in the shopping experience.
“Augmented reality is a medium perfectly suited to retail. Being able to help potential customers more deeply understand how a product looks or works can be a persuasive factor and increase propensity to purchase,” David Loughnan, managing director at Unbnd, a creative agency specialising in AR and VR experiences, said.
Loughnan added: “AR can help communicate the inner workings of an electronic item, visualise the various colourways of a chair, or demonstrate how the thousands of beads in a running shoe wrap to your foot over time to increase comfort and reduce shock on your body. Whether it’s inside the retail environment or part of an e-commerce experience, AR adds value and utility in a myriad of ways to multiple stages in the purchase funnel.”
These new immersive mediums are gaining momentum in the marketing mix because they’re designed for interactivity first. We’re past the point of people thinking it’s gimmicky, evidence of engagement proves this.
“Integrating the ability to purchase as part of the try-on experience will see conversion rates increase dramatically. A recent study by Snap shared ‘interacting with products that have AR experiences leads to a 94% higher conversion rate, as individuals can better assess them and feel connected with brands’,” Loughnan said.
The beauty in what Farfetch has created really shows it’s a company built for 2021 and beyond. It recognises that the shopping experience is the opposite of linear and creates pockets of unique places for the shopper when they arrive at that particular destination in their own time.
It’s imperative for retailers to factor in immersive strategies not just as a one-time campaign, but rather fully integrated into their growth strategy, because retail’s future is already here. What does your store of the future look like?